Kevin Love signed an extension with the Cleveland Cavaliers when he clearly didn’t have to. He could have waited and put his name into the group of spectacular, the 2019 free agent class. There are teams that have money next summer and teams that will create cap space for next summer. It will be a buyer’s market with the appropriately paid and the overpaid. Love could have been in the midst of all that July 2019 frenzy but he took the safe and cautious route to a max contract. He signed early. He chose a team in the Cavs that probably won’t make the playoffs and a team that is an iteration of his years in Minnesota where Love was a 20 and 10 All-Star but the Timberwolves weren’t any good. Love’s reputation went through the meat grinder back then. He was called a stat whore, not much of a leader, and Kevin out for Kevin.
History loves to repeat itself.
Now here Kevin Love stands, replacing LeBron James as the face of the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise but I doubt we’ll see the larger than life etching of Kevin Love on any building. Love is a quiet, ambitious player who doesn’t give you much by way of soundbites, reaction and overreaction. He can’t be the best player on a playoff team and [lucky] for the Cavs he is the best player on a lottery team who just forfeited any shot of keeping their 2019 lottery pick. The Cavs won’t be miserable like the Hawks. But they are not as good as the Miami Heat.
Love has never displayed leadership, even when he and Russell Westbrook were at UCLA and were Final Four bound. But Love is paid and that’s what he cares about.
The Cavs in signing Love so quickly as if he is the LeBron antidote haven’t being paying attention to the last team that did that which is a cautionary tale that the Cavs are rolling the dice on. I call it the Chris Bosh Rule.
When LeBron James changed teams in July 2014, Chris Bosh was an unrestricted free agent. He did his free agent song and dance wanting teams to wine and dine him. Daryl Morey, GM of the Rockets, who lusts after stars, did his best pitch for Bosh on the Rockets. The Rockets had James Harden and Dwight Howard. Chris at the 4 seemed a perfect trio. The Rockets 2014 playoff season ended dramatically and abruptly, with a Damien Lillard three to send the Blazers to the second round and the Rockets broken hearted. Early in that series, LaMarcus Aldridge destroyed the Rockets in Houston. An offensive and defensive player like Bosh could have mitigated some of the Aldridge game. So Morey went hard. But Bosh was using the Rockets to get the best deal he could get out of Pat Riley who was furious that LeBron dissed him and went back to Cleveland. Riles overpaid Bosh.
Bosh can’t be a number one option on a playoff team. His game wasn’t that dominant. But Riles poured all his anguish into Bosh as being the anti-LeBron.
And then disaster.
Bosh played 44 games after signing the max deal and was effective in a small sample size with 21.1 points, 7 rebounds. The Heat were slightly above average as a team. The next year, Bosh played 53 games. 19.1 points. 7.4 rebounds. Then his career was done. Pat Riley had to figure out how to get out of the contract while hoping Bosh retired so they could have cap relief. It was a long drawn out process that made Bosh a little bit into his feelings about the Heat organization. Chris Bosh is still on the Heat cap, $26 million, which ends this year. The Heat have a payroll of $152 million in 2018-19 because of Chris Bosh. They cannot sign unrestricted free agents who want more than the veteran minimum. Like Cleveland, the Heat keep giving out money to people who shouldn’t get money. They are paying Tyler Johnson $19 million per year. The Hassan Whiteside contract has strangled them because he has a longer list of things he can’t do than things he can.
Because Pat Riley was in LeBron James mourning, the Chris Bosh contract has had a tragic effect on the Heat’s flexibility. It is what the Cavs have signed up for with Kevin Love. This crossing of the fingers that nothing happens and Kevin Love never gets hurt.
But Kevin Love is always hurt.
The last two season he has played 60 and 59 games. With a team of mildly effective offensive players, Love needs to play 75 games. That has happened four times in his ten year career. One year, he played 18 games. Then there is the whole drama around his defense which is garbage. You are paying the max for a one trick pony who is only 6-10, isn’t particularly athletic but has a beautiful outlet pass and can hit threes.
The Cavs won’t be in cap heaven until the 2020 season which means they miss out on the class of 2019. The wisdom is that the Cavs can’t attract a free agent to come there, so hedge all bets. But why not let Love have a season, trade George Hill after a year of Collin Sexton, and recruit Love and Jimmy Butler?
Unless Love has to take the money now.
NBA history has spoken over and over again. Love may not be who he wants to be. He wasn’t going to gamble on his financial future. The Cavs, on the other hand, were willing to roll the dice almost as if they were blindfolded.