Kevin Love signed a contract extension and if you believe the black ink and the dotted line signature euphoria, then Kevin Love will be playing his home games at the Q when Donald Trump is running for reelection in 2020. That’s what the Cavs are selling to season ticket holders. Not to be cynical, but I’ll be cynical. Maybe not. The NBA is a fluid business model. Things change on a dime. Besides, we have a recent blueprint in the max deals are not what they appear to be.
One year ago, Blake Griffin was wined and dined by the Los Angeles Clippers. The Miami Heat were interested in Blake as were the Boston Celtics if they struck out on Gordon Hayward. But when Blake walked into his free agent show and tell at Staples Center, Blake Griffin saw his retired jersey superimposed on the Staples Center wall next to all the Los Angeles greats. Leaving Los Angeles was suddenly out the question particularly after Blake was told, emphatically and enthusiastically, he was going to be a Clippers for life. Except his Clippers for life lasted until he was traded to Detroit. So much for Clippers for life. In exchange for Griffin, the Clippers received Avery Bradley’s expiring contract and 18 months of Tobias Harris. All of a sudden, the Clippers could be players in the 2019 free agency mega millions. Blake was used as a pawn from the very beginning of the max pitch. He was playing checkers. Jerry West was playing chess.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have a precedent in keeping Kevin Love by way of huge salary- and then not keeping him. In the short term, the sweltering summer months, they need his contract. But by December, Love will be tradeable. The Cavaliers will look for expiring contracts of players who can do more than tread water but still can keep the Cavs eligible for the lottery while gifting the franchise cap relief so they can pitch a couple of free agents in 2019. Which brings us to Anthony Davis.
He needs a running partner. We all know Kevin Love cannot be face of the franchise. He has large crater like holes in his game. But Love can be a number two. Next to Davis, Love spaces the floor, is a willing passer, rebounds and is a consistent offensive threat. It changes how the Pelicans open up the court.
On the Pels cap, they have two friendly contracts. Nikola MIrotic and Julius Randle. Both are young players with huge upside. With the Lakers last year, Randle was a 19 and 9 player. If he gets the minutes, he produces. He is a tough and gritty scorer who is versatile with the ball and creates for himself. He finishes around the rim when he isn’t going up against a shot blocker and he is great in the locker room. He competes hard. Mirotic spaces the floor, drains threes, can go on scoring binges and rebounds when he feels like it. He plays with an edge that got his face punched in when he was in Chicago but he has rewritten his bio while in New Orleans. Both players would fit with the Cavs.
Mirotic is an unrestricted free agent in 2019. Randle has a player option, $9 million.
Love’s gargantuan contract off the books, the Cavs would have the best of both worlds, financial flexibility and young talent, not to mention a lottery pick. A quality free agent in the mix and their post LeBron life would suddenly look pretty good.
South of Cleveland, the Pelicalns with Kevin Love become a true threat with an inside/outside presence. Davis and Boogie Cousins put up monster stats but the team performed when Boogie was in street clothes and with Davis and Mirotic being the options, one and two. Kevin Love taking the Mirotic role would further assist the Pelicans in getting to the Western Conference Finals- and besides Kevin Love has a ring. He is a champion. He gives the locker room a winning credibility. He keeps Anthony Davis from wanting to bolt New Orleans.
North of the Big Easy, Dan Gilbert is better served by having a young, fast, exciting team that he can sell free agents to rather than Kevin Love swallowing all the money and the Cavs being a 10th seed with a bunch of spare parts. Kevin Love is the only asset the Cavs have. Using him to create a future after LeBron should be the Cleveland blueprint. Kevin Love as a placeholder. Nothing more.