After Kevin Love went down with a shoulder injury in the first round of last season’s playoffs and the Cavaliers made it to the Finals without him, there was a segment of the fan base that wondered whether or not the team should bother re-signing him in free agency.
Love’s numbers were the lowest they’d been since his second NBA season, and he struggled at times to fit in, both on the court and off, and was called out by LeBron James personally on more than one occasion.
The thought process, though, was this: If Cleveland had its full complement of stars available, the team might have been able to win two more games against the Warriors and come away with last year’s title. So, Love was re-signed to a deal worth $110 million to solidify his place on the team for the next five years.
But things haven’t yet worked out as planned. And after the Cavaliers were smacked at home by the defending champs in a 34-point loss (and one where Love was completely ineffective on both ends of the floor), there are real concerns that this team may not be able to compete with the league’s elite as the roster is currently constructed.
Does that mean that Cleveland will consider trading Love sometime in the next four weeks before the Feb. 18 deadline passes? It absolutely doesn’t, and even the idea of doing so is completely ridiculous.
It’s no secret that Love has struggled to find his niche in the Cavaliers’ lineup, especially since Kyrie Irving has returned from injury. Love is averaging 12.4 points on 37 percent shooting since Irving returned to the lineup, and he was averaging 17.6 points on 43 percent shooting while Irving was out.
But it isn’t only about points and rebounds. Love seems unfocused at times, which was exemplified by the way he completely lost Draymond Green on this simple pick-and-roll play while then scrambling all over the floor to try to figure things out.
And still, there’s zero chance the Cavaliers trade him this season.
Dealing Love would essentially be an admission that this is a lost season, because it would be almost impossible to get anything close to equal value in return, or to find a reasonable trade where the salaries would match. There’s also the prospect of trying to integrate new teammates into a locker room with championship aspirations, which is always tricky, but especially so with half of the regular season already in the books.
Now, if the Cavaliers don’t win a championship (or worse, fail to even make it back to the Finals), then they can (and likely will) look at options for trading Love this summer. The salary cap is set to spike upwards of 30 percent in advance of the 2016-17 season, which means there will be many more teams available for Cleveland to work with than there are at the present time.
Even with Love struggling, the team won nine of its last 10 games before Monday night’s disaster, so Cleveland isn’t going to look to blow things up after what was ultimately just one loss, no matter how crushing it was. The best thing for the Cavs to do would be to use the second half of the season to try to integrate Love offensively, and get him back to where he’s playing at a comfortable level before the postseason begins.
If they can’t do that, and if they fall short of their lofty expectations, the Cavaliers can potentially try to trade Love at some point this summer. But he’s not going anywhere this season.