Unless there’s a trade offer that adds impactful young talent, the Cleveland Cavaliers should keep Love until there’s a better use for the cap space.
At some point in the next few months, after the season and the NBA draft are done and Andre Drummond decides whether to pick up his option, the conversation will circle back to whether the Cleveland Cavaliers should trade Kevin Love. It will be that way until either he is actually traded or his contract expires.
There is a good reason for this. An article in Sports Illustrated last week listed Love as a borderline candidate for the Hall of Fame. He has reached the top ten in career rebounds in team history and is less than a full season away from the top ten in scoring and second place in career three-pointers. If he plays out his contract here and stays healthy, he will be top five in all those categories and top ten in assists. Under those circumstances, Love would have a legitimate claim to being the second-best player in team history.
On the other hand, Love has not played in more than sixty games in a season since 2016. He stayed healthy this year, but this is not a trend that bodes well for a guy his age. If he gets hurt while Kobi Altman is holding out for the best possible deal, the Cavs could end up with nothing.
Those who pose this as a salary dump notwithstanding, trading a guy like Love is not something done lightly. It is one of the most impactful decisions the front office will make during this rebuild. So, what should they do?
The simple answer is that the Cavs should trade Love unless they see themselves making the playoffs before his contract expires. Of course, they say that could happen next year, but none of the core players on this roster has ever won a playoff game without LeBron James as a teammate. Even if they did, the goal should be building a roster where the playoffs are the floor, not the ceiling. That is still a few years away, and the odds of Love being a core part of that are very slim.
That doesn’t mean dumping him. If the best offer right now for Love is something like what we gave up for Andre Drummond, then, by all means, keep him. The cap space is of no consequence until the young guys start looking for extensions, so for the next year or so the only thing Love’s salary is hurting is the profit margin. If what they can get back for him doesn’t help their chances of making the playoffs, his greatest value is in helping the young players experience success so they learn what it takes to win in the NBA and see Cleveland as a place they can do that.
Bottom line: be patient. By the last year of Love’s deal, his contract will actually be a selling point in a trade. If nothing materializes that enables the Cavs to add young talent in exchange for Love before then, hanging on to him is the best course of action.