Should Cleveland Cavaliers Chase Kevin Love Trade at All Costs?

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Should Cleveland Cavaliers Chase Kevin Love Trade at All Costs?
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Kevin Love can turn the now-LeBron James-piloted Cleveland Cavaliers into an NBA powerhouse, into an on-paper juggernaut that begins contending for championships immediately.

Question is: Do the Cavaliers have the intestinal fortitude to make it happen?

And if so, should they put said intrepid wherewithal into action?

 

Why All the Fuss?

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The answer is simple to some: The Cavs should do it. They should trade for Love, pair him with Kyrie Irving and James and chase titles for the next five-plus years.

This is assuming they have the means to acquire Love and make such a decision.

Which they do.

Sources told ESPN.com's Chris Broussard the Cavaliers are offering the Minnesota Timberwolves Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett and a future first-round pick in exchange for Love. Momentum hasn't picked up on that front because the Timberwolves also want the 2014 NBA draft's No. 1 pick, Andrew Wiggins, who the Cavaliers are, to this point, refusing to deal.

"There's no reason or cause for worry on his part because Andrew's not going anywhere, as far as I know and as far as the club has expressed," Cavaliers head coach David Blatt told reporters, via ESPN.com.

Barring the search for a third team to help facilitate any deal, acquiring Love at all costs isn't as ambiguous as it sounds. There's a definitive, Cleveland-specific price that has been placed upon Love. And it's Wiggins.

Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images
Acquiring Love would likely cost Wiggins.

Making him available shows the Cavaliers are serious. It proves they're willing to mortgage almost anything for the sake of winning now and embracing a wilting superteam model.

There is no denying how special Love is as a player. He is a superstar—a top-10, possibly top-five, superstar. 

Six years of postseasonless basketball did its best to restrict and taint his status, but numbers don't lie.

Love became just the seventh player in NBA history to average at least 26 points, 12 rebounds and four assists per game last season, joining six Hall of Famers: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, Billy Cunningham, Wilt Chamberlain, Bob McAdoo and Oscar Robertson. He's now also the only player in league history to average at least 26 points and 12 rebounds while drilling more than one three-pointer.

Rocky Widner/Getty Images

When pointing to his absence of playoff berths, it's difficult to blame Love for the Timberwolves' transgressions.

Especially now.

Only two players collected more win shares than Love (14.3) last season: James (15.9) and Kevin Durant (19.2). That's it.

Criticism can only focus on Love's inability to lead the Timberwolves to the playoffs in a brutal Western Conference on his own, and that's not much of a critique at all.

Few players in the league are up to that task. There are only two in the Western Conference alone that spring to mind in Durant and Chris Paul.

And if that's the best we can come up with, Love is doing something right. That, however, doesn't warrant the Cavs opening their stable of assets to Minnesota's liking.

 

Still a Flight Risk

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If this were only about Love's status, about his ability to transform the Cavaliers into an instant superteam, there wouldn't even be a discussion. But this is about more.

Summer 2015 is fast approaching, and no matter where he finishes next season, Love will become part of the free-agent fray.

It doesn't behoove him to sign an extension or even opt into the last year of his deal. He stands to make more money by hitting the open market and signing a new contract.

That makes him a flight risk, a potential rental, and the Timberwolves cannot gut their young core or deprive their future of Wiggins' professional ceiling for someone who may leave in one year's time.

Marc Stein of ESPN.com has been told Love is "intrigued" at the possibility of playing in Cleveland, though. The Cavaliers have LeBron. There is nothing for them to worry about.

Some—many, even—will see it that way. But it wasn't long ago that Love didn't want to stay in Cleveland long term, according to ESPN Boston's Jackie MacMullan

Does James' arrival have that kind of mindset-altering power? Absolutely.

How about on a two-year contract, though?

Most see James' two-year, $42.1 million deal—which was first reported by ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst—as a business decision. As they should.

With the NBA up for a new TV deal soon, and the threat of another lockout looming in 2017, James is smart to keep his options open. His contract isn't a harbinger of doubt or his intent to leave Cleveland next summer or in 2016. It's strictly business.

Pool/Getty Images
Can LeBron keep Love in Cleveland?

At the same time, it gives him the opportunity to leave if he so chooses. Love might not be as keen on committing himself to the Cavaliers if he knows that James boasts a built-in escape clause, even if it's beyond unlikely he uses it.

Then there's the matter of James himself, and what he told Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins of his return to Cleveland:

I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head. But I get a thrill out of bringing a group together and helping them reach a place they didn’t know they could go. I see myself as a mentor now and I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys. I think I can help Kyrie Irving become one of the best point guards in our league. I think I can help elevate Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters.

Although James doesn't mention Wiggins specifically, his exclusion is hardly worth reading between the lines. And yet motioning to Waiters and Tristan Thompson is significant.

If James wanted Love at any cost, and the Timberwolves were ready to pull the trigger if Cleveland included Wiggins, the Cavs would have Love. Case closed. James has that kind of power.

The absence of a deal means he hasn't wielded said control. That's possibly because he doesn't want to rock the boat this early into his reunion, but he might also understand what the rest of us should.

One year. That's all the Cavs would get to make a lasting impression. Should they get bounced in the first round next year, that's the only taste of Cleveland Love will know. He could decide to leave, to join a contender that's better positioned to win a title.

 

Mountainous Cost

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Buying Love's interest in Cleveland dictates you believe he's ready to be the Chris Bosh of the Cavaliers as well. He would play third fiddle to Irving and James.

Love is no doubt higher up the NBA's food chain than Irving, but as a point guard and ball-dominator, he's the bigger focal point by default.

What if he doesn't enjoy being the No. 3 option during the heart of his career? Bosh was unique in that regard. What if Love isn't?

Others won't see it this way.

Similar to CBS Sports' Gregg Doyel, they will see what the Cavs are getting in Love:

Kevin Love is historic, is what I'm saying. Andrew Wiggins could be, and probably will be special. Kevin Love is already there, and Kevin Love is only 25 years old. He has reportedly indicated that he would sign a long-term deal with Cleveland if traded there -- the Cavs can't trade Wiggins without that assurance -- which means Cleveland could be looking at a Big Three of LeBron, Love and Kyrie Irving for the next decade.

Those are all good points when looked at in a specific way. Love is historic. He is great.

He is a superstar. He would be the Cavs' third superstar.

But the team must consider what it would be giving up. "At all costs" means Wiggins. Think of how talented he is. 

Think of what he could wind up meaning to the Cavs franchise.

Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman guides us to that end of the spectrum:

Wiggins has the potential to offer some special value in the short term as well as a monster ceiling in the long term. And he just happens to fill a need in Cleveland given its lack of defense and athleticism.

The Cavaliers' current roster and rebuilding efforts have so much positivity and promise. I wouldn't mess with them.

Days, weeks or months after James touts Cleveland's young talent and his desire to play mentor, you don't trade your most promising asset. You don't forfeit a potential superstar in this situation. 

You just don't.

 

Accepting Reality

Everything would be different if Love publicly—and therefore illegally—declares he'll stay with the Cavaliers for the rest of his career or something along those drastic lines. He won't do that.

Everything changes if the parameters of James' contract are different. They aren't.

Everything changes if a James-Irving-Love troika approaches indomitable perfection. It, as Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal argues, doesn't:

There simply isn't a way for Blatt to hide both the point guard and the power forward, especially seeing as Wiggins would be gone, leaving LeBron as the only defensive standout on the roster. Even if there were a stellar rim-protector and another perimeter stalwart, it would be tough enough to have a top-10 defense, and the Cavs would have neither at their disposal in this hypothetical situation. ...

... No matter how good a Big Three of LeBron, Love and Irving might look on paper, it's not going to work. Not without money to make improvements, not without Wiggins on the roster and certainly not without significant defensive improvements. 

Current circumstances are what the Cavaliers must work within. They can't promise Love re-signs next summer. They can only use words such as "likely," "probably" and "hopefully"—none of which are conclusive enough for them to fork over whatever and whomever Minnesota wants. 

There's little need to do so right now, too.

The Golden State Warriors are still unwilling to part with Klay Thompson, according to Stein. Their Klay-less package doesn't exceed the appeal of Cleveland's Andrew-less proposal, nor does it create enough urgency for the Cavs to budge.

Should the Cavaliers acquire Love at all costs?

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If and when the Warriors decide to soften their stance, if and when another team comes swooping in with a to-die-for offer, the Cavaliers can reassess their position.

Until then, they should move forward, trying to find a third team that makes Love's arrival possible.

In the event that fails, they move forward still, without compromising the core that helped lure James home for a player they want and need, but one who isn't worth the risk of total, roster-ravaging compliance.

 

*Stats via Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.


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