Post-Kevin Love Trade: Should Cleveland Cavs Stand Pat or Shore Up Defense?

D.J. Foster@@fosterdjContributor IAugust 15, 2014

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 14: Kevin Love #42 of the Minnesota Timberwolves during a game against the Golden State Warriors on April 14, 2014 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
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By acquiring Kevin Love via trade, the Cleveland Cavaliers have laid the groundwork for a team that can absolutely win multiple titles.

A core of Love, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving is as good as any in the league, but now Cavs general manager David Griffin will be tasked with filling in the gaps around them.

Even though the majority of the legwork is done, and even though James can turn an average player into a dangerous threat, the Cavs would be well-served to address a few areas of need and acquire as much peripheral talent as possible.

After all, there are no guarantees in terms of health or fit, as we've seen before.

Here's Ben Dowsett at explaining more:

The trade will leave Cleveland in need of several filled roster spots (they’ve been in discussions with Shawn Marion and have signed free agent center Alex Kirk), but outside a potential Matrix signing, the major pieces appear to be in place.

A James-Love-Irving-Waiters offensive foundation is, on paper, a menacing force; that said, by now we all know the pitfalls of crowning a newly-minted superteam before seeing them together (ask the 2012-13 Lakers).

It's funny to say given that this was the accepted mentality by owner Dan Gilbert over the last few disastrous seasons, but the Cavs are actually, finally, legitimately in "win-now" mode. While this is a core without a clear expiration date, the pieces around them should be maximized whenever possible. 

Feb 16, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Eastern Conference forward LeBron James (6) of the Miami Heat tries to take the ball away from guard Kyrie Irving (2) of the Cleveland Cavaliers during practice for the 2013 NBA all star game at the George R. Brown Conventi
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Essentially, Cleveland's window to win a title is already long thanks to the youth of Love and Irving and the presence of James, but now the goal should be to make it wider for this year. It's all about finding the most productive players at this point, young or old.

Although no one would complain about four straight Finals appearances, one of the traps Miami fell in, whether it be because of financial reasons or less than perfect management, was letting the supporting cast deteriorate.

Players like Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier and others were clearly no longer capable contributors, but Miami failed to upgrade.

Cleveland is at a different point in the challenge of building a championship roster, but the lesson remains the same. Not settling just because there is star talent present would be a good idea.

DALLAS, TX - APRIL 28: Shawn Marion #0 of the Dallas Mavericks handles the ball against the San Antonio Spurs during Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs on April 28, 2014 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas
Glenn James/Getty Images

That likely starts with Shawn Marion. Having a versatile forward off the bench who can defend multiple positions and play in the same frontcourt as James would be a huge grab, even though Cleveland is out of assets aside from the veteran's minimum to offer.

Indy IS trying to wedge its way into contention for Shawn Marion and Larry Bird did meet Monday with Marion, but Cavs remain in lead for now

— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) August 12, 2014

While it isn't easy to build a great roster with minimum signings, it's not impossible. What Cleveland has to realize is that every available roster spot is an asset now, as available veterans should be lining up to play with James.

One of those players may be another former Miami Heat teammate in Ray Allen. The Cavs have already signed Mike Miller and James Jones to add shooting, but Allen might be next.

Of course, that's not a lock even if it's logical. Here's what Ray Allen told Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald:

"No," he said when asked about the assumption that he would return as a Cavalier. "There’s so much speculation about me going to Cleveland. I haven’t even decided where I will play.

Obviously LeBron and I are great friends, and James Jones and I are really close. But at no point have those two tried to push me in that direction. I haven’t had that conversation. LeBron and I went on vacation to the Bahamas earlier this summer, and we didn’t talk one iota about things. And that was before he made his decision.

"It’s just what they start talking about on TV — where I’m supposed to go. I have not leaned towards Cleveland," said Allen. "I have not made any mention of going to Cleveland. These last two months were about me physically, and deciding whether I want to play again."

Again, maintaining roster spots is crucial for the Cavs, and it's a big reason why they traded to acquire the non-guaranteed deals of John Lucas and Malcolm Thomas earlier this offseason. 

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JUNE 15:  Ray Allen #34 of the Miami Heat drives to the basket against the San Antonio Spurs during Game Five of the 2014 NBA Finals at the AT&T Center on June 15, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Thomas may quietly be a great fit for the bench, however, as he's a strong rebounder who has recently expanded his range out to the three-point line.

The signing of Kirk addressed a big need as well. Cleveland needed a player with at least some rim protecting abilities, and Kirk should be able to provide that in the sparse time he sees behind Anderson Varejao and Brendan Haywood.

Here's Chuck Myron at

Kirk is a rim protector, as his 2.7 blocks per game this past season for the Lobos show. The Cavs have been sniffing around for someone who can play that role, reportedly offering a first-round pick for Timofey Mozgov, though Kirk will likely have to beat out a veteran or two to serve in that capacity for significant minutes in wine-and-gold this year.

Even though most of their injuries could safely be described as flukes, Love and Irving haven't been the models of perfect health, and Varejao has a long history of missing games. Cleveland's bench is more important than most for that reason, which is why getting solid, dependable options like Marion can be viewed as critical.

Cleveland will have 11 fully guaranteed contracts so long as Love is the only player coming back in the deal and no additional players other than Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett are shipped out.

Kirk and Erik Murphy should be on partially guaranteed deals, and Lucas and Thomas are both non-guaranteed.

With the addition of Marion and Allen, the Cavs would then have 13 fully guaranteed deals. You can carry 15 contracts but only dress 12 players, so if Marion and Allen both signed, it would be incredibly unlikely for the Cavs to sign another high-profile name.

That doesn't mean Cleveland won't have options in the trade market, however. Finding a center who can protect the rim behind Varejao would make some sense, and perhaps adding an athletic wing defender aside from Marion would be wise as well.

It would likely take a future first-round pick to do so, but again, Cleveland should be maximizing the title chances and prime of James as much as possible. Defense appears to be an issue for this roster as it currently stands, so adding players who can address that need and and provide depth makes sense. There's enough shooting on this roster, but Cleveland will need help getting stops.

In addition to Denver Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov, a few other names at backup center that might make sense are Charlotte Hornets center Bismack Biyombo and Milwaukee Bucks big man John Henson. 

On the wing, particularly if Marion signs elsewhere, strong defenders like Memphis Grizzlies swingman Quincy Pondexter, Atlanta Hawks wing Demarre Carroll or Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler could all be a good fit for the right price.

Whether the Cavs fill their defensive needs via free agency or trade, identifying and targeting potential roster upgrades throughout the season and moving forward will be necessary to establish and sustain the type of dominance the core of James, Love and Irving are certainly capable of.



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