Should Cleveland Cavaliers Consider a Big 3 Upgrade This Offseason?

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterMarch 18, 2016

INDEPENDENCE, OH - SEPTEMBER 28: Kevin Love #0, Kyrie Irving #2 and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers pose for a photo during media day on September 28, 2015 at the Cleveland Clinic Courts in Independence, Ohio.  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 the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NBAE via Getty Images)
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From the moment the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love coalesced into a Big Three, rumors have pointed towards an inevitable collapse.

Over the past 19 months, we've heard it all: Love's questionable fit, Irving's reported unhappinessthe warning not to take James' presence for granted.

Yet, this Big 3 has a serious chance at winning an NBA championship. Poor luck notwithstanding, this could have been a repeat-Title bid year. Injuries to both Love and Irving derailed any opportunity this trio had at winning a ring last summer.

Sure, dealing Love this offseason would net a sizable return. Moving Irving for a pass-first point guard with lockdown defensive skills probably helps. But the Cavs' Big Three deserves a chance to play for a title together before we seriously talk about blowing things up.

But just for fun, let's talk about blowing things up.


The Argument for Change

Irving (23) and Love's (27) youth is both a blessing and a curse.

With the ever-watchful eye on 31-year-old James and how long his body will hold up, it's important to have a young supporting cast to help ease the four-time MVP's burden.

The Cavs certainly don't want to be in a situation where James has to completely carry players who have passed their prime. Agewise, Love should just be entering his. Irving may still be four or five years away.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 1: Kevin Love #0 and Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers look on against the Indiana Pacers during the game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on February 1, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Cavaliers defeated the Pacers 111-1
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

So what's the problem? Well, it's possible that both haven't truly logged enough time in the league to flip their focus from individual to team success. Head coach Tyronn Lue discussed that possibility earlier this season, per Joe Vardon of

With our young stars, with Kyrie and Kevin, they're young, so it's still about their brand and different things, it's just way different. I talked to our team about, 'if you win, everybody's brand is better'. If you win as a unit, everybody gets credit for it. Just trying to keep instilling that in our guys because, you know, we still have a young group of guys. Just gotta keep instilling that message. If we win, everybody's taken care of, so that's the message.

It would be a downright shame for players as talented as Love and Irving to waste years playing next to one of the NBA's greatest of all time, simply because they were more concerned with brands or personal stats.

Perhaps bringing in guys who have spent a few extra years in the league and have a greater appetite for winning would be beneficial.

Cleveland's star trio has been good, but certainly not irreplaceable. As well as James, Love and Irving have played together, they're not even close to being the top three-man lineup this season. With a plus/minus rating of plus-9.5 per 100 possessions, the Big Three comes in at just 48th in the NBA. Cleveland actually has seven three-man combos with a higher plus/minus rating, led by James, Love and Matthew Dellavedova (plus-21.4).


What Trades Would Make Sense?

Pretend for a moment Cleveland fizzles out in the playoffs and fans start calling for Irving and/or Love's head. 

Irving may be the first name for opposing GMs to call about. Players have supposedly grumbled about the guard's ball-hogging tendencies as of late. General manager David Griffin would sensibly consider bringing aboard a pass-first point guard, someone who also provides an upgrade on the defensive end. 

Such a person does exist, and he has a good relationship with James.

LOS ANGELES, CA  - MARCH 13: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers hugs Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers after the game on March 13, 2016 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees tha
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul seems to check all the boxes that Cleveland needs. He's a hungry veteran that's never been to the Finals. He's also a far, far better distributor and defender than Irving.

The Clippers may be trending in the opposite direction of the Cavaliers. They're not going to come out of a loaded Western Conference, and may actually be better off parting with the 30-year-old Paul and building around Irving and 27-year-old Blake Griffin.

And then there's Love. While he and James have been a successful on-court duo (plus-12.9 points per 100 possessions, 112.4 offensive rating), there's no ignoring Love's offensive decline.

His scoring (15.8 points) and shooting percentages (41.1 percent from the field, 34.3 from three) are down from even last year, when many thought Love would bolt in the offseason in search of a bigger role.

In terms of body language, production and fit within the offense, the same type of problems seem to be creeping back in. As Irving gets more and more comfortable in his return from June knee surgery, Love's role has once again shrunk. In the month of November while Irving was still rehabbing, Love put up just under 20 points per game on 47.1 percent shooting from the field. In March, he's dropped to 14.7 points on 34.8 percent.

Love was questioned about his diminishing role shortly after Irving returned in mid-December, saying he wasn't sure how to even answer. When asked a month later to describe any changes under Lue, Love told Bleacher Report "I still don’t know how to answer it."

As teams are slowly moving from stacking superstars to more of a balanced overall roster, would it actually be in Cleveland's best interest to flip Love for solid rotation players instead?

If so, the Boston Celtics would be a logical choice.

CLEVELAND, OH - FEBRUARY 5: Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers handles the ball against the Boston Celtics on February 5, 2016 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and
David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

Swapping Love for a package of Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Jared Sullinger would give Boston a frontcourt star to pair with All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas. For Cleveland, it would mean a defensive boost on the wing and a deeper overall rotation.

Of course, trading superstars is one of the trickiest moves a GM can pull off and get right, and should be met with extreme hesitation.

Perhaps, just maybe, we should let things play out first.


Just One Chance

For all the excitement surrounding the Cavs' Big Three and the massive expectations bestowed upon them, we still have no idea if they can win a title together. We at least have to give them a shot.

It's true that Paul would be a better fit for Cleveland in the present tense, but there's no ignoring the near seven-year age difference between he and Irving. The last time the NBA saw an oft-injured, shoot-first point guard with massive potential was in Golden State, and it seems to be working out for them.

While Irving won't make a gargantuan leap like Steph Curry, he does carry similar qualities in terms of ball-handling and offensive repertoire. Paul should have at least three or four good years left. Irving could enjoy 10 to 12.

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

When considering a Love trade, especially for a nonsuperstar, Cleveland has to accept the fact that they'll likely not have a max-salary space to offer for years. There are certainly no high draft picks on the horizon to dangle for one, either.

The general rule of thumb when dealing is to always swap two good players for a great one, and that's precisely what Love is. One of the best rebounding/three-point shooting combo players the NBA has ever seen, the three-time All-Star is locked in under contract until he's 31. That kind of rare ability and contractual security would be tough to let go of.

For all the grumblings about whether to stay together or search for a better fit, it's important to ride this group out for now. Sometimes the best moves are the ones front offices ultimately decide not to make, with this situation standing as a prime example.

This year's playoffs will provide far more answers, but for now, it's not time to blow up the Cavs quite yet.


Greg Swartz is the Cleveland Cavaliers Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @CavsGregBR.

All quotes obtained firsthand unless cited. Stats via and unless otherwise sourced and are current as of March 17 unless otherwise noted.


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