Cleveland Cavaliers logoCleveland Cavaliers

Is Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Love the Better Star for the Cleveland Cavaliers?

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 30: Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks handles the ball against Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first quarter at Quicken Loans Arena on October 30, 2014 in Cleveland, 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.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images
Greg SwartzCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterFebruary 8, 2017

As Carmelo Anthony's stock plummets and Kevin Love's grows by the day, trade talks involving the two superstar forwards won't die.

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News wrote that not only is a swap still a possibility, but that LeBron James is pushing for his close friend to join him in Cleveland, even at the expense of Love. James has since called the report, and Isola, "trash."

While James may not be pushing Love out of town, there have been discussions between the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers in the past. As Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal wrote:

I talked to executives with two other teams who acknowledged they were called in to try and facilitate a potential deal.

It's also accurate that James has previously pushed the Cavs to acquire Anthony dating back to last season. The Cavs have considered a deal involving Love and Anthony this season.

There's no debate that Love is enjoying the better season. Named to his fourth All-Star Game, he's putting up 20.4 points and 11.1 rebounds while shooting 43.1 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from three. All four categories are his best as a Cavalier.

Anthony is once again the captain of the Knicks' sinking ship, missing his first All-Star game in 10 years while logging 22.9 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists on 43.5 percent shooting.

It's not fair to compare who's better. Instead, we must look at which player would be better in the same situation. What would Anthony's season be like next to James and Kyrie Irving instead of 21-year-old Kristaps Porzingis and Derrick Rose?

As good as Love has been, could Anthony actually be a better Cavalier?

 

Offensive Role

It's taken nearly three years for Love to grow accustomed to being the third in the Cavs offense, but he's finally starting to eat.

Cleveland is getting Love touches early and often by force-feeding him in the first quarter. Last season, Love averaged 5.4 first-quarter points on 4.5 shot attempts. Those numbers ranked 26th and 29th in the NBA, respectively.

Now, he's become one of the league's best opening-period weapons. Only Anthony Davis (8.8 points) and James Harden (8.6) are scoring more than Love (8.4) to begin games. His 6.5 shots trail only DeMar DeRozan (6.6) for most in the league.

Love's offensive contribution isn't solely based on playing the stretch 4 anymore, either. His points in the paint, second-chance points and fast-break scoring are all up this season.

Does theoretically subbing Anthony in for Love make a noticeable difference in Cleveland's offense?

Either James or Anthony would be playing power forward, which is actually the latter's best position offensively. The only year Anthony spent more than 70 percent of his time at the 4 was in 2012-13, and New York went 54-28 with the league's third-best offense. Anthony led the NBA with 28.7 points per game—the only time he's captured a scoring crown.

While Anthony isn't the low-post scorer Love is, he can serve as a stretch 4 or isolate his man on the wing. James has pleaded for a playmaker, and Anthony fits this description far more than Love with his ability to dribble-drive and pass—Love's standstill and outlet passing notwithstanding.

The thought of Tristan Thompson setting screens and grabbing offensive rebounds for James, Irving and Anthony seems almost unfair.

Of course, pure scoring isn't the only aspect that needs to be taken into account.

While Anthony expands Cleveland's playbook with his plethora of offensive options, the Cavs would lose Love's ability to throw the touchdown pass, a play that most recently set up James' overtime clinching shot against the Washington Wizards on Feb. 6.

Anthony presents the bigger offensive upside, but how long would it take him to integrate into Cleveland's system?

Advantage: Wash

     

Defensive Matchups

Playing Anthony at power forward is great offensively, but there has to be a concern about him covering full-time 4s, even this wouldn't be a big concern on most nights with the NBA going smaller. 

Of course, Cleveland could mix and match James and Anthony defensively. James (6'8", 250 lbs) and Anthony (6'8", 240 lbs) are essentially built like power forwards anyway. Neither Love nor Anthony are above-average defenders, and both will have to be shielded by James and Thompson at all times.

The real question should be, who matches up better against the Golden State Warriors?

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 16: Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives to the basket against the Golden State Warriors on January 16, 2017 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Cleveland can match with James, Thompson and Love, respectively, when the Dubs bring their starting frontcourt of Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia.

Where does this leave Anthony?

The Cavaliers' best option would be to move Thompson on Pachulia to match size, leaving Anthony to cover either Durant or Green—a terrifying option either way. Love can at least use his size and strength to body Pachulia. Anthony could not.

Advantage: Love

     

Intangibles

Love is the far better rebounder of the two. Without him, Cleveland would be thin on the boards with only Thompson (9.7) pulling down more than eight a game.

On the flip side, Anthony is the superior half-court passer, averaging a career-best 4.2 assists just a season ago. Based on his time with the U.S. Olympic team, we can hope Anthony will distribute and buy into a team when necessary.

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 4: Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks shoots against Kevin Love #0 and LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York on December 4, 2014.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknow
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Of course, there's a major age factor here.

Love is 28 and seemingly in the prime of his career. Other than a stiff back from time to time, he's shown no signs of slowing down. Anthony will turn 33 in May, with James set to hit double threes in December. A swap of players would signal Cleveland's ultimate all-in move, leaving Irving (24) as the lone young offensive threat to carry the team during the years to come.

The mental state of both Anthony and Love has to be examined as well. Love has proved he's willing to do whatever it takes (fewer minutes, shots, etc.) in order to win a title. James and the Cavaliers know they can win with Love as their starting power forward.

As for Anthony...

Now, 14 years into the NBA, Anthony has been focused far more on personal brand over team triumph. As Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding wrote, Anthony is still "addicted to his individual success," adding:

Maybe LeBron James will be the latest to believe he can get more out of Anthony and force a Carmelo trade to Cleveland. It sure seems logical to think Anthony, especially by a longtime friend, can be sold on the idea of getting individual glory as a difference-maker for a team that goes on to take the title.

Except that goes back to others thinking he would or should want something more than he actually does.

We're overrating Anthony's will to win again.

This isn't just a concern; it's downright scary to think of trading the Eastern Conference's only 20-10 player for one who may not carry the same desire to win as his new reigning-champion teammates.

Advantage: Love

     

Love or Melo?

If the Cavaliers had never come back from a 3-1 deficit last June and Love wasn't an All-Star over four years younger, a trade for Anthony would make a lot of sense.

Alas, they did, and he is.

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19:  Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers poses for a portrait after winning the NBA Championship against the Golden State Warriors during the 2016 NBA Finals Game Seven on June 19, 2016 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

As Knicks president Phil Jackson scrambles to find a trade partner for Anthony, Love should be well out of his grasp. Cleveland has finally figured how to utilize its third star and shouldn't be starting over now. Love, believe it or not, represents the better matchup against Golden State, a factor that should perhaps hold more importance than anything else.

Anthony may become a Cavalier at some point in his career, but not now. At least, not in a trade for Love.

     

Cavaliers' Insider Notebook

NBA's Iron Man

Thompson has now played in 420 straight games and counting, a streak that began Feb. 10, 2012 during his rookie season. The next-closest player is Portland Trail Blazers center Mason Plumlee at 246.

DALLAS, TX - JANUARY 30: Tristan Thompson #13 of the Cleveland Cavaliers grabs a rebound against the Dallas Mavericks on January 30, 2017 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downl
Glenn James/Getty Images

Despite this achievement, Thompson actually forgot he passed former Cavalier Jim Chones for the most consecutive games in franchise history back in March 2016.

"Who's the all-time leader for the Cavs? I haven't done that, right?" Thompson asked Bleacher Report before being reminded he more than held the record. "It's me? For the Cavs? Oh s--t. I thought I was behind someone still. It's definitely an honor."

      

Nice Pickup

Kyle Korver had a rough start to his Cavaliers career, going just 2-of-10 from the field and 0-of-5 from deep in his first two games following a January trade from the Atlanta Hawks.

Joining the team on its longest road trip of the season certainly didn't help, either. Now, 14 games and a handful of practices later, it's clear why general manager David Griffin gave up a first-round pick for the 35-year-old.

Over his last 12 games, Korver is averaging 10.5 points and 2.8 rebounds while shooting a scorching 46.4 percent from deep.

 

"Road Trippin'" with Family

Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye share a bond as former Arizona Wildcats. It's a journey that's led to an NBA title and now, perhaps more importantly, their own podcast.

Jefferson, Frye and Fox Sports Ohio's Allie Clifton now provide an unedited humor-filled raw look at how veteran players see the game, bond on the road and keep chemistry fresh within the team.

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 5: Richard Jefferson #24 and Channing Frye #9 of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the locker room before facing the Golden State Warriors for Game Two of the 2016 NBA Finals on June 5, 2016 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, CA. NOTE TO USER: User e
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

Although other teammates join, it's appropriate Jefferson and Frye serve as hosts. The pair represents the heart and soul of Cleveland's locker room. On occasion, Jefferson's two-year-old son "Little Rich" will hang out and practice dribbling with Frye, known to him as "Uncle Channing," after games.

Even though Frye tragically lost both of his parents in recent months, it appears he still has family close by.

     

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

Stats via Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com and are accurate through Feb. 7.

Where can I comment?

Stay on your game

Latest news, insights, and forecasts on your teams across leagues.

Choose Teams
Get it on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Real-time news for your teams right on your mobile device.

Download
Copyright © 2017 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved. BleacherReport.com is part of Bleacher Report – Turner Sports Network, part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment Network. Certain photos copyright © 2017 Getty Images. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of Getty Images is strictly prohibited. AdChoices