Seemingly ever since Kevin Love arrived in Cleveland, a hint of uncertainty has surrounded his future with the Cleveland Cavaliers. ESPN's Brian Windhorst recently cast even further doubt regarding Love's potential return to the Cavs.
Windhorst was a guest on the The Lowe Post podcast with Grantland's Zach Lowe. During the appearance, he mentioned that many NBA insiders feel Love's time with the Cavaliers is drawing to a close and that the Los Angeles Lakers may be in play for the three-time All-Star, via RealGM:
"Every executive I talk to, every agent I talk to, every quasi insider, every girlfriend's cousin's sister's boyfriend all says this guy is out of there," said Brian Windhorst during a podcast with Zach Lowe.
"I hear the same thing from everybody," said Lowe. "From everyone that is two or three or four steps removed. I don't quite believe all of that ... Part of what's going on there is the Lakers' boogeyman. They don't just say he's out of there, they say 'He's going to the Lakers.' That has much to do with the fear people have of the Lakers as it does with Kevin Love."
Last month, Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding discussed the idea of Love going to LA:
It's almost a foregone conclusion at this point that Love will exercise the early termination option clause in his contract. There's almost no reason for him not to since he'd be one of the most prized free agents on the market this summer.
As soon as Cleveland acquired Love, all parties involved have attempted to eliminate any talk that Love would bolt the Cavaliers after a year.
"Cleveland is making the deal with Minnesota with a firm agreement Love will opt out of his contract in 2015 and re-sign with the Cavaliers on a five-year, $120 million-plus contract extension," wrote Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski in August.
In February, Love didn't even entertain the idea that he'd sign with the Lakers in the offseason, per ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin:
During an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show, via the show's executive producer Paul Pabst, Love added that he'd do the trade all over again and envisions a future in Cleveland:
Of course, Cavaliers fans have been down this road before with LeBron James in the summer of 2010. In this situation, you can only take what a player says at face value. It's not like Love would have gone on the record during the regular season and said he's heading out of town.
Despite their obvious issues, the Lakers should be considered a real threat to land the 26-year-old power forward.
Los Angeles was dreadful on the court this year, but that means it has the No. 2 pick in the draft. A frontcourt with Julius Randle and Jahlil Okafor/Karl-Anthony Towns looks promising and could entice Love that the team's future is headed in the right direction.
The Lakers could also shop their young players around if they want to build a winner right now.
Love would also have a starring role in one of the biggest markets in the country by going to Los Angeles. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in an interview on SiriusXM NBA Radio (h/t ESPN.com) that he sees Kobe Bryant retiring after the 2015-16 season. Once Bryant is gone, LA would be Love's team.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Love's usage rate averaged 28.8 percent in his final three seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves. His usage rate fell to 21.7 percent in his first year with the Cavaliers, which in turn meant he scored fewer points and grabbed fewer rebounds.
Love is a top-10 player in the league when healthy. You can't blame him too much if he isn't content to be a secondary star, even on an NBA title contender.
With all of that said, I'd be surprised if Love up and left the Cavaliers after just one year. The more likely outcome is him signing a one or two-year deal with Cleveland similar to James' contract. Love would have the option to become a free agent after next season.
That would give Love one more year to make it work with the Cavs, and if it doesn't, he could leave and cash in as the salary cap increases.