Kevin Love may be sidelined for the remainder of the playoffs after undergoing surgery to repair a left shoulder dislocation, but that doesn't mean his tenure with the Cleveland Cavaliers is nearing an end.
According to ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin, Love believes he'll be healthy enough to play in the first game of the 2015-16 season and provided a straightforward response regarding which team's jersey he'll be donning:
That's good news for the Cavaliers on two levels.
Not only is Love apparently on track to make a full recovery, but he also appears committed to the Wine and Gold beyond this season.
Should Love pursue a future with Cleveland, it will be fascinating to see which financial path he travels down. On one hand, Love can simply exercise his $16.7 million player option for next season and then become an unrestricted free agent when the salary cap explodes in 2016.
However, if Love truly wants to maximize his earning potential and stick with the Cavaliers next season, he could do so in a more complex manner. That route would involve opting out of his player option, hitting the open market and then re-signing with the Cavaliers on a one-year deal before hitting free agency again when the cap booms.
The reason for making such a move would be simple: more cash. According to ProBasketballTalk's Dan Feldman, Love could earn approximately $19 million under a max-contract structure next season if he opts out and re-ups.
"If he thinks being on a contract with one year remaining—his situation should he opt in—is in his best interest, why not opt out and then re-sign on a new one-year contract? That way he’d give himself a $2,283,581 raise," Feldman wrote. "Plus, as long as he’s doing that, he could get a $20,454,885 player option for 2016-17, which would offer protection in case something goes wrong."
Right now, the speculation doesn't seem to be fazing Love.
"It's something that comes with the territory," Love said on Sunday, according to the New York Post's Marc Berman. "Any free agency coming in the summer, [speculation is] going to happen no matter who it is. I try not to pay attention to it. Early in the season I went ahead, turned off my Twitter. It’s on the backburner for me."
After getting dealt to the Cavaliers in an August blockbuster that sent Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins and 2013 No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett to the Minnesota Timberwolves, Love averaged 16.4 points and 9.7 rebounds while shooting 43.4 percent from the field and 36.7 percent from three.
While Love's transition to life as Cleveland's third option behind LeBron James and Kyrie Irving was a bit rocky at the start, the partnership proved to be beneficial for both parties as the season progressed.
With Love able to space the floor and free up more operating room for drive-and-dish weapons like James and Irving, the opportunity exists for those three to make magic well into the future, should the big man stay true to his word.
Cleveland also needs to address Tristan Thompson's future with the club this summer. A restricted free agent who turned down a four-year, $52 million extension last year, according to Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, Thompson has skyrocketed into a new financial tier with his stellar postseason showings sans Love.
Over the course of nine playoff starts at power forward, Thompson's averaging 10.3 points and 11.1 rebounds, including a dominant 4.1 offensive boards.
Retaining both Love and Thompson will be costly, but if this season has been any indication, the Cavaliers can find plenty of ways to properly use those two diverse weapons to supplement what James and Irving have to offer.