The Cleveland Cavaliers decided to make Kevin Love the focal point of their franchise when they handed the five-time All-Star a four-year, $120 million extension last month.
This means that, barring a trade, Love will be with the Cavs for the next five seasons at the cost of nearly $30 million per year. That's a significant investment to make for someone about to turn 30 next month, but if Love stays healthy, he's probably worth it.
Now comes the tricky part. For the past four seasons, this team has been tailor-made to fit around LeBron James. Cleveland made it a priority to stock the team with shooting, especially at the expense of defense and playmaking.
While putting shooters around Love certainly won't hurt, he doesn't require the floor-spacing and driving lanes like James. Instead, the Cavs need players who can get Love the ball and play strong defense around him.
Love was a major liability at center last season, allowing opponents to shoot 66.0 percent at the rim, per NBA.com. With Larry Nance Jr., Tristan Thompson and Ante Zizic all competing for minutes at center this season, Love should return to his natural power forward position. Unfortunately, those three are not advanced rim protectors, a skill that's nearly a necessity next to Love.
No one on the current Cavs roster averaged more than 2.8 assists per game last year. George Hill is more of a combo guard, and rookie point guard Collin Sexton collected just 4.8 assists per 40 minutes in college. A pass-first floor general who can set up the offense and find Love with some nifty dimes would definitely help the flow of Cleveland's offense.
While the Cavaliers are unlikely to pull off any blockbuster deals this season, any of these five would help craft the team around Love.
Trade No. 1: Cavs Help Hawks Rebuild
Cavs Receive: C Dewayne Dedmon, SG Kent Bazemore
Hawks Receive: C Ante Zizic, SG Kyle Korver, SG JR Smith
The Hawks are going to be bad this season, and it's primarily by design.
They've already shipped off starting point guard Dennis Schroder and paid Carmelo Anthony $25.5 million to not play for them this season. At this point, why take any chances on winning games?
Bazemore and Dedmon are two of Atlanta's best players and would be solid rotation pieces for Cleveland. Atlanta already tried to give Bazemore and his contract (two years, $37.4 million) to the Cavs at the draft, even offering to move back from No. 3 to No. 8 overall to do so, per Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. Dedmon is 29 and will be a free agent next summer, meaning he's not a fit in the Hawks rebuild.
Moving Bazemore's deal is the primary goal for Atlanta here, but picking up the 21-year-old Zizic is a nice incentive. Korver is a former fan favorite and should help sell a few tickets before the Hawks likely trade him again before the February deadline. Smith's salary matches up now, and he is owed just $3.9 million of his $15.7 million contract in 2019-20.
For Cleveland, Dedmon would immediately become the team's best rim protector (56.7 percent opponent shooting at the basket last season). He put up 14.4 points, 11.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.2 three-pointers per 36 minutes in 2017-18.
Bazemore can play both shooting guard and small forward, and he provides floor-spacing and defense around Love.
Trade No. 2: Love and Rubio Together Again
Cavs Receive: PG Ricky Rubio, SG Alec Burks
Jazz Receive: PG George Hill, SG Kyle Korver, 2022 second-round pick
Utah has no incentive to trade Rubio right now, but strong play by $33 million backup point guard Dante Exum and Rubio's impending free agency may change their minds as the season progresses.
Rubio and Love played three seasons together from 2011 to 2014 with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Rubio averaged 8.6 assists in their final year together, helping push Love's production to a career-high 26.1 points.
If there are any hard feelings from Love asking out of Minnesota, Rubio hasn't shown them.
"I have to be thankful for everything he did for me," Rubio told Adrian Wojnarowski, then of Yahoo Sports, shortly after Love was traded to Cleveland in 2014. "Coming from Europe to the NBA, it is not easy. Having the superstar give you the heads-up on things, look out for you...I appreciate it."
Rubio has become an even better player since then, and his combination of passing and defense would pair beautifully alongside Love.
Cleveland would likely have to include its starting point guard, Hill, who averaged a career-high 16.9 points for the Jazz in 2016-17. Hill's contract is guaranteed for just $1 million this season. Adding in Korver helps boost Utah's 13th-ranked three-point attack, and a pick should secure the deal.
Trade No. 3: Mavs and Cavs
Cavs Receive: PG J.J. Barea
Mavericks Receive: PF Sam Dekker
Nothing too fancy about this trade: just a simple two-player swap that fills needs on both teams.
Cleveland, looking for a cheap pass-first guard, would be a good landing spot for Barea. The 34-year-old had the fourth-highest assist percentage in the league (42.6 percent) last season, trailing only Russell Westbrook, James Harden and LeBron James. That's over twice the rate of Jordan Clarkson (19.3 percent), the Cavs' current leader.
Barea's role in Dallas is set to take a step back, with Dennis Smith Jr., Luka Doncic and Devin Harris all serving as primary ball-handlers.
Dekker was recently traded to Cleveland from the Los Angeles Clippers and should begin the season as Love's backup. He'll get an opportunity, but with so many bigs (Love, Thompson, Nance, Zizic and Channing Frye) all looking for minutes, the Cavs have a much greater need for a distributor.
With this possibly being Dirk Nowitzki's final season, bringing in a 24-year-old power forward on a rookie contract would be a smart investment for Dallas.
Trade No. 4: Central Division Swap
Cavs Receive: C John Henson, PG Matthew Dellavedova
Bucks Receive: SG Kyle Korver, SG JR Smith
Trade rumors surrounding Henson popped up last summer, when ESPN.com's Chris Haynes reported there was "mutual interest and motivation" to find the 27-year-old a new home. This summer, it's Dellavedova who Milwaukee tried to dump on draft night, per The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor.
Cleveland could use both of them. The contracts aren't great, as Henson and Dellavedova will combine to make nearly $19.2 million this season and $18.3 million in 2019-20. If the Cavs don't plan on signing any marquee free agents next summer (they shouldn't), this won't be a problem.
Henson has a 7'6" wingspan that helped him limit opponents to 57.2 percent shooting at the rim last season. His 1.4 blocks would have comfortably led the Cavs as well.
Dellavedova is vastly overpaid but is a cult hero in Cleveland who looks for others first and defends with energy. He'd fit in well alongside or behind Hill and Sexton.
For Milwaukee, Korver and Smith would help space the floor now while opening up roughly $13 million in cap space next summer, should the Bucks only pay the guaranteed parts of their contracts.
Trade No. 5: Two PGs Are Better Than One
Cavs Receive: PG Milos Teodosic, G Patrick Beverley, F Danilo Gallinari, 2021 first-round pick (top-five protected)
Clippers Receive: PG George Hill, SG JR Smith
The Clippers are set to be major players in the star-studded 2019 free-agency class. The Cavs can help—with some compensation, of course.
First, Los Angeles has an abundance of guards on its roster. The Clippers can lose Beverley and Teodosic and still rotate Hill, Avery Bradley, Lou Williams, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson in without missing a beat. The main goal here should be to highlight Gilgeous-Alexander as a potential star and use Hill as a seat-warmer before buying him out for $1 million next summer.
The main problem for Los Angeles is Gallinari, who's owed $44.2 million the next two seasons. The 30-year-old forward played just 21 games last season due to injury and has missed an average of 33 contests over the past four years. If the Clippers can move him, they'll open up two max-salary slots next summer.
Cleveland should be willing to help.
Teodosic is a fantastic passer who registered a 25.2 percent assist rate, better than guards like Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Jrue Holiday. Beverley would be the perfect mentor for Sexton, given his defensive intensity.
Adding two guards who would complement Love is a good start, but agreeing to take back Gallinari for a future first-round pick helps out both sides as well.