Realistic Trade Packages and Landings Spots for Kevin Love
As NBA teams look to the trade market for help, many of the big names have already been moved (Anthony Davis, Mike Conley) or are being told they'll stay put (Bradley Beal).
This is a problem for championship-hopeful teams that have little-to-no cap space to sign any of the big free agents this summer.
One solution? A trade for Cleveland Cavaliers five-time All-Star Kevin Love.
As ESPN's Brian Windhorst stated on ESPN 850 in Cleveland, Love "has been out there in trade talks," noting that a deal for the 30-year-old forward/center is "50-50."
This comes less than a year after Love signed a four-year, $120.4 million contract extension that will kick in this fall.
While Love may be the best available player potentially on the trade block, a deal for him could be difficult to pull off. For one, a pitiful 19-63 Cavaliers team had a respectable 7-9 record in games Love played at least 15 minutes in after his return from toe surgery on Feb. 8—which showed his value.
He also gives the Cavs a focal point of the offense for young guards Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman and rookies Darius Garland, Dylan Windler and Kevin Porter Jr. With Channing Frye retiring, the Cavs are running dangerously low on veterans with playoff experience, especially with Tristan Thompson, Matthew Dellavedova and Jordan Clarkson going into the last year of their contracts.
For Cleveland, there's plenty of reason to keep Love, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see him ask to be moved to a contender while still in the prime of his career.
As one NBA executive told Bleacher Report's Ken Berger in January: "It's going to have to be a playoff team in a non-destination market. A team that has a couple of stars that isn't going to get anybody in free agency because they don't have the room or nobody's going to go play there."
With Love playing in just 22 games last season, primarily due to the toe surgery, there should be plenty of concern when trading for his $120 million contract as well.
The Cavaliers shouldn't expect a great deal back for Love if they decide to move him, but they should be targeting expiring contracts, young rotation pieces and and a draft pick.
Love Reunited with 'Best Teammate He's Ever Had,' Sort Of...
Phoenix Suns Receive: PF Kevin Love
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: SG Tyler Johnson, PF Dario Saric, G/F Mikal Bridges
While the Suns aren't exactly a contender like the other teams on this list, they do offer a strong connection to Love.
Phoenix's general manager is James Jones, Love's teammate for three seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Love and Jones were close during their time together, with Love calling Jones "the best teammate I've ever had."
Given the extremely young Suns roster, it wouldn't be surprising for Jones to want to add a veteran leader with championship experience like Love to the starting lineup.
With only one of their young stars (Devin Booker) not on a rookie contract, the Suns have the financial flexibility to take on Love's salary. They'd also be getting rid of Johnson's $19.2 million deal.
For Cleveland, Saric and Bridges represent two young rotation pieces to plug in.
Saric, 25, is a floor-spacing big that has the ability to put the ball on the floor. He's averaged 12.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists and shot 35.8 percent from deep in three pro seasons. He'll be a restricted free agent next summer, meaning the Cavs would control his rights.
Bridges was arguably Phoenix's best defender as a rookie last season, and he's able to play and guard three different positions. He played in all 82 games, averaging 8.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.6 steals in 29.5 minutes a night.
Cleveland would also get some salary relief, as Johnson's deal expires next summer.
Love, Westbook Back Together in OKC Big Three
Oklahoma City Thunder Receive: PF Kevin Love, SG JR Smith
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: C Steven Adams, SG Andre Roberson, PF Jerami Grant
Even with Russell Westbrook and Paul George, the Oklahoma City Thunder have lost in the first round in back-to-back years.
They are also so desperate to cut salary to the luxury tax that they've made Adams, Roberson and Dennis Schroder available, per Sports Illustrated's Jake Fischer.
For Oklahoma City, the payoff here is not only to add a third star in Love, but also to cut a significant amount of money off their luxury tax bill.
The Thunder are already $12 million over the $132 million luxury tax threshold before factoring in first-round pick Darius Bazley or any free-agent signings. By making this trade and waiving Smith, the Thunder would save $13 million, thus temporarily getting them back under the tax line.
Losing three of their key rotation players would hurt, but adding Love to a team with former UCLA teammate Westbrook and MVP finalist George would give them one of the best Big Threes in basketball.
The Cavs' biggest retuning piece would be Adams. At 25, he still fits the team's rebuilding plans and is coming off a season with averages of 13.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game. With Tristan Thompson entering the final year of his contract, Adams would be the Cavaliers' center of the future.
Roberson, 27, would give a Cavs team that ranked last in defensive efficiency one of the NBA's premier wing defenders when healthy. After tearing his left patellar tendon in January 2018, Roberson is expected to return for training camp.
Grant is a 25-year-old athletic power forward who averaged a career-high 13.6 points and 5.2 rebounds while shooting 39.2 percent from deep.
Rockets, Looking for Peace and Harmony, Find Love Instead
Houston Rockets Receive: PF Kevin Love, C Robert Williams III
Boston Celtics Receive: C Clint Capela, SG Eric Gordon
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: SF Gordon Hayward, 2020 first-round pick (from Boston via Memphis Grizzlies)
Houston already talked about a Clint Capela trade with the Boston Celtics and could now get a star in return while Boston would actually shed salary in preparation for the addition of a max free agent.
The Rockets would get Love to be their third star, one who helps keep the floor open for James Harden to drive as needed. They'd also receive Williams, who averaged 10.3 rebounds and a whopping 5.1 blocks per 36 minutes as a rookie last season.
Boston would get its guy in Capela, along with Gordon, who could be a key rotation piece this coming season and will see his $14.1 million salary expire next summer. They would also shave about $4.1 million off the payroll by sending out Hayward and Williams.
For Cleveland, letting go of Love and actually taking on salary isn't ideal, but the Cavs stand to have significant cap space starting next summer. Hayward is owed $32.7 million this year and has a player option for $34.2 million in 2020-21. He finished the year averaging 11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists, and he could actually be a useful veteran piece alongside the Cavaliers' young core.
Of course, this trade would be all about the Memphis pick for Cleveland. The pick is only protected for the first six selections of the 2020 draft and becomes unprotected in 2021. With the Grizzlies entering a rebuild of their own, this should be a top-10 choice either in this coming draft or the next.
Trail Blazers New Big 3
Portland Trail Blazers Receive: PF Kevin Love
Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: C Meyers Leonard, SF Maurice Harkless, F/C Skal Labissiere, 2020 first-round pick (lottery protected)
Having recently reached the Western Conference Finals without them, imagine what adding a healthy Jusuf Nurkic and Love would do for the Blazers.
Portland has no cap space to sign any big-name free agents and must rely on the trade market to propel it to a Finals appearance.
With Nurkic out indefinitely while rehabbing a broken leg, the Blazers will need another big man if Enes Kanter leaves in free agency. Starting power forward Al-Farouq Aminu is an unrestricted free agent, as well.
Love could play both power forward and center, giving the Blazers a third scoring option outside of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum who can space the floor and rebound at a high level.
Cleveland may not have much use for Leonard or Harkless, but it could use their expiring contracts as trade bait closer to the February deadline. Labissiere, 23, is an interesting young big man who's put up strong numbers in the G League (16.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.7 blocks per game) and seems ready for a rotation role at the NBA level. He has the size (6'11", 235 lbs) to play both power forward and center and has hit 27 of his 72 NBA three-pointers (37.5 percent).
A lottery-protected first-rounder from Portland should seal the deal for both sides.
Even current Portland resident and former Love teammate Channing Frye approves.
Love Makes Utah Favorites in West?
Utah Jazz Receive: PF Kevin Love
Getting Mike Conley was huge for the Jazz, but they've still got a hole at power forward that Love would fill beautifully.
The Jazz would have three go-to scoring options in their starting lineup, shooters from four different positions and a five-time All-Star with a championship ring. Any defensive concerns at the 4 could be erased by the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert.
Getting Love and Conley would push the Jazz to the top of the West, giving them arguably the best starting five in all of basketball.
Favors is a starting-caliber center who the Cavs could plug into their lineup and then trade for assets at the deadline before he hits unrestricted free agency. Exum is currently sidelined with a knee injury but is still only 23 and under contract for two more seasons at $9.6 million per year. His size (6'6", 190 lbs) gives him elite defensive potential across multiple positions.
Since the Jazz are sending a 2020 first-round pick (protected for pick Nos. 1-6 and 15-30) to the Memphis Grizzlies from the Conley trade, the Cavs would receive a first-rounder two years after the Memphis pick is conveyed, per the Stepien Rule.
This would be perhaps Love's preferred trade destination, as Vivint Smart Home Arena is an easy 40-minute drive from Park City, Utah, which is a favorite offseason travel spot of his.