Does Kevin Love Really Make Sense for Brooklyn Nets or Any Other Contender?

Greg Swartz@@CavsGregBRCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterJanuary 26, 2021

FILE - In this Jan. 11, 2020, file photo, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love heads up the court after making a 3-point basket against the Denver Nuggets during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Denver. Love received the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage at the ESPY Awards on Sunday, June 21, 2020, for sparking a national conversation about mental health. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Despite having played in just one full game this season, Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love just can't stay out of trade rumors.

After already going all-in on the offensive end by swapping Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert, Taurean Prince and their draft capital for the next seven years for James Harden, the Brooklyn Nets have interest in adding Love, per Jason Dumas of KRON 4 News.

While adding an All-Star floor-spacing big man to a team with Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving seems even more unfair on the rest of the league, orchestrating a trade for Love won't be easy for the Nets or any other contender that shows interest in the 32-year-old.

What would a trade for Love look like for Brooklyn? Would it even make sense for the Nets? Given his contract and injury history, would it make sense for any contender at all?

Love is currently sidelined with a strained right calf, one that originally had him set to return any day now. In his only full game this season, he started and recorded 15 points, nine rebounds, three assists and was a plus-14 in a win over the Detroit Pistons on Dec. 26.

Before concocting any trade to Brooklyn or anywhere else, teams need to realize what Love is now.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

He hasn't been the Minnesota Timberwolves version of Love for a long time. His physique is completely slimmed down, and so is his three-point-heavy game.

This isn't even the Love we saw as a third option on a championship team five years ago, one who still took most of his shots inside the arc and experimented as a small-ball center at times.

"He's a complementary player. Fourth piece on a contending team," one NBA scout told Bleacher Report when Love was putting up 17.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists for the Cavs last season.

Another scout said that Cleveland "would have to take a loss" to move Love's contract, one that carries two years and $60.2 million on it after this season.

When trying to determine Love's trade value around the league, one former general manager pointed at the time to Al Horford's contract as a blueprint for what would be needed for a Love deal to take place. Basically, trying to find another player who fits the roster better and is also on an overpriced deal.

Tony Dejak/Associated Press

None of this is to say Love is a bad player; he's just not worth nearly what he's owed. Durability is certainly a concern, although Love did play in 56 of the Cavaliers' 65 games last season (86.2 percent) with most of his absences due to rest on back-to-backs.

Assuming his calf injury isn't serious (it didn't look that way with Darius Garland jumping on his back in celebrating a double-overtime win over the Brooklyn Nets last week), Love should make his return to the court shortly.

He's become more of a perimeter threat over the last few years, with the majority of his shots (53.1 percent) coming from three since 2018-19. He excels as a floor-spacing big (39.5 percent on catch-and-shoot threes last season), a skill almost required for power forwards in today's NBA.

Love will also be able to rebound better than the majority of the league until he's 40. Never one to out-jump or out-muscle opponents, Love still reads the glass and angles better than most, ranking seventh in the NBA in defensive rebound percentage last season (31.1 percent).

While he's an abysmal rim protector who's not going to keep up with quicker opponents on the perimeter, Love can still hold his ground when matched up one-on-one on the block. He'll likely need a strong defensive presence at center next to him for the remainder of his career and should never be asked to play or defend opposing centers himself.

With all this in mind, do the Nets (or anyone else) make sense as Love's next home?

     

Best Landing Spots for Love

If Brooklyn wants to trade for Love, it'll have to wait.

For salary-matching purposes, any deal that sends Love to the Nets would almost certainly have to include Joe Harris ($16.0 million), DeAndre Jordan ($10.3 million) or both. Given Jordan's relationship with both Durant and Irving (and the fact that both took pay cuts for Brooklyn to sign him), Harris looks like the odd man out.

The Nets can't trade Harris until March 3, given that he re-signed with the team using bird rights to a raise of over 120 percent (four years, $75 million). On top of Harris, Brooklyn would need to include Spencer Dinwiddie's contract ($11.4 million with a $12.3 million player option for next season) just to get close to Love's $31.2 million number this season.

There are a few problems with this.

For starters, Harris is a really good complementary piece to the Nets' current Big Three. He's averaging 14.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists and is shooting 50.5 percent from three (53.7 percent off the catch). He doesn't dominate the ball and keeps the floor spread and defenses honest for his star teammates to go to work.

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

While Love could also serve as a spacer (and far better rebounder), Harris is an elite three-point shooter and is three years younger without the injury history. The Nets shouldn't let Harris go.

The Nets were also granted a disabled player exception for $5.7 million after Dinwiddie was lost for the season with a torn ACL. If they trade Dinwiddie before using that money, the exception expires. Brooklyn can still use the exception first and then trade Dinwiddie, however.

While the Nets are just 21st in rebounding (49.1 percent) since trading for Harden, matching salaries for Love means giving up far too much. Love would do nothing to improve Brooklyn's defense either, one that ranks 24th in the NBA (115.2 rating) since the deal. Love and Irving would be reunited, but the pair were never particularly close while in Cleveland. Love spent most of his time around fellow forwards James Jones, Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson instead.

Finding a trade partner for Love means finding another bad contract to swap with.

Horford now resides on the Oklahoma City Thunder, but neither the Cavs nor OKC should have any desire for the other's past-their-prime star.

The San Antonio Spurs could offer the Cavs a salary dump with LaMarcus Aldridge, although they rarely pull off midseason trades. Harrison Barnes of the Sacramento Kings, Andrew Wiggins of the Golden State Warriors and Blake Griffin of the Detroit Pistons all carry bloated deals, but none (maybe Barnes?) should do anything to move the needle for Cleveland.

While Love's name will continue to pop up in talks for contenders that need bigs who can shoot and rebound, it's unlikely that he gets moved anywhere right now.

     

Bleacher Report's Eric Pincus contributed to this story.