Kevin Love will always be fondly looked upon by fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers. One of the few remaining players from the second LeBron James era, Love has spent his past five seasons in Northeast Ohio. He played a major role in winning the franchise’s sole championship in 2016 when they upset the Golden State Warriors after facing a 3-1 deficit. Love has had an impressive amount of success as a member of the Cavaliers, however their roster is not what it once was. Former teammates James and Kyrie Irving are long gone, and as the organization is currently in the midst of a full rebuild it would be best for both sides to go their separate ways.
Love is by far the highest-paid player on the Cavs roster. Over the next four seasons he will be paid $120.4 million and in the last year, at age 34, will make $28.9 million. At this point in his career it is arguable if he would be worth that much to any team, never mind one that is not in a position to make the playoffs in the near future. Love still managed to average 17 points and 10.9 rebounds in the 22 games that he played in this past season. However, clearly, he cannot consistently lead the Cavs to wins. Keeping Love on the roster as the team’s primary scoring option will only hinder the development of Cleveland’s impressive young backcourt duo in Collin Sexton and rookie Darius Garland.
The Cavs should be looking to find a suitor for the former Minnesota Timberwolves star as soon as possible in order to maximize the value that they can receive in return. If the Cavaliers decide to wait until sometime next season to consider trading Kevin Love, they are risking the possibility that his trade value could decrease greatly. He is nearing the end of his prime at 30 years old. The last time he was healthy enough to play 70 or more games in a season was 2015-2016. One would assume that he will decline sooner rather than later, though likely not drastically considering Love’s offensive game is now perimeter-oriented. Cleveland should be looking to trade him for draft picks/prospects who can complement the current young core and expedite the rebuild.
A potential trading partner who stands out among the rest as a destination for Kevin Love is the Boston Celtics. The Celtics are pseudo-contenders who are seemingly one star away from becoming legitimate title threats. Boston would easily be able to trade for Love if general manager Danny Ainge wished to acquire him. Despite not having the treasure trove of assets that they once possessed, the Celtics remain one of the most asset-rich teams in the NBA. Boston has been rumored to be interested in Love for years now and with Al Horford and Marcus Morris both departing in free agency, the C’s lack front court depth.
Trading Gordon Hayward and a 2020 protected first-round draft pick from the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for Love is a deal that makes sense for both sides. The Cavs would receive a pick that is likely to land somewhere in the lottery and it becomes unprotected in 2021 (after being protected for picks 1-6 next season). Also, despite having a disappointing year in 2018-19, Hayward certainly could bounce-back. During the end of the regular season and in the playoffs he began to look more like his old self on the Utah Jazz. Via Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston, Hayward has been working hard on improving his game this summer at the Celtic’s practice facility in order to try to regain his All-Star level of play.
Hayward’s two years and nearly $67 million dollars left on his contract may be tough to stomach, but he is an overall better fit on the Cleveland Cavaliers young roster than Love. He is younger than Love along with being the superior ball-handler and playmaker. Hayward is not a player who constantly needs the ball in his hands to be effective or impact the game, and he looks to set up shot opportunities for others before himself on most occasions. Unlike Love, he will not disrupt the younger Cavs development.
Looking at the Boston side of the deal, adding Love could allow the Celtics to once again make a deep playoff run in the Eastern Conference. He would fit in perfectly as the power forward in the starting lineup alongside Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Enes Kanter. In Brad Stevens’ system, where bigs who can stretch the floor have thrived over the years, Love would be put in a position to succeed instantly. Considering that he is an excellent 3-point shooter, the Celtics would likely run a two-man pick and pop between Walker and Love countless times. Boston would constantly go to that play during crunch time this past season using Irving and Horford, and it usually worked in the C’s favor. If Kevin Love wears green next season, they would have the talent to challenge teams such as the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers in the East.