The Cleveland Cavaliers' incredible offseason continues. While the price is considerable, the Cavs will reportedly add All-Star and 2012 Olympian Kevin Love.
Sources: Cavs have agreement for Kevin Love, including long-term contract commitment. Wiggins, Bennett, pick to Minn. http://t.co/r2KmO5owwY— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) August 7, 2014
Love, 25, is perhaps the best power forward in basketball. He is coming off a season in Minnesota where he averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 4.4 assists in just over 36 minutes of action a night. He shot 46/38/82. Minnesota's defense was better with him on the court than without him, per 100 possessions. In a league that places a premium on big men that can shoot like never before, Love is coming off a season in which he attempted 505 three pointers. That's insane.
He maintained incredible efficiency as his team's top offensive option; make no mistake, these numbers are not empty stats on a bad team. Per basketball-reference, Minnesota was +5.6 points per 100 possessions over opponents with Kevin Love on the court, and -5.3 points per 100 possessions with Kevin Love off the court.
Love joins LeBron James and Kyrie Irving to form what could be a transcendent offensive force. All three could mesh perfectly as willing passers and gifted scorers who can also shoot the basketball. Love and James like to work out of the post. Kyrie and James like to handle the ball out of the pick and roll. It might take time to balance out shots and creating abilities, but all three have basketball IQ's that will excite head coach David Blatt.
Love, like LeBron James, has the ability to opt out of his contract next summer and become a free agent. He could also opt in for another year and extend once the new television deal is signed that many expect will bump up the salary cap. The contract situation is why Minnesota was willing to move Love, and it could be tricky for Cleveland. That being said, it seems like a pretty safe bet that Kevin Love will accept the more money and years that the Cavaliers can offer now that they have acquired him. And it seems unlikely that Love would walk away from a team employing LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.
[Edited by myself in light of the news: it certainly sounds like the Cavs have good reason to believe Kevin Love will be in Cleveland for a long time.]
Adding Love all but assures the Cavaliers of title contention this season, and probably the foreseeable future. LeBron James turns 30 years old this season, and it seems that the Cavs want to maximize his peak as much as possible. James talked of mentoring young players in his letter announcing his return. This move doesn't change that, as Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, and yes, Kyrie Irving, will all need to take steps forward if a championship is going to come to Cleveland.
There will be consternation about this trade. The Cavs' defense moving forward, especially at the center position, will come under scrutiny. But Kevin Love is an average defender, and the question mark at center predates this move. The Cavs have ways to improve, and it's very possible that a frontcourt of Love, Anderson Varejao, and Thompson becomes competent to good defensively.
The Cavaliers' perimeter defense longterm also takes a potential blow losing Andrew Wiggins. He's probably 18 months from being physically ready to play good defense, but the potential for Wiggins to be a gamechanger on that end is real. It's clear he has potential offensively as well.
Still, the fact remains that the Cavaliers are a much better team than they were before making this trade. I don't know how teams are going to guard them. They have young players all over the roster, and LeBron James. It's likely that at the 2016 Olympics, James and Love will be starters for Team USA. Irving could join them, or at least be a part of the rotation.
The Cavaliers are a true contender to win an NBA championship. Fear the Sword will have you covered every step of the way.