It can’t be easy to be Kevin Love. Ever since his arrival with the Cleveland Cavaliers he has been the center of trade talks despite some pretty impressive play. It took him time to adjust to being on the team at first, but has truly blossomed into an essential part of the team’s success over the last three years.
While his name was attached to potential trades for Jimmy Butler and Paul George, those scenarios have passed and it looks like he will be back again next season. Typically when a player’s name appears in trade talks, it’s because they are part of the problem with a team. It’s been referenced a few times that the inability to move Love this summer was a failure for the Cavs, when that couldn’t be further from the truth.
First of all, it’s important to look at who Love was offered for. Both Butler and George would assist in handling the perimeter orientated attack of the Warriors. They are dynamic offensive threats that can change a game on defense as well. Players of their caliber are almost never available on the trade market, as teams will do anything in their power to keep their star power for as long as possible.
While they would likely have helped against the Warriors, it’s very possible that the Cavs would be worse off against the rest of the league. The Cavs took a step back rebounding the basketball last season, and losing Love would likely cause the team to slip even further down in that category.
In addition to that, it would leave the teams big man rotation even thinner. LeBron James would be asked to play full-time power forward, a role that would have a significantly larger toll on his body and one he’s never really wanted to play. The team would also need to learn how to integrate another new player that’s used to being the primary option, something that took over a year to figure out the first time around.
The only reason such a gamble was considered and pursued was the historic team the Warriors have put together. The team hasn’t shown a willingness to include Love in trade talks where the team would receive role players in return. He’s too good and too essential to what the team has built to do that.
You don’t beat the Warriors with a pair of stars and team basketball. Their ability on both ends of the court demands that you have at least three players that can positively contribute at an elite level. The Carmelo Anthony talk only makes sense if it adds him to the existing team.
The list of players that are available on the market that would improve the team via a Love trade is non-existent with George and Butler gone. Love was a positive force in last year’s Finals and proved that he can play against Golden State.
Despite all the reasons listed above, it’s fair to wonder if the trade talks might take some toll on Love. While they have existed throughout his tenure with the team, this time it was essentially a done deal until Indiana backed out.
At the end of the day, these are humans we’re talking about. The five-year deal Love signed is a commitment from both sides of the equation. The team gets assurance that they will have an elite talent for the foreseeable future, but the player also gets some security in where they live and who they play for. It’s still a business and nothing is guaranteed, but the possibility of a trade can still take an emotional toll.
Love has had a lengthy history of dealing with situations like this. The mistreatment and lack of faith from the Timberwolves organization was well documented, and he’s received boatloads of scrutiny during his time in Cleveland.
The support of his teammates has helped in the past, and hopefully that continues in the future. But he has shown the ability to overcome the scrutiny and rise to the occasion, showing mental toughness in the past.
You could argue that last season was the best of his career, scoring and rebounding at a high level while playing plus defense. He will turn 29 before next season and is still in his prime. While a gamble for an elite wing talent might have helped, we know that he is going to be a positive contributor that fits with this team next season.
For all the controversial things that have happened this summer with the team, at least there was no panic trade of Love. Moving him for the sake of moving him would be a disastrous decision and could increase the likelihood of the Cavs losing their other stars in free agency. While there’s still a gap between the Warriors and the Cavs, there wouldn’t be much of a gap between the Cavs and the rest of the league without the presence of Love.