As Cleveland parts ways with it’s local superstar for the second time in eight years, their owner has a tough pill to swallow: bottoming out in 2019 to build the foundation for long-term success.
Instead of trying to compete for a spot in the playoffs, Cleveland should face the music, trade away as much of their veteran core as possible and start from scratch. It’s what I’d refer to as the “Burn it to the Ground” method of rebuilding.
The Cavaliers have a better rebuild path than they did in 2010, with young players, Collin Sexton and Cedi Osman and a trade chip in Kevin Love.
The first obstacle in their way is that the Hawks own the Cavaliers’ top-10 protected first-round pick in 2019. This should further encourage Cleveland to have a worse season, as it’ll allow them to retain the pick that was traded away for Kyle Korver two seasons ago.
Cleveland should consider moving the most valuable asset in their back pocket — Kevin Love. The longest tenured member of the Big 3, Love deserves to join a winning situation, while also helping the Cavaliers in their quest for the worst record possible.
The 29-year old averaged 17.6 points and 9.3 rebounds per game this past season and could easily slot in as the second-best player on a playoff contender or the third wheel on a championship contender. It should be noted that Love’s under contract for another two seasons, although he can opt out his deal after next season. That could impact his value.
Let’s take a look at some logical trade packages that could benefit the Cavaliers and Love for the upcoming season.
Evan Turner, Zach Collins and a 2019 first-round pick
This trade presents the heartwarming story that will allow Kevin Love to go back home to Oregon, play with superstars Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum and be the third piece on a contender.
Cleveland will have to absorb Evan Turner, a poor fit on the court and a rough salary cap hit, but it will net them Collins and a future first-round pick. Collins is only 20-years-old and can grow alongside Sexton and Osman as the young building blocks for the Cavaliers. Most noted that the ex-Gonzaga big man came out a year earlier than he should have, but I’m sure his growth potential is high on a young team.
Otto Porter Jr. and a 2019 first-round pick
The Wizards have had an interesting offseason, letting go of Marcin Gortat and adding Austin Rivers and Dwight Howard. Washington is soon about to be in salary cap hell, with the contracts of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. set to kick in. In 2019-20, the three will be making a combined $92.1M against the cap.
I think Cleveland could dangle Kevin Love and entice the Wizards into a new Big 3. On the flip side, the Cavaliers would be getting a 25-year old wing that could play alongside Sexton and be a valuable part of the franchise for years to come. While Gilbert might not want to pay the tax bill for a bad team, it could net him a young, team-controlled quality player in return.
Carmelo Anthony, 2019 first-round pick, 2019 second-round pick
I’m sure Cleveland fans are swearing at me through the screen as they read this, but hear me out. This would reunite Kevin Love with his UCLA buddy, Russell Westbrook. Love can help them on both ends of the floor, especially with defensive stalwart Steven Adams in the middle. Offensively, Love doesn’t need the ball in his hands and can help spread the floor in ways that Anthony cannot.
For the Cavaliers, it would simply be their way of buying draft picks from the Oklahoma City Thunder. They would most likely buyout Carmelo Anthony’s contract (though letting him play on an awful team isn’t the worst thing for tanking, see: Knicks, New York). Anthony would also need to approve this deal, as he has a no trade clause.
While the Thunder don’t have any young players that could interest the Cavaliers, the idea of netting two draft picks could be attractive for Koby Altman and the front office.
Thus far, most reports out of Cleveland are stating that the Cavaliers haven’t made Love available for a trade, but I think they’re just trying to hold onto as much leverage as possible. Along with Love, the Cavaliers should also look to trade Kyle Korver and J.R. Smith, the two players that likely have the best chance of netting a solid return.