There is no topic surrounding the Cleveland Cavaliers that’s more divisive than what to do with Kevin Love.
The conversation surrounding the All-Star forward usually comes down to analysts saying he has no value, and that the Cavs should still trade him. There’s no denying that he has more value to the Cavs than any other franchise, but how meaningful that value is can be hard to quantify.
How do you weigh the value of leadership on a young core vs. another shot at adding a young player that matters with a late first round pick? How does having Love take on a high usage role and putting players like Cedi Osman and Collin Sexton into roles that are better suited to their current skill-sets assist their growth as players?
These are the questions the Cavs must wrestle with as they try to decide on what this era of the Cavaliers is going to look like. There are reasonable arguments on both sides of the debate, and while the answer will eventually become clear with the benefit of hindsight for now the team will be forced to balance their asset accumulation efforts with attempts to build a culture.
As of Jan. 24, Love became eligible to be traded by the team. Love returned to practice on Jan. 24, however he is still only participating in no-contact drills. But even with Love nearing his return to action, the team currently is not planning on moving him this season.
Via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com:
According to sources, the Cavs’ stance on keeping Love hasn’t changed. They want him in Cleveland. They value what he can bring on the court when healthy and his leadership and set-the-tone work ethic behind the scenes has been very important. He wants to stay with the team as well.
”I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve said all along I’ve wanted to be here. I’ve said this too, it’s a business,” Love said recently. “We saw that last year at the deadline. Think every trade deadline, draft, free agency, always brings something new. It’s always different.
”I would love to be here. Would just love to get through a whole season healthy just because I’ve had nagging things that have taken time and been a little bit unlucky, but I would like to play ball here.”
Love’s future of the team will be truly fascinating to watch. As much as the team would like to keep him around for leadership, if a good enough offer came along they would obviously be forced to consider it. The point where his trade value exceeds his value to the team will ultimately be determined by how well he plays when he returns, and what next season looks like for the team.
What the team does with Love may even be determined by where they land in the 2019 NBA Draft. With the current roster, the Cavs must draft the best player available no matter what. If that player is best suited to play power forward, you play them at power forward. If that player is a point guard, you draft them and play them at point guard. End of story.
But where things might get interesting is if the player they draft fits with some of the existing pieces, say a shooting guard or small forward that can slot alongside Sexton, Osman, Love and either Tristan Thompson or Larry Nance Jr. could help this team function as a somewhat coherent offense at the beginning of next season.
If that is the case, then it may put the Cavs in a more advantageous situation. That might mean showcasing veterans like Love and Thompson in order to flip them. Or, in a best case scenario, to achieve a quick turnaround and compete for a playoff spot if the right coach and supporting cast is brought in.
The most important thing for the team moving forward is player development. Both in developing their existing assets, and whatever additions the team makes through the draft, trades or free agency.
While we can debate what should have been done this past summer, the obvious move right now is to try and get this team functioning like a cohesive unit.
If having Kevin Love for next season means this team is playing in more competitive games, that will present the team’s young core with an opportunity to develop while playing meaningful minutes and a to have a strong locker room presence next to them. By playing more meaningful minutes, it raises the profile of everybody involved and potentially their trade value.
From there the team can assess whether or not they want to flip their veteran pieces, or try to build around what they have. The Toronto Raptors have developed a good young core without high draft picks through good scouting and player development. The Denver Nuggets have one of the best young cores in the NBA with Jamal Murray as the only top-10 pick in the group.
If next season continues to be bleak, the team can adjust from there. If Love has no trade value now as many suggest, then there’s no harm in at least attempting to change that next season now that we’ve come this far.
If he and the Cavs selection in the upcoming draft can’t turn the tides, then the team will have another shot in the 2020 draft. With the flattened lottery odds, getting a few more wins than you’d like in a rebuilding situation by keeping Love isn’t as big of a problem as it used to be.
We saw the bad habits and dysfunction that came with the team’s no veterans approach during their last rebuild. It’s worth seeing if this approach will yield a different result.