In case anyone was unaware, Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love are both very good basketball players who have built a strong reputation in Cleveland and are quite important to the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team. They are seasoned veterans that were integral in winning a Larry O’Brien three years ago they fit nicely with current future of the franchise Collin Sexton.
That being said, there are a lot of reasons that would lead people to think the Cavs would be best to go the Sam Hinkie route. Thompson and Love are owed nearly $50 million combined next season, with Love being signed for around $90 million guaranteed over the three years after that. The Cavaliers are also not good at basketball and do not have a ton of assets with which to get better.
Especially now that Love, as of Jan 24, is eligible to be traded after securing the bag this summer.
However, trading Thompson and/or Love is simply not the answer for this Cavaliers franchise. We have all gotten a bit caught up in our NBA 2K MyGM and are translating that over to reality, not acknowledging the very real people whose lives are involved.
There are so many factors that should carry a very small amount of weight, like Larry Nance Jr.’s hometown connection or the families of players that would be uprooted in trades. But there are other off-court considerations to make that mean a great deal to the future of the franchise.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are a business that makes money by selling tickets to fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers to attend Cavalier basketball contests. They also make money by selling memorabilia and other merchandise with Cleveland Cavaliers branding to fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
If the Cavaliers are absolutely garbage, the fans of the ream will not be quite so supportive. It is oft-stated that Cleveland is a blue-collar city where people work hard for a living. The Cavaliers have to work hard to earn the fans’ limited discretionary income.
Management of the Cavaliers knows that they have to keep their fans happy enough to keep the money rolling in. With Cleveland being a football city at heart and the Browns suddenly being a real NFL franchise, a string of awful seasons would condemn the Cavaliers back to the shadows of Cleveland’s sports landscape.
The Cavs, if they plan to stay in Cleveland, have to make sure they are constantly nurturing their fan base to ensure the team will have the support of generations to come. A terrible basketball team will not maintain a vibrant fan base and the Cavaliers franchise does not have a storied history to lean upon during the down years.
Developing a love of the game in the local community, especially the youth, is an important role for NBA franchises that does not often get the attention it deserves. A bad basketball team will not encourage young kids to put on their Collin Sexton t-shirts and drive boldly to the hoop. It will encourage local kids to do as many kids are around the world: buy Steph Curry t-shirts and shoot from irresponsible distances.
Also, is everyone forgetting how terribly things can go when teams have mountains of young potential and no veteran leadership in the locker room? Philadelphia, Phoenix, Sacramento and Orlando can all tell the tale of just grabbing cheap contracts and draft assets and trying to be garbage so that they can be good.
As stated in a recent Road Trippin’ episode, the Cavaliers have built such a good locker room environment that George Hill, who forced his way out of a better team one year ago, was sad to be traded according to Jordan Clarkson. You can thank Thompson, Kevin Love and Frye for that.
Plus, Sexton is definitely not ready to be the best or featured player on an NBA basketball team and he likely will never the best or featured player on a true contender in the NBA. Having guys like Love and Thompson around allows Sexton to learn to play the role of a very important player that sells jerseys without being the top dog on the team while also making sure that the Cavaliers locker room does not get too toxic for whatever franchise cornerstone is arriving in the next couple of drafts.
That being said, the 2019 NBA Draft looks to be absolutely loaded with talent at the top end. If the Cavaliers were able to acquire a 2019 lottery pick in exchange for Love or Thompson, the argument could be made that the benefits will outweigh the costs in the end. But spoiler alert: They’re not going to acquire a lottery pick for Love or Thompson.
Anything outside the lottery this year or just a collection of future picks with random or no protections is simply not worth the damage that would be done to the franchise right now and in years to come if these two guys are not around.
While the Cavaliers are likely going to be a bad basketball team no matter what for a few seasons, there are ways to make it all less painful. Holding on to two of the most important parts of the 2016 championship team who can still help is the best way to do just that.