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Kevin Love ranking No. 41 in Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 is totally fair

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Love’s ranking into account his up and down season and gives hope that he can return to form this year. If he does, it leaves the Cavs at crossroads.

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NBA: Boston Celtics at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the 2019-20 regular season, the Cleveland Cavaliers feel like a bit of an afterthought to the NBA world. It’s understandable, the team is entering year two of life after LeBron James and some Vegas outlets currently project them to only win around 24 games. Add in the fact that the team will give Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Cedi Osman, Kevin Porter Jr., and Dylan Windler, all young players, serious minutes and it feels like Cleveland won’t be on any serious radars for a while.

Well, except that the Cavaliers do have one noteworthy player that could keep them relevant this season: Kevin Love. But, that notoriety can only go so far as Love missed the better part of last season recovering from early-season toe surgery. That and the Cavs were overly cautious on their All-Star forward’s return due in part to their situation as a rebuilding squad. When Love did return it took him a while to adjust but the Cavs played markedly better, especially Sexton and Osman.

But, despite that Love was able to crack the top 50 in Sports Illustrated’s annual Top 100 at no. 41. Even with a lost season for Cleveland, author Rob Mahoney does stress that when Love did play it made all the difference. But, he also highlights that because of the Cavs current situation, along with his recent string of injuries, Love also stuck a bit in limbo and cannot crack the upper echelon of rankings. Nevertheless, Love and Cavs fans both should expect a bounce back year from the All-Star forward as long as he can maintain good health.

As mentioned before, having Love on the roster, along with him landing No. 41 on Sports Illustrated’s list, at least keeps the Cavs on everyone’s radar to start the year. It also puts the team at a crossroads. If Love were to come out of the gates strong this season and avoid any freak injury, it puts the team in the awkward position on whether or not Love has a future in Cleveland beyond the trade deadline.

Earlier this summer, I was firmly in the camp that with how free agency played out, it created a trade market for Love — especially if he showed out early into this season. This is mostly because the New York Knicks acquired nearly every power forward known to man. But, after reflecting on things I’ve walked back my stance considerably. Sure, there are concerns with Love’s contract and injury history that may poison the well to some. But for me, I started to realize that there are serious benefits for the Cavs to both trade and keep Love past the deadline and even the remainder of his contract extension.

If the Cavs were to trade him, it would be sad albeit understandable. It’s tough to see the last remaining member of the “Big Three” era finally go. But, in total fairness to Love he doesn’t deserve to spend the next few years of his career stuck in a rebuild. More than anything the Cavs would be doing right by him, just like when they traded Kyle Korver to the Utah Jazz last season. He deserves to be competing with a playoff contender. His abilities would be beyond valuable to any of them.

But for now, this just remains strictly a hypothetical. Love has not formally asked the team to trade him and by all accounts he remains committed to the organization and genuinely loves Cleveland. The same can be said of the Cavs as well. General manager Koby Altman obviously understands that All-Star caliber players don’t just grow on trees and the team isn’t high on most free agent’s lists. But, if push came to shove and Love came out blazing, looking more like a top-30 player instead of No. 41, it would make sense for the Cavs to move him.

If Love does remain firm on wanting to stay in Cleveland, and he comes out blazing then this helps out the Cavs immensely. As mentioned before, the team will be giving serious playing time to a multitude of youngsters next season. That, and head coach John Beilein will be coaching at the NBA level for the first time in his career. Having an All-Star forward in Love as the fulcrum of the team would pay off in spades for the team’s future. Keeping Love also keeps the casual fan engaged in a rebuilding team like the Cavs that have to compete with the Browns for attention during the season.

Much like the Cavs, a lot of people forgot about Love after James left town for a second time. But, ranking No. 41 in Sports Illustrated’s list brought both the Cavs and Love back into the fold. If anything, it drives home the point that Cleveland has a legitimate All-Star on their roster and that it might drum up trade talks again. For now, it remains to be seen what exactly the future holds but this season should be bright for Love.