Will Kevin Love still be on the Cleveland Cavaliers by the end of the season?
According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the Cavaliers are now ready to listen to trade offers for the five-time All-Star. Cleveland is reportedly looking for young assets and/or draft picks in return.
"There's one player that a lot of teams have on their radar: Kevin Love in Cleveland," Wojnarowski said this week. "He's signed for another three years. There are a lot of teams, especially in the West, who would like more size to get in that championship chase. I'm told that Cleveland is ready now to listen to offers on Kevin Love as we get to that Dec. 15 date and the February trade deadline."
Now 31-years-old, Love's scoring has declined in each of the last four seasons, but he's still more than capable of being a difference-maker on a team looking to compete this season. He's long been one of the best rebounders in the league, he provides some playmaking in the post and he's among the best shooters at his position.
The latter will be a big draw to teams, as there aren't many power forwards who shoot at the level Love does. Since being traded to the Cavaliers in 2014-15, close to half of his shot attempts have come from the perimeter. He's made 37.4 percent of those opportunities, including 41.5 percent in 2017-18.
With all of that in mind, which teams should be in the market for Love?
The Celtics are one of the teams Wojnarowski mentioned as a possibility for Love.
As currently constructed, the Celtics would benefit more from adding a defensive-minded player at Love's position, not one who is known for their offence, since Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward - the team's four-best players - each have a score-first mentality. It would help them better matchup with the likes of Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo, big men who they might have to go through to make the NBA Finals.
Even so, Love would thrive in Boston. He's his own player, but Love has the skills to replace the void left by Al Horford in Brad Stevens' offence. Not only because he can create his own offence in the post and pick-and-pop with the best of them, but because Love is a solid passer.
Love's passing ability was on best display in the 2013-14 season, when he averaged a career-high 4.4 assists per game as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. He's averaged only 2.2 assists per game in the seasons since, but he's still someone teams can run their offence through.
The Celtics would have a hard time putting together a trade package for Love, though.
With how well they've been playing this season, it's hard to believe that Boston would part ways with one of Walker, Brown, Tatum or Hayward. Outside of them, Marcus Smart is the only player on the roster who makes they type of money the Celtics would need to begin matching Love's salary of $28.9 million this season.
The problem? Smart has played an equally important role in the team's early-season success with his defence. He might be too valuable to the Celtics on that end of the floor for them to entertain the idea of trading him, even for someone like Love.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers had a need for Love when they lost Zach Collins to a shoulder injury in October that is expected to sideline him for most of the season.
However, Portland recently addressed that need by signing Carmelo Anthony to a non-guaranteed contract that they've since guaranteed.
After not playing in an NBA game for more than a year, Anthony has surpassed expectations through 11 games with the Blazers with averages of 15.9 points and 5.6 rebounds per contest. He was even named the Western Conference Player of the Week at the start of December for the impact he has had on a Blazers team that was in desperate need of something after losing 12 of their first 17 games of the season.
This might ultimately come down to how confident the Blazers are that Anthony can sustain this production because trading for Love would probably move the 10-time All-Star to the bench. Anthony could play some small forward next to Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Love and Hassan Whiteside in theory, but he's far better suited to play power forward at this stage of his career.
Unlike the Celtics, it wouldn't be difficult for the Blazers to match salaries. Kent Bazemore's expiring contract of $19.3 million this season is a starting point, and two of Nassir Little, Skal Labissiere, Anthony Tolliver, Mario Hezonja and Anfernee Simons gets them in the conversation.
Would Bazemore and two of those players, plus some sort of draft compensation, be enough to interest the Cavaliers?
It makes sense for the Blazers, as Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Love would give Portland one of the better trios in the Western Conference. It makes sense for Love, too. Having grown up in Lake Oswego, Oregon, playing for the Blazers would be a homecoming of sorts for him.
The Heat are starting Meyers Leonard next to Bam Adebayo in the frontcourt this season because of the spacing Leonard provides as a stretch-four.
Leonard has done well in that role, but Love is an even greater threat from the perimeter. While Leonard is converting his 3-point attempts at a higher rate than Love is this season, Love shoots them in far greater volume while still making them at an above average rate, which gives him more gravity as a shooter.
Love might attempt even more 3s if he were traded to Miami, as he'd be paired with Jimmy Butler, who is among the league leaders in drives and assists per game this season.
It's easy to imagine Love being on the receiving end of these sorts of passes, for example:
It helps that Love has experience playing alongside a ball dominant wing in LeBron James. James is obviously a far superior player to Butler, but knowing that Love is comfortable playing alongside a player of Butler's caliber takes some of the risk out of the deal.
The Heat would have a number of options in terms of who they could trade for Love because they have seven players making over $10 million this season. Butler is obviously off the table, but the Heat can match Love's salary rather easily with some combination of Goran Dragic ($19.2 million), James Johnson ($15.3 million), Justise Winslow ($13.0 million), Dion Waiters ($12.1 million), Kelly Olynyk ($11.7 million) and Meyers Leonard ($11.3 million).
Beyond them, the Heat have Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn, each of whom would fit in with the rebuilding Cavaliers.
That, of course, is assuming the Heat would be willing to trade one or two of them. When you factor in Love's age and injury history, there's a good chance they wouldn't.
The Suns have been one of the biggest surprises in the league this season. Having not made the playoffs since 2009-10, they find themselves in the mix for the seventh and eighth seed in the Western Conference through the quarter point of the season with a 11-13 record.
The Suns are built for future success with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, but Love could help them achieve their goal of making the playoffs this season. He's sort of a mix between Ayton and Aron Baynes offensively - Ayton because of his ability to score in the post, Baynes because of the spacing he provides as a 3-point shooter.
That might be a problem if he played the same position as them, but the Suns could slide Love next to Ayton or Baynes in the frontcourt and surround them with Ricky Rubio, Devin Booker and Kelly Oubre Jr. in the backcourt. Rubio has played with Love before, and Booker and Oubre would make the most out of playing next to a true stretch-four.
Similar to the Blazers, Tyler Johnson's expiring contract of $19.2 million is a starting point for matching up salaries. The hang up would likely be over who else is in that deal. Booker, Rubio, Oubre, Ayton and Baynes are probably untouchable, making Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson candidates to be traded.
The Suns traded up to select Bridges with the No. 10 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. They then selected Johnson with the No. 11 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Both have a place on this team - Bridges because of his 3-and-D potential and Johnson because of his 3-point shooting - but it might take one or two of them to get Love.
Denver Nuggets - In addition to the Celtics, the Nuggets are one of the teams Wojnarowski mentioned as a possible destination for Love. The Nuggets currently have the fifth-best record in the Western Conference, but they haven't hit the ground running like many expected them to. Even though Love would fit in well offensively next to Nikola Jokic, the two of them defensively would be ... not ideal. For that reason, I'm not sure it's worth it for the Nuggets considering how well Paul Millsap has been playing for them.
Toronto Raptors - Matching salaries wouldn't be a problem. Either Serge Ibaka or Marc Gasol straight up for Love works. But would it make the Raptors better this season? Love might be an upgrade offensively, but Ibaka and Gasol give the Raptors a better chance of slowing down the Eastern Conference's best big men, namely Philadelphia 76ers centre Joel Embiid. Plus, the Raptors might be better off keeping their books as clear as possible to give them a chance of signing a big-name free agent at some point over the next two offseasons.
Utah Jazz - Like the Nuggets, the Jazz haven't been as dominant as many expected them to be this season. There's a chance that they'll still turn it around - this wouldn't be the first time the Jazz have started out slow and ended the season with one of the best records in the league - but they could trade for Love if they believe he'd solve some of their early-season problems. The Jazz would certainly make use of his 3-point shooting and Rudy Gobert is the perfect centre to pair with Love defensively.
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