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Death, taxes and Kevin Love trade rumors — the inescapable bedrocks of human civilization, the givens on which modern culture is based.
Kevin Love arrived in Cleveland in 2014-15, joining Kyrie Irving and LeBron James in the name of championship contention. And for almost the entirety of that era, fans and the media etched his individual shortcomings in sharp relief, while gleefully piling responsibility for the team’s collective failures on his shoulders. Even after the championship in 2016, if you were going to find a way to improve that roster for LeBron, it was going to be by flipping Love for something else.
When Kyrie and LeBron both departed, it seemed obvious that Love would be soon to follow. Instead, the Cavs signed him to a four-year, $120 million contract, perhaps as compensation for all the undeserved crap he took the previous four years. He didn’t even make it to the beginning of the first season of that extension before he had to start answering questions again about trade rumors.
Now, Love is entering the final year of that extension and coming off a resurgent season. He played 74 games last season, his most since 2015-16, averaging 13.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game while shooting 39.3 percent from beyond the arc, the third-best mark of his career. He finished second in the voting for Sixth Man of the Year and found a meaningful niche on one of the most surprising young teams in the league.
So why would the Cavs trade Kevin Love now?
The idea of the Cavs trading Love now — after all they’ve been through together and right at the moment where he finally seems to have found his basketball footing again — could seem a bit off-putting. However, he’s entering the final year of that four-year extension, which creates a few factors that could push toward a trade.
First, he’s now an expiring contract which makes his enormous yearly salary much more palatable to potential trade partners than in years past. Because he’s an expiring the Cavs are also in danger of losing him at the end of this season without getting anything in return. Clearing his salary off the books would be nice but Cleveland is probably not going to be in the running for premier free agents so flipping his expiring in a deal that brings back younger assets with more years of team control could be to the Cavs’ benefit.
Finally, if the Cavs are going to consider trading him, his value is probably never again going to be as high as it is right now. They had a hard time finding trade partners the past few seasons because of his contract but also because of his health history and his declining numbers. Other teams were rightly wondering how much he still had to offer. Last year showed that he can still play a meaningful role on a good team.
For the first time in a long time, there aren’t trade rumors swirling around Love and there aren’t any obvious trade partners who are a perfect match. But that could change if the Cavs get off to a rocky start or if Cleveland simply signals that they’d like to assess the market and really do the math on whether he’s more valuable staying or going.
As someone who has always appreciated Love’s game and cringed at much of the criticism he took during the LeBron era, I hope the Cavs come down on the side of nostalgia. Let him let it fly for this young, developing team. Let him get the flowers he’s long been denied. Maybe he’d even be willing to come back next season on a more team-friendly deal, eliminating the risk of losing him for nothing. Call me a sucker, but I just love seeing Kevin Love happy and playing good basketball again.