I have read and tweeted and read and hoped about the possible acquisition of Kevin Love by the Cavaliers. As any reasonable person would be, I am excited about the prospects of trading for Love and what it will mean for the Cavaliers in the 2014-15 season. Now that the trade seems more likely to occur, I want to put out there my serious reservations why this trade at this time could be a devastating blow to the Cleveland Cavaliers past next year. That sobering fact makes it impossible for me to support this trade (as proposed) at this time. As I promised my adult daughter last night, I will wait for the exact trade and the exact details before declaring it an unwarranted and unreasonable risk. But that is where I fear the Cleveland Cavaliers are headed. Back into oblivion without a life raft. Back to where the powers that be in the NBA would prefer we remain. Even LeBron might not be able to stop it.
What we need to give up is a small part of the equation now but could be a major part in less than a year from now. I have no idea how good Andrew Wiggins can become. I believe there is a high probability he will become an All Star player in the NBA. But there is no way I can be sure of that. What I do know is that he was the number one player taken in arguably the best NBA draft class in the past 5 years. That says a lot about the likelihood of him becoming a star. Anthony Bennett had a horrifying rookie year. He started injured, missed most of training camp, remained injured off and on through the year, never got in shape and never played well at all. Most call him a “negative” inclusion in the proposed Love trade. I think he has turned himself around and will be more than a serviceable player this year and certainly a rotation player with some real potential for impacting the game positively. After that, he might blossom as his talent suggests. I am not happy about losing (probably 2) number one draft picks in addition, but that loss can be overcome with time. The Cavs have 2 extra number ones still owed them from past trades.
Most are making this a debate about “Love vs Wiggins” and ignoring the number one picks and Bennett that, at the least, must be included. But, as I analyze this, my conclusions have nothing to do with how good Wiggins or Bennett may or may not be. I don’t really care honestly. What I do care about, and so should you, is Kevin Love. It is a FACT and not speculation that Kevin Love can only be controlled for ONE year. What Mr. Love does after he opts out and becomes a free agent in 2015 is completely up to Kevin Love. We know he wasn’t going to stay in Minnesota. We know he prefers the West Coast. And there is no credible evidence that he will stay in Cleveland either. I have heard all the arguments about how he “wouldn’t leave a Championship caliber team with LeBron James” and all the similar variations on the theme. I respect those arguments but I believe those beliefs are fool’s gold. And how Cleveland can fall for this serenade over and over again I cannot explain. Maybe it is like a man dying of thirst in the desert who goes back to the mirage time and time again hoping it might finally be real. I am not sure.
Kevin Love has worked hard for his free agency. He has suffered through pathetic seasons with a pathetic organization that is about to reverse their trend of stupidity. He wants out. He has demanded a trade. He has established his position. He essentially has said, “Get me out of here and then I will go where I want to go after that.” I seriously doubt that Cleveland, Ohio and even LeBron James will be able to dampen his desire to do what HE wants to do. Did we forget that LeBron left a Championship organization that had gone to the NBA finals 4 years in a row??!! How can we arrogantly think Cleveland will be his “first choice” when so many teams, including the Lakers, will have a ton of cap space to pay him a max contract?
Now the collective bargaining agreement does give the Cavs a slight edge. Because he was traded after three years with the same team, the acquiring team (Cavs) inherit his full “Bird Rights”. Cleveland could sign him to a three year extension right away if he picks up his player option for the 15-16 season. That would be great for Cleveland but would extend him years beyond the expected revenue boost in 2016. So that possibility is unlikely. The best the Cavs might be able to hope for is Love agreeing to pick up his player option for 2015-16 season, which will take him to the year where the large boost is expected. Once he becomes a free agent or agrees to sign with Cleveland, either in summer of 2015 or 16, Cleveland can sign him for 5 years with a 7.5% raise per year. As a free agent, other teams can sign him for 4 years and with a 4.5% raise per year. So, if Love starts at 17.695 million per year, he would get a total contract of 102.781 million in Cleveland. He would get a total contract of 75.702 million with the LA Lakers (for example). That sounds like a huge advantage for the Cavs. But here is the trick of all this. The Cleveland offer is for 5 years. The Lakers offer is for 4 years. If you resign with your desired team (Lakers), your next year salary would be at a MINIMUM 21.706 million. The difference over the same number of years is 5.373 million. And that is likely way more than it really would be because a new free agent contract in 6 years will likely start much higher than 21.706. So the difference might be a few million at best over 5 years. Is that difference enough to make you go away from your preferred location for 5 years? I would say no.
Ironically, LeBron James and Kevin Love will be the number 1 and number 2 free agent targets in the summer of 2015. Will we get them both with so many teams bidding for them? I am not so sure. LeBron looks likely because of his letter and seeming commitment to build in Cleveland. Love looks possible but much less likely. And we will be sweating our butts off for weeks and crashing twitter. Look forward to it because it is coming. And enjoy the rumors that this was all an NBA plot to get Anthony, James and Love in New York together.
So I don’t see this as Wiggins vs Love at all. I see us trading years of control of Wiggins and Bennett for a 1 year test drive of Love. Better hope we enjoy the ride. Because winning an NBA Championship with a 1 year window is tough sledding. This is why I feel that Cleveland must get a commitment out of Love, at least picking up his player option for 15-16 or verbally and publically committing to extending his contract with Cleveland, before Cleveland agrees to such a risky trade.
Hope Love resigns with Cleveland. Hope LeBron resigns with Cleveland. I love the Cavs. I don’t want to suffer a “Love lost.”