Now don’t get me wrong, Kevin Love is a great player and he’s also coming off his best season as an NBA pro with career highs in points (26.1) and assists per game (4.4). The real question is: What will Kevin love add to the Cleveland Cavaliers or Chicago Bulls (two legitimate contenders for his services) that they don’t already have in principle?
Rebounding? After all, Love helped the Minnesota Timberwolves finish at No. 7 in the NBA in team rebounding as they averaged 44.7 rebounds per game. How did the Bulls or the Cavaliers fare without Love? Chicago and Cleveland finished at No. 10 and No. 11, respectively, with both teams averaging 44.1 RPG. The difference between the three teams was nominal.
Remember, Love isn’t coming as a free agent to add to what a team already has. He’s coming at a high trading price and for Chicago, that means Taj Gibson (a good rebounder and tough interior defender), Doug McDermott (young shooting star) and Nikola Mirotic (young Euroleague proven stretch-four). Don’t forget to add the future draft picks that Minnesota will demand as well.
If Chicago takes a look within, it’s plain to see that these three players already provide them with all of the scoring, rebounding and defense they’ll need that just one injury-prone Kevin Love cannot account for by himself. Even though Love is young, Chicago will stay younger with their current crew and save money while doing it. A year from now, Love will demand a max salary from the Bulls that will cost them $20 million-plus per season. A year from now, Gibson, McDermott and Mirotic will only make $16.42 million combined.
Simply put, Chicago can get younger, significantly improve their roster deficiencies, keep their depth and save money by not trading for Love. If the Miami Heat could have done this, they might still have LeBron James on their team.
How about the Cavaliers? What do they have to lose? Andrew Wiggins alone is too much. When LeBron left in the summer of 2014, the whole basketball world saw what life without LeBron looked like in Cleveland (Miami Heat fans, brace yourselves, it’s about to get real). It was a disaster and even with top draft pick after another, they couldn’t make it to the playoffs last season in a conference where an eight seed finished under .500 and still got in.
Wiggins is the heir apparent to LeBron’s throne and when James turns 30 in this calendar year, Cleveland better realize that he’s not going to be at the top of his game forever. We already know what a team looks like when Love and a “star” point guard (Ricky Rubio) are the headliners: no playoffs. So the Cavaliers can’t afford to lose a young phenom like Wiggins along with future first-round draft picks and other young players.
Cleveland won in the 2014 NBA Draft and free agency. LeBron is back and there’s no point in going on about his statistical impact to their team because his championship experience and mentorship role might even have a greater impact.
If the Cavaliers stay put, their roster is good enough right now to take them to the Eastern Conference Finals, so this season will be a year to build championship habits. After all, in his essay, LeBron said:
“I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic.”
Next summer, the Cavaliers will have enough money coming off the books to go out and sign a marquee free agent. Two names come to mind: LaMarcus Aldridge and Marc Gasol. Even though these two players will be 30 in the summer of 2015, Cleveland has to like their chances of landing one of these studs (probably Gasol).
The Eastern Conference is looking a lot better this year and the Bulls and Cavs have already made their best moves without adding Love. If Love is wise and he really wants to win, he should just ride out one more year in Minnesota and then sign with Cleveland next summer. They’ll have money to pay him, LeBron to help him and Wiggins to run with him after LeBron retires one distant day from now.
Only fools rush into Love.