Kevin Love has a chance to add to his legacy in Cleveland

Love can "enhance" his career with Cavs this season

James Rapien
October 08, 2019 - 10:56 pm
Sep 30, 2019; Independence, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) talks with the media during media day at Cleveland Clinic Courts. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

© Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

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CLEVELAND, OH – There has been plenty of speculation about Kevin Love’s future with the Cavaliers. Most of it is fair, considering his age and where the organization is in the rebuild process.

Love is still a great player when healthy, unfortunately his timeline doesn’t lineup with a rebuilding organization like the Cavs.

People in league circles have noticed this and have speculated about Cleveland trading Love for years. He’s been rumored to be on the ‘trading block’ ever since the Cavaliers acquired him prior to the 2014-2015 season.

Trading Love makes sense for a variety of reasons. The 31-year-old has dealt with injuries. Why would a rebuilding franchise pay him $30 million per season over the next four years if they weren’t close to winning? It’s a question that makes sense on the surface, but it isn’t that simple.

General manager Koby Altman doesn’t want to give Love away. Not only is he the Cavs’ best player – he’s also a leader in the locker room. Love sets the tone for the rest of the team, especially young players like Collin Sexton, Kevin Porter Jr. and Darius Garland. Love’s injuries have hurt his value on the trade market.

He's had a successful career full of accolades. He’s an NBA champion and a five-time All-Star. Love has led the league in rebounding, been named to the All-NBA team twice and won the Most Improved Player Award.

The one thing he hasn’t done?

Led a team to the playoffs. Love has never been the best player on a playoff team. He was great during his first seven seasons in Minnesota, but the Timberwolves never qualified for the playoffs.

It’s easy to look at the Cavs’ rebuild and think that Love doesn’t belong on the team, but the coaching staff is taking a different approach.  

“That’s not what Kevin was brought here to do,” assistant coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “He was brought here to deliver a championship, which he did. He helped do that in 2016. I think there’s a chance for him to even enhance what his career has been about to really mesh and bring along a young team.”

Love has a chance to add to his legacy. Can you imagine what it would be like if he’s part of the next great Cavs team?

It would change the way he’s viewed in Cleveland and across the NBA. He would be the star that stayed and helped the Cavaliers become relevant again. 

It’s unrealistic to expect Love to lead the Cavs to the playoffs this season. There will plenty of roster turnover at the trade deadline and the team is going to lean on its’ young players.

And a trade isn’t out of the question. There are plenty of teams across the NBA that may be willing to meet Altman’s trade demands during the season. The Blazers, Mavericks, Bucks and Celtics are just a few of the organizations that could find themselves in win-now mode prior to the trade deadline in February.

Love has been a good soldier. He understands the organization is rebuilding, but he can’t love (pun intended) the idea of being on a team that doesn’t have a realistic chance to compete for a championship.

He also has a positive outlook and hopes to be a part of the solution in Cleveland.

“It’s going to move a little bit faster than maybe some people would expect us to,” Love said. “We have really good quality character people and players and coaches. There are going to be those times where there are going to be growing pains, regardless of how fast we want this to happen.

“We just have to be very positive, have a great mindset and just keep moving forward everyday.”

That’s easy to say at the start of training camp. It’s another thing to expect Love to be patient if the team is 8-25 at the end of December.

It’s going to be interesting to watch the Cavaliers this season. How will veterans buy into John Beilein’s system? Tristan Thompson, Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Knight, Matthew Dellavedova and John Henson are all in the final year of their contract. They have to choice but to buy into the system – at least until the trade deadline.  

An established star like Love has more leverage. He’s under contract for the next four seasons. We’ve seen Anthony Davis, Paul George and Russell Westbrook force trades over the past four months, despite being under contract because they weren’t happy with their situation.

Love isn’t as talented as those superstars, but he’s one of the top-30 basketball players in the world. Keeping him happy is key, especially if the Cavaliers plan on maximizing his value in a trade. His value would drop the moment he became unhappy in Cleveland.

Beilein visited Love in New York this offseason to make sure they were on the same page heading into the season.

“It’s been a time for him [Love] to really practice with energy,” Beilein said. “His buy-in has been tremendous because he realizes the way our offense works, everybody is going to touch it a lot.”

Love appears to have the right mindset going into the regular season. He’s in a great place mentally and physically.

He has an opportunity to further cement his place in Cleveland sports history. He’s already had an impact in so many ways. He forced Stephen Curry to hoist an off-balance 3-pointer in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. He took a lesser role to help the Cavs win a championship and make four straight Finals appearances.

With this roster, he has a chance to be much more than LeBron James’ sidekick. Love gets be the guy on this team.

Can he stay healthy and average 20 points and 10 rebounds on a nightly basis? Will he keep his cool when the young guys are struggling? It may be unrealistic for the Cavs to make the postseason this year, but there’s a path for them to improve and contend for a playoff spot in 2020-2021.

He plays as big of a role in the Cavs' future as any player on the team. 

Will Love be apart of playoff basketball in Cleveland once again or will he be dealt to a contending team with championship dreams?