Storyline: Kevin Love Trade?

243 rumors in this storyline

So if Love’s short-term future may actually be with the Cavs, how would that sit with him? “I will be happy if I’m still here,” Love said following the Cavs’ 124-112 loss to the Washington Wizards on Thursday night. “I fully plan on continuing to help these guys, continuing to help — Tristan (Thompson), myself, Larry (Nance Jr.) these guys, being a leader with all the veterans. And this place, Cleveland, the fans, they’ve been really, really good to me. So, yes.”

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While he’s not unhappy every day, plenty of aspects this season — and Cleveland’s general direction — have “driven him crazy,” according to a source. He’s been most irritated with team’s “selfish” playing style and hasn’t handled that growing frustration in the best, most mature way. He’s admitted as much. It’s also fair to wonder whether the Cavs’ thinking has shifted as well. From the very beginning, they’ve wanted to be “blown away” by an offer for Love, believing he has immense value both in the short term and long term. They believed he would be a positive influence on the young players, showing them the way off the floor while also helping alleviate some of that pressure on the court.

Everyone is wondering the same. I could see both. I know it’s not the answer anyone wants, but the Love situation is complex. The most challenging questions to answer, in no particular order, are these: Have his actions this season — on and off the court — necessitated a move? Is the relationship with him and the Cavs so dire that keeping him around would actually be harmful? Would he be understanding and stay locked in if the Cavs didn’t trade him in a few weeks? […] Internally, the Cavs were hoping his value would rise, believing Love would rebound and put up big numbers in Beilein’s system after an injury-riddled season a year ago. There were even some who felt the best offers would come after this season.

Part of the barrier is the Cavs’ view of Love doesn’t match the NBA’s view of him. Love wants to be traded. That has been his preference for at least a month. He wants to play for a winner, with teammates that are at the same stage of their career — or at least closer — when it comes to knowledge, experience and talent. The growing pains, both with young players and Beilein trying to make the transition from college to the pros, have worn on Love. He’s still trying to manage his frustration. Sticking around beyond the deadline could cause him to explode again.

Love certainly could help the Blazers, or Pacers, or Rockets. But that contract is hard to match up in a way that makes sense for Cleveland, which understandably is asking for a lot in return. “I don’t think Kevin has a lot of value,” a Western Conference executive said Monday. “The contract is obvious, but you know he is going to miss games with the toll on his body… I don’t see teams taking Kevin on (without) at least taking back a first-round draft pick or multiple seconds.”

Love apologized Tuesday for some of his recent behavior on the court, then went out and scored 30 points in a loss to the Detroit Pistons. He finished 12-of-15 shooting from the field — but attempted just two shots in the fourth quarter as the Cavaliers blew a 12-point lead. He is averaging 16.4 points and 10.3 rebounds on the season. “The Cavs have communicated to him, ‘Help us help you,'” Windhorst said. “Do you want to get traded? Then come in and have a good attitude every day and put up numbers. And there have been periods this season where Cavs has done that. But there have been several times this season where he’s lost his cool a little bit, and we’re all watching for it.”

“I think there’s teams that would do it,” said Windhorst. “One of the things that’s been remarkable to me as I’ve talked to some people around the league about Kevin in the last 48-72 hours is there’s a lot of people who really, really value him and really like him, but the problem is because of the contract, it’s a difficult to come up with a trade for. Because the Cavs are viewing trading an All-Star level player. The other teams are saying ‘Yeah, he’s a good player but we’re taking on this money.’ They think they’re bailing the Cavs out.”

This is now the second time this season Love and Altman have had a talk about attitude, engagement and body language, sources tell cleveland.com. The first time, sources say, was in early December following a string of awful, disengaged single-digit performances by the five-time All-Star. After that first chat with Altman, ahead of Cleveland’s Dec. 11 home game against Houston, Love went on an impressive run, scoring double figures in eight of the next nine games. His attitude shifted as well.

Love was fined $1,000 by the Cavs for an outburst on the bench on Dec. 31 in Toronto, sources said, and disagreed with the fine. He was spotted by cameras slapping chairs on the Cavaliers bench away from the team huddle in the third quarter of the blowout. He asked a Cavs coach to take him out of the game so he could cool down. During the next timeout, when a coach asked what was wrong, Love said he didn’t like how selfish the first unit was playing, sources said.

Sources say the Cavs didn’t feel confident about their chances of getting a first-round pick for Clarkson in this market, so they took a pair of future seconds — a 2022 from San Antonio and a 2023 from Golden State, sources say. The move puts Cleveland about $5.1 million below the luxury tax threshold, which gives the team more financial flexibility when it comes to other deals. Make no mistake, more are coming between now and the trade deadline on Feb. 6. Players are already bracing for those shakeups.

Could I see it? I could see … I just don’t … What’s going to happen with us this summer? Or at the trade deadline? I just don’t know. It’s just tough because, and I’m not a religious guy by any means, but the old saying “You want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans.” Listen, obviously it’s a tough go right now. We’ve got (six) wins. But in some ways, the grass isn’t always greener. You just don’t know how the shit is going to shake out. Ever. In anything.

It is difficult for Boston to cobble together enough salary to add a major piece without including one of its core players. Boston does have Daniel Theis ($5M), Enes Kanter ($4.8M), all its own first-rounders and additional picks from Milwaukee and Memphis, but that’s not enough money to target a player like the Spurs’ LaMarcus Aldridge or the Cavaliers’ Kevin Love — unless Boston is willing to put Marcus Smart or Gordon Hayward in a deal, which is unlikely to happen.

Sunday, of course, is the first day players who were acquired in the offseason are eligible to be traded, even though Neil Olshey, the team’s top executive, said this week there is nothing brewing. That hasn’t stopped the rumor mill from heating up, which has included one report saying Kevin Love would prefer a trade to Portland. That rumor apparently reached the eyes and ears of Whiteside, who during Tuesday’s game against New York was shouting during play to Anthony that “Kevin Love doesn’t rebound like that!” “And Kevin Love doesn’t block shots like that, either,” Whiteside said Thursday when asked about the Tuesday exchange. “The trade talk … it don’t enter my mind a lot. I was more just messing with Melo. I’m not thinking about it. If we are struggling on defense and you want to (trade him), I mean, good luck. Good luck with that.”

As the Cavaliers figure out their direction under new coach John Beilein, Kevin Love is in limbo. He is the most notable veteran player on a team that is in a transition period, but he has three years and over $90 million left on his contract. As we reported in our Inside Pass on Monday, Love prefers a trade to a contending team. He has his contract extension, but that deal and the Cavaliers’ asking price is what is giving interested teams major pause, I’m told.

Love has been mentioned frequently, but is a question mark. There was a report that Portland is his favored destination, but I have not been able to substantiate that and, in fact, have been told by people close to him that the report is not necessarily true. And the other concern with Love – who is obviously a terrific player with championship pedigree – are his injuries. Over his last three seasons, he has played 60, 59, and 22 games. At an average salary of $30.1 million over the next three seasons, his availability is a concern.

Love would prefer to play for his hometown Portland Trail Blazers, according to multiple league sources. The Blazers make perfect sense as a destination for Love; they need help for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum after the team has been decimated by injuries. Last week, Rodney Hood suffered a ruptured left Achilles tendon, joining Jusuf Nurkic (broken leg) and Zach Collins (dislocated left shoulder) on the sideline. Nurkic will return this season, and Love would be a terrific frontcourt partner because of his perimeter shooting and playmaking ability. Portland could then play big upfront, which would be valuable in a series against a team with a bigger frontcourt, like the Lakers. Or, it could go with Love at center, which could be useful against the Rockets, who often size down with P.J. Tucker at center.

“Nothing’s changed,” Love told ESPN after Cleveland’s morning shootaround at TD Garden. “What I mean by that is, since I got here they’ve been … since I f—— got here there’s been talk of me being traded, so it’s nothing different. If they decide to go that way, I’ve just got to know it’s part of the business, or if we decide to go that way, it’s part of the business.” “Truthfully, I don’t know how it’s going to play out, because I see both sides,” he added.

As the lone player over 30 on a roster featuring six players under 25, four players in their first or second-year and a first-year coach in John Beilein, Love’s name stands out as Cleveland’s most obvious trade candidate. “I imagine, in a rebuild, it’s easy to look at it, especially when it’s down and out at this point, and say, ‘Hey, we want to completely reset the deck and go young,'” Love told ESPN. “I understand that. “But despite that, whether it’s five months or five years, I’m always going to be able to come back to Cleveland no matter what, and I’ll always love the fans, and be part of this organization, one way or another.”

His journey to the Trail Blazers was less complicated. Portland had a clear need for a four-man, and many rival executives believed the organization would target Oklahoma City’s Danilo Gallinari or Cleveland’s Kevin Love in a trade after the loss of Collins. But as the losses piled up, and its franchise star Damian Lillard clearly needed more support, Portland needed to acquire someone immediately. The Trail Blazers made the call to Anthony and his representative, and one question remained within Anthony: Is this real — or a waste of time?

Kevin Love will not force trade

Even with him, the Cavs are likely a long shot for a playoff spot in the East. But Love insists that he isn’t forcing a change. “I’ve been committed to Cleveland since Day 1,” Love said. “I know it’s been a little shaky at some points. It’s been really great at some points. But now I’ve found some semblance of balance in my life, not only on the court but away from it.”

But going public with the details of his panic attack — and his ongoing involvement in the conversation about the need to take care of mental health — has not left Love feeling vulnerable. He’s more at peace than anything else, and that’s why the rumors that are out there aren’t gnawing at him. “I’m just going to let the chips fall,” Love said. “I know that this is a young team. I think I can help them. I’m going to do right by Cleveland, the organization. This is a league where teams want to rebuild, teams want to go young but certain teams are looking for a piece, a guy who’s played in the finals, a guy who has playoff experience. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I think it definitely lessens the burden and the anxiety.”

After the departures of James and Irving, Love became the face of the franchise when he signed a four-year, $120-million contract extension last year. Cleveland, however, is a rebuilding team and there has been talk Love could be dealt to a team looking to make a championship push. “I know there’s talk about me possibly being the missing piece somewhere,” Love said. “There’s been constant chatter since I signed that I could be traded. It’s one of those things where I’m going to keep doing right by the team, by Cleveland and by the organization. If my number is called, so be it, but I’m going to stay true to my commitment and let the chips fall where they may.”

The Cavs continue to get calls about Love. The phone will likely ring throughout the season, up until the trade deadline and then again in the summer — if he’s still in Cleveland that long. Signing Love to a lucrative four-year extension was Altman’s first big move, the tone-setter after James left for Los Angeles. Some scoffed at the decision, believing Love didn’t fit — and still doesn’t — on a young team not positioned to win for a few more years. The NBA is unpredictable, but Altman talks the same way he did more than a year ago — seeing Love anchoring this turnaround.

While Love is Cleveland’s most valuable trade chip, there are others. That list starts with five players on expiring contracts: Knight, Henson, Dellavedova, Tristan Thompson and Jordan Clarkson. “We are still in evaluation mode with our team, with the new parts, the staff and the offense. We like our guys,” Altman said. “There’s no sense of urgency to rush to do anything. I think last year was a little bit different in terms of we knew we wanted to recoup a lot of different draft assets. Where we are now: We have great flexibility, we’re one of four teams that has over $20 million in cap space next summer, so we’re not in any rush to do anything drastic.”

Kevin Love wants to stay in Cleveland

He’s no longer the willing follower. He’s the quiet leader. While rumors constantly fly about his future, Love is exactly where he wants to be, where he chose to be two summers ago. He has no interest in that changing. “I do want to be here. I always have,” Love told cleveland.com in an exclusive one-on-one interview. “I say that knowing it’s the NBA and it’s a business. I think especially after seeing last year, the summer leading up to last year and this summer, the changeover is like unprecedented so you don’t know what is going to happen.

“It’s kind of like the same thing with rumors. I know things come up, you would see certain things or people would ask me and I would just be like, ‘I don’t know. I don’t have a call. Nobody has been having this conversation with me.’ Until that time comes just keep my head down and keep moving.” That’s what Love has done. A few days ago, while talking with teammate Matthew Dellavedova, it hit him — He’s the oldest player on the roster.

Of course, Boston is a potential player in any trade negotiation because of its two young wings, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Tatum is likely untouchable, but with Brown entering a contract year and playing a similar position, he could be the centerpiece of a deal for Beal or Love. Even without those two, a package such as the Memphis pick, Boston’s own first and either Grant Williams or Romeo Langford would be a compelling asset package, one that would potentially tempt teams to swallow the rest of Hayward’s deal and send the Celtics a high-level starter.

The answer still hasn’t changed. While it’s not wise to use the never term in this ever-changing league, the Cavs don’t want to trade Love. No, there aren’t any untouchables on this roster. Prized rookie Darius Garland would be the closest to that. If the Cavs are blown away by a Love offer and receive the package that meets their demands then, of course, they would consider it. It would be foolish not to. According to sources, the Cavs would want some combination of young players and draft picks. Not one or the other. Both.

“Last summer, the Blazers went into the offseason with very little of value. They had a bunch of big contracts with multiple years left. They didn’t have many enticing young players to make trades, they did not have a high draft pick to do things. But the thing they did have was a fairly large trade exception that was going to expire. And they spent much of the early part of the offseason calling around to teams trying to get them to give away big contract money so they could absorb it with that trade exception. And the Blazers were willing to pay a fat luxury tax and figure it out. One of the teams that they called last summer was the Cleveland Cavaliers… At that time last summer, the Cavs told the Blazers they did not want to make that trade.”

You’re not the only one sending the Kevin Love trade questions. But I don’t know how many other ways I can write this response before it resonates. Love is not one of the players the Cavs are looking to deal. They want him here. They believe his professionalism and leadership are important. He’s the kind of player any team should want around a young group because of the daily example he sets. Would the Cavs move him in the right deal? Sure, they would consider it. No one should be labeled untouchable this early into the rebuild. But each time the Love question is raised, the same response quickly follows. “How are we a better team without Kevin?”

I did a quick survey among five NBA executives asking in the abstract if they would trade for Love’s contract in a deal this summer without the Cavaliers adding additional value to sweeten the pot (for example: by Cleveland taking on a bad contract from the opposing team or by adding a draft pick in addition to Love). The five executives all said no, variously noting that the length of the deal, Love’s potential regression curve as a player because of age, and the uncertainty regarding his injuries as significant deterrents to such a move. Two of the executives noted that it only takes one team and one general manager to look back at Love’s productive history and think that it would be a valuable move. All of them noted that they still thought Love was a good, useful NBA player. But the overall tenor was that it would be difficult to move him on this contract for a positive return.

In order to try and ballpark a valuation on how under water Love’s deal is, I additionally crowdsourced from the executives what contract they thought Love would get on the open market if he was a free agent this season. Nobody thought he would get four years due to the age and injury history, with the estimates falling in the three year, $60-65 million range. Three executives said they would not go beyond two guaranteed years, but two of those noted that they would be willing to add a non-guaranteed third year (Paul Millsap’s deal came up as an example with both). When asked to specifically ballpark a four-year deal, executives put it in the $70 million range, given the significant diminishing returns of a potential fourth season at 34 years old. No one said more than $75 million. Therefore, it’s fair to say that NBA teams around the league see Love’s deal as about $50 million under water.

Cavaliers keeping Kevin Love?

Six months after signing his massive four-year, $120 million contract extension, the Cleveland Cavaliers can legally deal their injured power forward if they so choose. According to sources, the Cavs’ stance on keeping Love hasn’t changed. They want him in Cleveland. They value what he can bring on the court when healthy and his leadership and set-the-tone work ethic behind the scenes has been very important. He wants to stay with the team as well.

Who are the next Cavaliers to get moved? Chris Fedor: This is the question that so many are asking. So let’s start here: There’s interest from other teams in All-Star power forward Kevin Love. Sources tell me that the Cavs have received calls about him. It’s the same thing that typically happens with him around this time of year. He’s used to it. As I’ve written numerous times, it will take close to the perfect deal for the Cavs to pull the trigger.

Chris Fedor: They want Love around, hoping he can be the rock during this new era. He’s their All-Star. Those inside the organization recognize his value. The decision-makers also understand how difficult it is to acquire those high-level players. When you have one, and he is under team control for a number of years, why give that up? What’s the rush? Of course, teams will continue to show interest. He’s a floor-spacing double-double machine. He’s a five-time All-Star. He’s an Olympic gold medalist. When he returned to the practice floor recently, it struck me how much more talented he is than every other player currently on this Cavaliers roster. Unless the Cavs get a treasured offer from an asset-heavy team (rumored teams like Dallas and Charlotte don’t really fit this criteria), one with some combination of high draft picks and young, controllable players on team-friendly deals, Love will likely stick around.

“It’s a lot to ask someone to take on $144 million for a 30-year-old with an injury history,” one of the execs told Bleacher Report. “You’re dealing with a very small, narrow marketplace for him.” Love’s extension, which kicks in next season, brought his five-year guaranteed salary to $144 million. He’ll make $28.9 million next season, then the deal levels off at $31.3 million the next two years and goes back to $28.9 million in the final season, when Love will be 34.

The latest chatter comes from Marc Stein of the New York Times. He wrote on Tuesday about the Denver Nuggets having a “longstanding fondness” for Love. “Would I be surprised,” Drew asked when the conversation of Cleveland trading Love came up following Thursday’s practice. “As far as trades are concerned, I understand the nature of this business. Anybody can be traded. I’ve been in this league long enough where I’ve seen that happen. I think any deal that makes sense for any team, sure, they’ll be willing to pull the trigger. But that’s just the nature of our business.

“Around this time is always an exciting time because you start hearing names floating around, all the possibilities and the probables and the what ifs and 99 percent of the time none of it happens. Trade deadline time is always, as a player you get a little antsy. When I played, I got a little antsy because there was always the possibility. That’s just how the business is, that deadline, people get excited, things start floating around and that’s just how it is.”

Love, who is 30 and has missed at least 20 games due to injury in the last three seasons, wants to play. Like the rest of the team’s veterans, he was upset by the turn in direction of the franchise and spent some extended time away for the first few weeks following surgery, but wants to stay in Cleveland and has not asked for a trade. However, he sees a scenario in which he could be traded, if the Cavs wanted and were able to acquire a package of picks, younger players and tradeable contracts.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN, while on an appearance on The Really Big Show on ESPN 850 WKNR with Tony Rizzo, Aaron Goldhammer and Eric Williams, said the reeling Cavaliers (1-10) could indeed find a market for the five-time All-Star at the league’s Feb. 7 trade deadline, should he be healthy. Love underwent surgery on his left foot Nov. 2 and according to the team, will be re-evaluated in six weeks. “If they wanted to trade him, they could,” Windhorst said. Even coming off surgery? “Yes. Absolutely. There is interest in Kevin Love in this league,” Windhorst said. “Would it be the best time to trade him? I don’t believe so, no. I don’t believe you could get your best value then.”

“I’ve talked to general managers out there who are interested in trading for Kevin Love, right now,” Windhorst said. “Maybe not this moment, but they maintain in trading for him this season, if he’s healthy. “The Cavs would be able to get pieces for him. I don’t necessarily think they’d be great pieces. When you have a guy under a $100 million contract who is injured, you worry about whether you’d have to ‘incentivize’… it’s what’s known as ‘incentivizing’ where you’d have to add something to the deal like a draft pick or something to sweeten the pot for a team to the player off your hands.”

What are the chances Kevin Love gets dealt. Chris Fedor: “It didn’t take long for this question to come, huh? First, Kevin Love can’t legally be traded until the end of January — six months from the date of his contract extension. Any calls for him to be dealt now, in hopes the team will quickly go into tank mode, are futile. It would take a lot for the Cavs to get to that point anyway. They have spoken for months about Love’s importance. He is the team’s best player and bona fide leader. He’s also the focal point of the offense, a guy who helps lift pressure off Collin Sexton and some of the other younger players so they don’t have to garner the full attention from opposing defenses.”

What are the chances Kevin Love gets dealt. Chris Fedor: “For the Cavs to even consider moving the five-time All-Star, they would have to be blown away. And it’s hard to envision another team being that enamored with Love. Not only is he off to an inefficient start, but he’s been dealing with nagging soreness in his left foot for nearly a month. Given his long history of injuries and his age (30), this latest ailment doesn’t help. Nor does his contract. … This is the NBA. You never say never. The Cavs may very well be unable to recover from this slow start. It’s possible that they stay near the bottom of the standings all season. But however this goes in the next few months, Love is down the list of players they’d want to deal. Untouchables? For the right player, I’m not sure there are any.”

Scout’s Take: “Oh, God, I didn’t like it. $30 million for Kevin Love? I like Kevin, but he doesn’t have LeBron anymore, and he’s going to have to carry the load. He’ll be back like [he was in] Minnesota, getting big numbers on a bad team. He might get 20 rebounds a game because they’ll miss a lot. He’ll definitely be one of the leading rebounders this season. “I’d trade him with that contract and try to get assets. Five years at $30 million a year? I wouldn’t want him at that. If he were making $21 million, $22 million or even $23 million, sure, but not $30 million. That’s a max player. He’s not a max player. He’s not a franchise player; he’s probably the third guy on a really good playoff team. I doubt he would have gotten that contract from anyone else. He’s a really good player, but I don’t like it for $30 million.”

Joe Vardon: “They’ve told Kevin Love that they don’t plan to trade him and there’s been discussions with JR Smith and even Kyle Korver, who virtually everyone has circled as a trade candidate, getting them ready to come back to camp. They certainly could move one or more of those guys (I certainly don’t see a move for Kevin right now), and yeah, it really seems like this is what has been communicated to all the players involved, that they’re gonna try this out.”

Q: Where does Kevin Love end up? He’s from Oregon, went to college in Los Angeles and works out in Park City, Utah. Those could all be interesting destinations. What would be best for him? — Elliot Morris (Salt Lake City) Marc STEIN: The Cavaliers have been adamant that they’re not trading Love. This can be easily dismissed as posturing designed to convince interested suitors to step up their trade offers, but I tend to believe it. At least in the short term.
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