Cavs

Which Western Conference Team Has Best Shot at Love?

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Love Conundrum

Despite the Cavs recently coming off a rare winning streak when Kevin Love was a significant contributor, it doesn’t seem like anything has changed. Love is a battle-tested veteran with championship experience. Frankly, he doesn’t belong on the roster of this rebuilding Cavaliers team.

Even though this draft is one of the weakest in a long time, Cleveland’s first-round pick only conveys to them if it lands in the top 10, due to the Kyle Korver trade with Atlanta. With the Cavs being this early in their rebuild, it’s likely they don’t want to risk playing their way out of a first-round selection.

Recently, news came out that Jrue Holiday has joined Kevin on the trade block. Plus, with other teams potentially selling in the Pistons, Spurs, and Thunder, players like DeMar DeRozan, Blake Griffin, Steven Adams, Danilo Gallinari, LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Drummond, and Chris Paul are becoming much more commonplace in trade rumors.

 

Before the block gets more crowded with more big names, it may be wise for the Cavs to strike while Kevin Love is arguably the best player available. I covered an in-depth look at each and every Eastern Conference Team not long ago, so now let’s take a look at what the Western Conference would be willing to offer to receive a little Love.

Dallas Mavericks

Cavs get: Dwight Powell, Justin Jackson, Courtney Lee, 2020 76ers 2nd Rd Pick, 2021 Mavericks 2nd Rd Pick

Mavericks get: Kevin Love, Ante Zizic

The Mavericks are surging right now, looking like they are borderline title contenders. Luka Doncic was putting up MVP-level numbers before suffering an ankle injury. Even without their Slovenian Superstar, the Mavs didn’t seem to take a step backward.

Tim Hardaway Jr is finally living up to his bloated salary, playing the best ball of his career. Kristaps Porzingis is playing better after a slow start. The Mavericks seem one piece away from rising into the most elite tier of teams, and some have mentioned Love has a possible candidate for being that player.

Adding the seasoned veteran to the Mavericks’ masterful collection of young talent could mean success for Dallas. Swapping Dwight Powell out with Love could damage the Mavericks’ defense. However, if any one fact sticks out in Porzingis’s game this year, it’s his defense. He’s been swatting away over two shots per game and is gathering a career-high 9.5 rebounds.

The 7’3″ sniper has been a tremendous rim-protector, so the ominous presence of Porzingis could likely diminish Love’s defensive shortcomings. This pairing would also bring an entirely new dynamic to what is already one of the best NBA offenses.

Denver Nuggets

Cavs get: Jerami Grant, Malik Beasley, Mason Plumlee, Jarred Vanderbilt, 2022 1st Rd Pick (Top 20 Protected)

Nuggets get: Kevin Love, Alfonzo McKinnie, Ante Zizic

After a strong playoff push last season from Denver, they entered the season with high expectations. Maybe too high, as they’ve been somewhat disappointing. Acquiring another star to add to their core of Jokic, Millsap, Murray, and Harris could push them further.

Several years ago, defense was the problem for a promising, young Nuggets team that excelled offensively. Now, Denver has been one of the best defensive teams in the league with some scoring issues dragging them down. Inserting Love would undeniably give them the best playmaking frontcourt.

Denver could opt to slide Paul Millsap up to small forward, giving them the size to match up with top teams like the Lakers, Bucks, and 76ers. Or, they could move one of Love or Millsap to the 2nd unit as a super sub. A three-man PF/C rotation between Jokic, Love, and Millsap would be one of the very best and most versatile in the league.

Giving away Jerami Grant, Malik Beasley, and Mason Plumlee is no cheap cost, though. Plumlee has long been one of the most steady bench big men in the league. Plus, even though Grant and Beasley have started slowly, the two seem very involved in Denver’s long-term plans.

Michael Porter Jr is a popular trade asset, but it doesn’t seem Denver is as antsy to part with him as many have suggested. (Quick side note: there are currently THREE Porter Jr’s in the league all who play small forward: Otto – Chicago, Michael – Denver, Kevin – Cleveland). It seems if the Nuggets were to pursue a Kevin Love trade for the 2nd time in the last few years, then this might be the most realistic path.

Golden State Warriors

The only way Love becomes a Warrior via trade is if Golden State is willing to part with one of Curry, Klay, Draymond, or D’Angelo Russell. Three of the four are incredibly unrealistic, and unlike many, I’m not a fan of the 4th one, either. Golden State isn’t sending away any of their three long-time stars for an aging Love.

D’Lo has been a trade candidate since the moment he inked a contract with the Warriors. I don’t see any trade happening involving him. He’s young enough to be a significant part of their potential pending rebuild. If they choose to compete next year, once they get back to full health, then Russell is a bona fide all-star who is completely capable of contributing to a winning team.

Plus, Russell doesn’t fit on this Cavaliers team that already boasts two guards in their young core, in Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. If anything, it would be a 3-team trade, roping in a PG needy team, like the Timberwolves, Heat, or Pistons.

Houston Rockets

Cavs get: Clint Capela, Danuel House Jr, PJ Tucker

Rockets get: Kevin Love, Alfonzo McKinnie, Ante Zizic

Eric Gordon is ineligible to be traded this season due to his recent contract extension. Houston will never include James Harden and Russell Westbrook in a trade for Love, I assure you. That leaves only one option if the Rockets opt to pursue a deal.

To match Love’s hefty salary, Houston must include Clint Capela and PJ Tucker. The Rockets also are big fans of their young wing, Danuel House Jr. It’s questionable if this trade would be beneficial to the Rockets at the moment. It would undoubtedly mortgage some of the little hope they have towards the future in Capela and House.

It would make more sense to bring in a 3rd team to take Tucker, as he has much more value on a contending/playoff team than a rebuilding team. Maybe an extra piece from a 3rd team could give the Rockets a little more motivation.

There is little question that the Rockets are fully pursuing a championship right now, with Golden State finally out of the way. Houston has plenty of depth at center behind Capela. Tyson Chandler and Nene are consistently productive players. Behind them is little-used Isaiah Hartenstein, who has put up impressive numbers in the g-league. Add plenty of Love at the five possessions, and making up for Capela’s production likely isn’t much of an issue.

Losing Tucker would be very tough, but Alfonzo McKinnie may be an impressive fit with the Rockets. I could easily the 3&D wing starting at either the three or the four in small-ball lineups. Love to Houston isn’t a likely situation to me, but if the Rockets choose to reorganize, don’t be surprised if they decide to look in Cleveland’s direction.

Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers went from Lob City to rebuilding to overachieving to title contenders quicker than you can say “Mfiondu Kabengele.” Now lead by the best duo of wings and two of the top five NBA bench players, the Clippers once again are set on the Finals.

Passing/assists have been an area where the Clippers haven’t excelled at, and Love is a plus at his position in that regard. However, a trade for him isn’t anywhere within sight. It’s way too early to make such a drastic change, especially when it would require two of Ivica Zubac, Montrezl Harrell, Patrick Beverley, and Lou Williams to make salaries match up, along with Maurice Harkless.

Los Angeles Lakers

Cavs get: Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, JaVale McGee

Lakers get: Kevin Love, Alfonzo McKinnie, Ante Zizic

It seems like since Love came out about his issues with anxiety and panic attacks, he formed a much closer relationship with LeBron James. LeBron tried to soften up to his teammate before then so that Kevin didn’t leave the Cavs as a free agent. The bond between the two seemed more genuine, though, as Love finally opened up about his issues.

Don’t count on a reunion in the city of angels, however. The Lakers are in no rush to deal Danny Green and JaVale McGee, as they are tremendous contributors to the Lakers’ early-season success. KCP’s play has stepped up since a poor start to the season, and there’s a reason why the Anthony Davis trade was held up by the Lakers over Kyle Kuzma.

We all know the gravity that LeBron’s presence has on his team front office, though. If the King demands that the team makes a deal for his former teammate, then there’s a good chance it gets done. After all, you can never have too much shooting next to LeBron.

Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are in year three of their rebuild, but they aren’t close to competing yet. The west hasn’t weakened, and making a move to pick up Love isn’t a big enough addition to propel them to the playoffs. In Jonas Valanciunas, Jaren Jackson Jr, and Brandon Clarke, the Grizzlies are set up well at power forward and center. Taking away playing time from them with a 31-year-old player past his prime, makes no sense.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Cavs get: Jarrett Culver, Robert Covington, Gorgui Dieng

Timberwolves get: Kevin Love, Ante Zizic

I’m more hesitant than most to say that Andrew Wiggins is completely breaking out this season. The only major statistical category he’s improved at is his FG% on 2-pointers. It’s up to 51.5% from 44.1% last season. Yes, his points/game has jumped up by seven, but that’s because of his increase in shots and relative improvement in efficiency. Nearly every other number on his averages for the season are almost identical to past seasons.

Plus, his “outbreak” hasn’t added up to many wins. The Timberwolves are a few games outside of the playoff picture. With probably a top 10 player in Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota is failing to capitalize on his superstardom. The Wolves blew the Jimmy Butler trade, only able to gain Covington and Saric. The fact that Butler’s now leading the Heat to contention only makes it more annoying.

Minnesota moved Saric out after one year, and RoCo is seemingly right with Love on the trade block right now. The trade that sent Dario to Phoenix yielded a high lottery pick in Jarrett Culver that the Timberwolves hugely anticipated. However, the rookie failed to make an impact despite supposedly being one of the most NBA ready players in the draft. He’s slashing a cold .366/.240/.434.

It’s early to give up on a rookie, but immediate results are becoming more imperative for Minnesota. It’s only a matter of time before KAT starts dreaming about bigger stages and brighter lights. Bringing back Love to Minnesota is not guaranteed to improve the wolves, but it might be worth a shot.

Love and Towns at the four and five, give you the most lethal shooting PF-C combo in the league. Finally getting rid of Gorgui Dieng‘s massive contract would be a relief. Also, finding Robert Covington a new home is probably the best for all parties involved. (Even though there would be a high possibility Cleveland flips him at the trade deadline again, anyway.)

New Orleans Pelicans

Cavs get: Derrick Favors, Lonzo Ball, E’twaun Moore

Pelicans get: Kevin Love, Dante Exum

The likelihood that David Griffin puts together a package to trade for Love a second time is slim. The current GM of New Orleans is standing in a rebuild full of Laker rejects and a transcendent talent yet to play. The Pelicans seemed ready to continue competing this season, even after trading the best player in franchise history.

A Zion injury, questionable coaching, and a roster that can’t seem to mesh are holding them back. With Jrue Holiday available via trade, it seems the Pelicans are giving up on this season. The fact that they’re reportedly reluctant to get rid of the 35-year-old sharpshooter JJ Reddick appears to conflict that logic.

If the Pelicans want to improve for this or next season, Love may be worth a look. His fit next to Zion would be much better than Derrick Favors. The way Zion warps the basketball court would lead to plenty of open looks for Kevin Love, while Favors is a non-threat from distance.

If New Orleans benching Lonzo Ball in some recent games is any sign, it seems that he may not be in their long term plans. While Brandon Ingram is having a career season, Ball has failed to show any notable improvement from his rookie season. With Lonzo being a pass-first player, he may walk into a better situation in Cleveland, despite the Cavs already having two young starting guards. His size could allow him to play some SF for the Cavs, infusing extra playmaking into some small, high-energy lineups.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Make no mistake. The Thunder are playing good basketball right now, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been everything that fans could have hoped for this year. Oklahoma City is currently holding on to a playoff spot, but this a selling club.

OKC is open and willing to trading their group of veteran borderline stars in Chris Paul, Danilo Gallinari, Steven Adams, and Dennis Schroder. It’s almost sure to me that OKC will move at least one of them for future assets. Teams like the Heat, Blazers, and Celtics are already circling the Thunder, looking for that extra piece to boost them.

Love could undoubtedly improve the Thunder this season, but he’s not a player who OKC has circled in red on their list. Who knows if he was in years past, but the Thunder have moved on to a new era. They have their eyes set on the future.

Phoenix Suns

Cavs get: Mikal Bridges, Dario Saric, Tyler Johnson, 2022 2nd Rd Pick, 2023 2nd Rd Pick

Suns get: Kevin Love, Alfonzo McKinnie

After a surprising 7-4 start shocked the league, the Suns have come crashing back harder than vintage Charles Barkley landing from a rim-rattling slam. With new faces Ricky Rubio and Aron Baynes strangely producing at all-star levels, we should have known that this was only a matter of time.

The Suns are in desperate need of a jolt. With DeAndre Ayton recently returning from his 25 game suspension, all of Phoenix is hoping that he is it. They might need one bigger than the 7-footer, though. The team may be speculating a Love trade, and the fit looks appealing at first sight. The new Phoenix management hasn’t been shy to make moves, as evidenced by the last couple of years, full of transactions for the Suns.

Dario Saric is desperate for a return to his Philadelphia form. However, since Phoenix traded for him, he’s been half the player he was for the 76ers. It seemed at the start of the season that he had regained his form. Recent games have been different for the power forward, though. Love and Saric are very similar players from a broader view. Except, nearly everything Saric does, Love does at a much higher level.

Many expected Mikal Bridges to be a high-level competitor on both sides of the floor. He has lived up to that for the most part defensively, but his shot has been shaky through his first NBA years. As shown by recent trades of lottery pick disappointments (Marquese Chriss and Josh Jackson), the Suns aren’t ones to think twice before moving on from youngsters.

Adding Tyler Johnson for salary matching would complete the trade. The outcome of Phoenix’s next games could ultimately decide what the team’s direction is for this season. If they head down the path towards competitiveness, then expect them to be a leading contender in making a move for Kevin Love.

Portland Trail Blazers

Cavs get: Zach Collins, Nasir Little, Hassan Whiteside, Kent Bazemore

Trail Blazers get: Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Brandon Knight

Ah… Portland and Love. The names have been attached for years, practically becoming the peanut butter and jelly of the NBA, only never to come to fruition. Years from the first rumors between the two, the fit stills seems as golden as ever. Over the last year, Portland’s injuries, trades, and free agency decimated the frontcourt.

Carmelo Anthony has been an above-average stop-gap, but he’s not in the long term plans. Plus, relying on Skal Labissiere and Anthony Tolliver to give significant minutes is only going to get you so far. Adding a championship duo at the four and five positions is a massive step forward.

Whiteside and Bazemore, while playing reasonably well for the Blazers, are nothing more than cap filler in this trade for the Cavaliers. The potential of Collins and Little are the real prize here. With their backcourt of the future hopefully taken care of with some combination of Darius Garland, Collin Sexton, and Kevin Porter Jr, this trade seems to take care of some progress in the frontcourt.

Portland is in dire need of more depth and star power. This trade does a little bit of both as they continue to try to resurrect what was seemingly a dead season, after their worst start in years. This narrative is old news, as the trade has made sense for years. It’s just a matter of if and when Portland chooses to pull the trigger.

Sacramento Kings

Cavs get: Harry Giles, DeWayne Dedmon, Trevor Ariza, 2021 1st Rd Pick (Top 5 protected)

Kings get: Kevin Love, Ante Zizic

Similar to the Trail Blazers, the Kings had a rough start to the season after amassing big expectations. After rebounding well, the Kings are put in an unusual position. Sacramento spent the offseason throwing a lot of money at veterans who are ready to compete now.

Two of those veterans, Dedmon and Ariza, have been mostly disappointing. They definitely are not living up to their massive contracts. One could maybe say the same of Love too. Still able to play at a high level, Love probably isn’t worth $30 million regardless.

Swapping Zizic for Giles is an exchange of mainly forgotten big men. Cleveland declined Zizic’s team option for next season declined and seems to be finding himself out of their long term plans. Harry Giles once had much potential, but similar to the Cavs’ recent acquisition, Dante Exum, it seems that injuries have stripped Giles of all that theoretical dominance.

The real price in this trade is Sacramento’s first-round pick from next season. As of right now, that pick could land anywhere from about 5-25. The Kings would be betting on Love’s presence to propel them to the latter half of that round. A starting lineup of Fox, Hield, Barnes, Bagley, and Love with reserves Joseph, Bogdanovic, Bjelica, and Holmes sounds like a robust 9-man rotation.

San Antonio Spurs

Cavs get: Rudy Gay, DeMarre Carroll, Trey Lyles, Luka Samanic, 2020 1st Rd Pick (lottery-protected)

Spurs get: Kevin Love, Alfonzo McKinnie, Ante Zizic

The Spurs may miss the playoffs for the first time in over two decades, currently tied for the longest streak of all time at 22 straight years. As the west continues to become more talented and deeper, San Antonio’s aging core and outdated playing style are in danger of falling into an inevitable rebuild.

Smart moves and superior scouting have kept the Spurs afloat for what feels like ages, without ever having to transition. If they are to continue with this, then they almost certainly have to execute a mid-season trade. Most of San Antonio probably forgets what these are. After all, the Spurs haven’t executed one since 2014 when they picked up Austin Daye from Toronto in an incredibly minor move.

Kevin Love fixes a lot of issues that exist for the Spurs. Rebounding? Check. Scoring? Check. Shooting? Check. Passing? Check. Love slides in nicely alongside Aldridge, replacing a declining Rudy Gay at the four slot. DeMarre Carroll has not been given consistent minutes since signing with the Spurs, receiving a whole lot of DNPs from Coach Pop.

Lyles is likely considered expendable by San Antonio’s front office, and Samanic has spent the entire season toiling down in the G-League. This trade seems easy for San Antonio to accept. Getting a 5-time all-star certainly aids San Antonio’s push for the playoffs. If anyone is capable of turning two end of the bench players (McKinnie, Zizic) into capable contributors, then it’s Popovich.

Utah Jazz

Losing Derrick Favors, Jae Crowder, and Thabo Sefolosha last offseason already left the Jazz weak at the power forward position. However, neither was ever really suited to play the four in today’s NBA. Favors being more of a center, and Sefolosha better suited as a three as well as Crowder, there wasn’t an authentic power forward on the roster.

Despite picking up Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic over the summer, neither one addresses the hole next to Rudy Gobert. Jeff Green was an underrated pick-up to me. He is the kind of do-everything wing that every team is hungry to have on their squad nowadays. However, a few days ago, Utah cut him.

Now the Jazz has a gaping hole. Who’s going to match up to Davis if you run into the Lakers in the playoffs? While playing two small forwards for an offense that has been struggling can do wonders, they are sacrificing much on defense.

Fans have linked Love to the Jazz for a while. While he’s no defensive whisperer, Love gives some size down on the block to match up with the opposition. The fit couldn’t be any more perfect. Kevin Love is the perfect yin to Gobert’s yang and releases more pressure off of Utah’s backcourt to generate offense.

However, a trade isn’t happening. The money doesn’t work. Joe Ingles signed a contract extension at the start of the season. Therefore, Utah can’t trade him until the end of the season. The Cavs just traded Jordan Clarkson to the Jazz, so a trade back to the Cavs can’t happen. That leaves only Gobert, Conley, and Bogdanovic as players capable of matching salaries. None of those players are being moved for Kevin Love, so sorry to burst your bubble #Love2UTAH fans. (I made that up.)

Irrelevant Discussion?

Kevin Love trade probably won’t be that big of a deal. However, all you Cavs fans out there are lucky I am such a no-lifer that I made a primer to a Kevin Love trade for every single NBA team! With my luck, the Cavs will probably ignore the noise, do the impossible, and keep Kevin Love for another year, and these articles will go to waste.

Once again, if you haven’t already checked it out, take a look at my article for the Eastern Conference. Happy holidays from me and everyone at The Lead Sports Media!

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