Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Kevin Love Trades

I was going to write about the Cavs vs. Warriors game last night, but in the words of Dave Chappelle, what can be said about that game that hasn't already been said about Afghanistan? There's only so much you can take away from any one regular season game but the way the Cavs lost that game (and the way they lost to the Spurs) reveals a few basic problems with the way the team has been constructed. Let's follow the logic:

1) LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are going to dominate the ball on any team they are on. LeBron's career usage rating is 32.1 and it has been below 29 once (his first season in Miami) while Kyrie's career usage rating is 28.2 and it has been below 28 once (last season). They bring the ball up the floor and they like to play with the ball in their hands so that's never going to change.

2) Kevin Love is bad on defense. He doesn't have quick feet and he doesn't have long arms so the only way to maximize his game is to feature him on offense.

3) There's no way to feature Love when he's playing with Kyrie and LeBron. There just aren't enough basketballs to go around.

4) Love has to be on a team that features him on offense and protects him on defense but the Cavs need the third member of their Big Three to be someone who can be minimized on offense and featured on defense.

5) The role that Love has on this team - three-point shooting, rebounding and post defense - doesn't require a max contract. The Cavs are paying him to do things they don't need him to do.

The obvious conclusion is that Cleveland needs to redistribute Love's salary to guys who fit better around their best two players. To redistribute salaries and roles in a way that makes more sense, you'd want to turn Love into a stretch 4 who doesn't have as much shot-creating ability and another 6'7+ wing defender who could slide LeBron down to the PF position.

It's hard to find trades that would make sense for Kevin Love given that he's not being allowed to fully showcase his game in Cleveland even though he's still being paid like he's a first option. No matter how you slice it, the Cavs would not be getting 100 cents on the dollar but team in their position rarely do. It's all about putting a team together that is better than the sum of their parts and the way they are using Love means they will always be less than theirs.

1) Love to Portland for Al-Farouq Aminu, Meyers Leonard and Allen Crabbe

2) Love to Boston for Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk and Avery Bradley

3) Love to Houston for Trevor Ariza, Donatas Motiejunas and Corey Brewer

4) Love to Orlando for Aaron Gordon, Channing Frye and Jason Smith

All four of those trades would give Cleveland a stretch 4 that would allow them to save some wear and tear on LeBron's body in the regular season and a versatile defender at the 3/4 positions that would allow them to play smaller and faster in the playoffs. Leonard, Motiejunas and Frye are also more capable of sliding down to the 5 position and providing more of a defensive presence when LeBron is at the 4. It's not to say that any of them are as good at Kevin Love but they can all stand behind a big man in the post and stretch out the defense on the other end of the floor - which is all that Love does for Cleveland anyway! - while making less money which allows Cleveland to have another big 3-and-D player on the perimeter.

LeBron is best at the 4 at this point in his career so the skill-sets that make the most sense next to him are a rim-protecting 5 who can stretch the floor and a three-point shooting wing who can slide between the 3 and the 4 positions. The Cavs don't have either one of those players at the moment so they might as well turn their primary option at the 4 position who doesn't play any defense into them. They'll run out the string in this year's playoffs and hope the Royal Rumble out West wears out their competition and maybe gives them some injury luck in the Finals. If that doesn't work, though, and they have to play Love 15-20 minutes a game when the season is on the line, they might as well go to Plan B.


  1. And next edition, we'll try to figure out what to do about Kyrie's defense.

    1. He's young enough and physically gifted enough to where you think that could improve. But yea that's a whole different can of worms.

  2. Why does a stretch 4 have to be included in any deal?

    1. I don't think you want to play Thompson and Mozgov together much and I think there is some value in not having LeBron at the 4 full-tome. Getting the 3 who moves LeBron to the 4 is more important but I don't think you are getting an All-Star for an All-Star trade for Love which means you are getting multiple players back anyway.

  3. Call me crazy but I think that Houston trade would be the best one.

    1. Motiejunas has the most well-rounded game of any of those stretch 4/5's. It's just a matter of whether he can stay healthy. Really curious to see how him and T. Jones being RFA's plays out in the off-season.

  4. Last night, I had some of the same thoughts regarding Love's under utilization on this particular Cavs team. I think Boston makes a particularly enticing trade partner.

    Boston is looking for someone, who they could build their offense around, without Thomas, their only creator, their offensive rating craters to 96.6, which would rank them 29th only higher than the 76ers. Plus, they have 5 picks in the top 35 coming for this year's draft.
    On Cleveland's end in addition to picking up Crowder who has lately been playing as a small-ball four and Olynyk, an ersatz Love, they could also unload Varejao and get a pick of any of Boston's role player talent, all who are on favorable contracts.
    Here is one particular version:
    Cleveland would also get a bunch of picks from Boston. A late first rounder and an early second rounder should be enough to get Portland to take on Lee, with maybe one of the Brooklyn swaps or picks to get a good enough return for Cleveland.

  5. Crowder, Bradley, and filler works too. I don't think BOS would give up all three contributors. As a Blazers fan, i'd take that trade tomorrow to give Lillard a second cornerstone and bring Love home.

  6. All these trades are pretty horrible. Let's go through this

    1. Meyers Leonard is essentially a poor man's love. He's an even worse defender, and a much worse offensive player. There is also the problem of him not being great at the 4 position. Aminu is a solid contributor, but he doesn't provide the spacing that you want around Lebron. Allen Crabbe would be welcome on the Cavs, but with JR and Shumpert he becomes somewhat extraneous. Beyond these issues, Love is so much better than that conglomeration of talent that some nice picks would have to be attached.

    2. This trade is the most plausible. Jae Crowder has been very good this season and makes sense as a fit next to Lebron and Kyrie. He does the dirty work, doesn't need the ball in his hands, and isn't really a liability in any facet if he is on the Cavs. Avery Bradley provides a nice playoff alternative to the oft unhinged/inefficient JR Smith. Olynk is an okay stretch 4/5. Still the likelihood of both sides coming to an agreement on this is low. Unless Danny Ainge is willing to trade arguably the best player and contract on his team.

    3. Ariza is close to washed up at this stage, D-mo is perpetually injured, and Corey Brewer doesn't really fit the profile of the type of player the Cavs need.

    4. Suffers from many of the same problems as 1, except Aaron Gordon is probably too young to contribute at the championship level AND can't shoot, Frye isn't best utilized as a 4 and is also mediocre defensively, and Jason Smith is just plain bad.

    There is an interesting trade with PHX centered around Markieff Morris, PJ Tucker, and some other pieces that would work...but meh.

    1. I can see why it would look that way at first glance. The thing about it is that I really doubt that Cleveland can pull of an All-Star for All-Star trade with Love given that A) very few teams are moving wings for bigs anymore and B) how poorly he has played for them the last 2 seasons.

      1) I'm higher on Leonard than most. He's a 23-year old big man with great physical tools whose gotten better with every year. There's still a ton of upside in his game and I think he would thrive as a small-ball 5 next to LeBron at the 4. AFA also shoots 35% from 3 this season - he's really worked to improve that aspect of this game. I think LeBron at the 4 would also open up more PT for Crabbe and you can never have enough wings in the modern game.

      4) I'm a big Aaron Gordon guy and I think he'd surprise people with what he can do if he was given a chance on a big stage. Frye would be great as a stretch 5 in Cleveland and I think you could work it out with him at the 5 and Thompson a the 4 on most nights.

    2. I guess this is why I don't like playing the "Who says no?" game.

      Just last off-season Love was being courted as a MAX player by multiple teams. Just two seasons ago he was the best offensive force at Power Forward in the league (over even Blake Griffin). Lest we forget, the Cleveland starting unit with a healthy Mozgov playing next to Love was obliterating the opposition only a season ago.

      I mention all of this to say that we can't be prisoners of the moment. Love has a history that shows if you utilize him a certain way he can be very effective. Calling his play over the last two seasons "poor" is so reductive as to be absurd. Even if I humored the argument that his play has been poor; Is that indicative of him being a poor player or him being utilized poorly? Are we really going to be so naive as to assume that NBA GMs don't value his skill set due to some poor showings against marquee teams? Isn't it clear already that some players just need a change of pace/system/personnel to be their best.

      For Love, the model is very simple. Put a rim protector around him, mix up his offensive touches with PnR/PNP, Spot-ups, Post-ups, elbow touches, DHOs, etc. and he can be a great hub.

      1. The Cavs aren't in a bind to trade Love yet. The idea that Meyers Leonard, a player that is nowhere near as good as Love, would be a viable solution for this championship window is a bit absurd. That's not to say he doesn't have upside, he just hasn't shown ANY consistency AT ALL. AFA has had two seasons of average 3-pt shooting on suspect volume. Is that really someone to depend on in high leverage games? I love some of the defense, dirty work, and rebounding, but his ball skills leave a lot to be desired as well. I like Crabbe, but he isn't a notable upgrade.

      4. Aaron Gordon has an intriguing skill set, the issue is that he can't shoot and he seems to need the ball in his hands to be at his best. Frye two years ago was a solid stretch 5 for a Suns team that couldn't even make the playoffs with two borderline all stars. He's over 30 and doesn't solve the Draymond/Duncan/LMA problem. He will be put in PnR and abused as well.

      Honestly, the best move for the Cavs is to stick it out with Love and try to utilize him better. In many ways the fault should probably fall on Lebron and Blatt. Lebron has to understand that he can't just hold the ball and allow great defenses to load up on him. Blatt has added some nice stuff to get Lebron coming off screens attacking the basket but they just don't go to these things enough. In general, Blatt's offense doesn't really allow Love/Lebron to get those left elbow touches with cutters and space around them. There is a way to make the puzzle pieces fit (as evidenced by their post-AS success last year) but it's going to require unselfishness and hard work.

      The crazy thing is, even if they find that balance they might STILL not be able to beat the Spurs/Warriors. That's just how great those two teams are.

      As a GM or Owner trading Love for pennies on the dollar will never be the solution.