If LeBron James bolts for a new team this summer, the Cavaliers will need to look at ways to pivot towards a rebuild. One of the first steps would clearly be finding a way to move Kevin Love, who is owed nearly $50 million over the final two years of his contract.
That’s a steep price to pay for a team starting a rebuild, but a fair price for a team like the Wizards, who need a jolt after this season’s disappointing campaign. Let’s examine what Love brings to the table and if he’s worth pursuing in a trade.
Why Kevin Love would be a good fit
Love would be a “win now” move for the Wizards that could help them address some key areas of concern. His efficient shooting and rebounding would be a boon for Washington, which finished 13th in rebounding and 14th in offensive rating.
Adding Love (who shot 41.5 percent from deep) along with Bradley Beal (who shot 37.5 percent) and Otto Porter (44.1 percent) would give John Wall more firepower than he’s ever had in Washington, and allow them to play different lineups, depending on the situation. If they want to go big, they can pair him a center. If they want to go small, they can bring in Oubre and put Love at the 5, where he excelled with Cleveland last season. If they want to switch everything, they can play Love and Morris together.
Furthermore, as a player that has played for a club that has made four consecutive NBA Finals appearances, Love offers a great deal of playoff experience in high-pressure situations. He has played in 63 playoff games in his career and has shown he’s willing to sacrifice personal accolades to win.
The first issue is matching salaries in the trade. Washington would need to send out Marcin Gortat, Jason Smith, and either Jodie Meeks, Kelly Oubre Jr., or Tomas Satoransky just to make the money work. From there, they would likely need to add a future pick as sweetener. That is a steep price to pay for someone who has missed at least 20 games in each of the past two seasons.
The other issue is the luxury tax. Washington has a lot of money tied up in their current core. Bringing in Love could make it difficult for the team to afford Kelly Oubre’s next contract if he sticks around, and it would force them to make other salary-shredding moves that hurt their depth and flexibility. This summer, for instance, they would be hard-pressed to keep Mike Scott and Ian Mahinmi would be their best big man.
There’s also the risk of Love’s impending free agency in 2020. If the Wizards let him walk, it means they gave up a first round pick for two years of a player, and they wouldn’t even get much benefit from his expiring deal. If they keep him, it could mean they’re overpaying someone who will be 31 at the start of his new contract.
Earlier this week André Snellings, an ESPN NBA Insider, proposed a trade that would ship Love and another player to Washington, but it would come at a very steep price.
Wizards get: Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, the eighth overall pick
Cavaliers get: Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat, the 15th overall pick
The reasoning for this trade is that it could help James to stay in Cleveland. It would also allow Washington to address their frontcourt depth while adding a lottery-level talent. However, it would come at the expense of Beal, who is an All-Star shooting guard who has gotten better every season.
The possible trade that was mentioned by ESPN would absolutely change the face of the franchise. Instead of having a dynamic outside scoring threat in Beal, they’d opt for the oft-injured Love. It’s also anyone’s guess how Smith would adjust to life in D.C. after an unfortunate end to his time in Cleveland.
If the Wizards get a stud with the eighth pick, it could all be worth it, but that’s a big risk which could ruin what’s left of John Wall’s prime in Washington. Either way, Love’s performance wouldn’t be the key indicator of whether or not the trade worked or not.
The final decision
To be completely frank, this club needs to acquire assets for the future. If they can add draft picks, siphon off some unneeded salary and still healthy and competitive, that’s their ideal short-term future. As things stand with the club, adding Love would be a quick fix, but it’s hard to see how it helps enough in the short-term to justify the concerns in the long-term.