OTG's NBA Trade Deadline Marathon: Day 7.5
*The Cleveland Cavaliers trade Kevin Love to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Paul George and Kyle Singler*
Apparently, Kevin Love no longer fits in.
Amid the Cavaliers’ most recent struggles, including a horrendous 148-124 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in front on a national television audience last week, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Cavs had a player’s only meeting where the issue of Love’s perceived lack of general effort and “illness” prior to the game against OKC were at center of the discussion.
To anyone who has been watching, Cleveland’s struggles cannot be solely traced to Love’s play. But this scoop is not a new phenomenon for LeBron James’ teams.
First it was Chris Bosh in Miami. Then Kyrie in Cleveland. Increasingly at each turn there is always one player, usually another star, who finds co-existing with James to be a tall task. Bosh said as much when the Cavs traded for Love in 2014 and was largely dismissed as a bitter former teammate in South Beach. Now, for whatever reason, the fire seems trained on Love.
This Cavs team seems different. They may ultimately turn it on late, but it is possible they could face a combination of Milwaukee, Toronto and Boston in route to a rematch with the Warriors in the NBA Finals. They need something – anything--to give this squad a spark.
If Thunder General Manager Sam Presti is a willing partner, then trading Love for Thunder forward Paul George is the answer.
From Cleveland’s perspective, the trade makes sense. James gets a coveted two-way wingman to take some of the scoring and defensive burden. Having George in the line-up also helps head coach Tyronn Lue set his rotation, fortifying the second unit.
Best case scenario, the Cavs defeat the Warriors in the Finals, James re-ups and convinces George to do the same. The front office builds around these two for the next few years. Worst case, the Cavs are throttled in the Finals and James and George bolt to Los Angeles, having learned to play together on Cleveland’s dime.
But even that is not the “worst” worst case. Even if James and George bolt, the Cavs still have their Brooklyn pick, which although not likely a top 3 selection, can still help the rebuilding process. A process that was originally set to begin in 2014.
Oklahoma City gives Love the proverbial fresh start. Things do not seem to be working out for him in The Land and as history has shown, when things go south on James teams, they go south in a hurry. He is reunited with former UCLA teammate Russell Westbrook and fortifies the Thunder’s interior defense. What he gives up in George’s steals, he makes up for in rebounds.
Love is not the defender that George is, but he is not a slouch either. His spot-up shooting has improved over the last few seasons and he doesn’t need the ball in his hands like George to be effective on offense. Love also allows Carmelo Anthony to move to his more natural small forward position, which alongside Steven Adams, makes for a formidable frontcourt.
With Love under contract for the next few seasons, Presti has his core intact and can focus on pursuing other free agents to address other team needs, namely bench scoring. Presti may ask for the Brooklyn Nets draft pick to sweeten the pot, but I wouldn’t let that be a deal breaker. A late lottery pick cannot help Oklahoma City as much as Love can.
The Thunder have a committed Westbrook under contract. He stayed when he could have left. I think management should continue to do right by him and surround him with talented players and Love is definitely talented. Time for Love to fit out of Cleveland.