Wednesday 13 December 2017 / 04:53 AM

BREAKING DOWN THE CAVS’ LOVE DILEMMA

The Cavaliers embodied the ‘so close, but so far’ notion in bowing out of this year’s NBa Finals to a vastly superior Warriors outfit. Naturally, the immediate response is to find ways to improve the roster. The bare cupboard of assets, inconsistent play and defensive limitations land Kevin Love front and centre of trade rumours once again.

With the league descending into madness quickly after the off-season began, the rumour mill has gone into the usual overdrive. Let’s break down the Kevin Love dilemma.

Why do the Cavs want to trade him?

The current iteration of the Cavs isn’t beating this Warriors team. Simple.

All these frustrations have roots in this difficult problem, so these rumours are no stain on Love as a player. His inclusion in these talks are two-fold; he is the biggest (and only) asset the Cavs are willing to move (obviously LeBron and Kyrie are untouchable at present) that might help improve their roster, and he specifically doesn’t match up particularly well with Golden State. Which is strange to say, considering he was quite useful in Cleveland’s run.

Yes, Love has very desirable skills, being a big man who can shoot, post-up and rebound. Issue is, the Cavs don’t have an offensive problem. They scored just fine, they have LeBron. They need to stop their opponents, and that isn’t a Love strong suit whatsoever. Whilst again, he was ok defensively in the Finals, he isn’t going to lock down any potent attacking weapons (which is tough when everyone on GS is that) and was consistently burned on switches by Curry and Durant.

Swap in a defensive stopper there and maybe the Cavs swing a few points, that changes the outcome.

Who is rumoured to be targeted?

Cleveland have reportedly got their eyes on either Paul George or Jimmy Butler, but other mentions of Carmelo Anthony and Demarcus Cousins have popped up frequently.

What do they need?

Defensive talent. Any hope of overcoming the juggernaut out west requires an upgrade on the current defensive options the Cavs employ. Whilst they could definitely use some extra rim protection, the presence of Tristan Thompson (who is solid defensively) will push that down the priority list. In that case, they need better stopping power on the wing. Durant and Green overwhelmed them on the perimeter, and wing players are the least susceptible to mismatches from switching.

Add an elite talent that can lock down on one of the main scoring threats, and now Lebron can move back to the effective ‘free-safety’ roaming role that he was so dominant in through the playoffs. This is why George and Butler are so high on their lists. Helps that they are both near elite scorers on top of that.

Are they realistic options?

Paul George and Jimmy Butler present the best fixes to the Cavs’ mismatches, but it’s fair to assume neither team is going to be interested in trading for Love straight-up — the Pacers already have prospect Myles Turner as a stretch big. And while they do fit together, it would be tying up all their resources in the front court which is never smart, whilst locking them in to a mediocre team. If they part with George, Love does nothing to help them rebuild.

Similar with Butler, and whilst the Bulls will then essentially require talent at every position, how Love helps advance the post-Butler rebuild is hard to grasp.

Not to mention they would both be directly creating a roadblock to future success in their own conference.

This would have to involve a third (or potentially more) team, and then the prospect of a trade involving one of these teams becomes a tad murkier. Phoenix have emerged as a possible suitor, apparently shopping the #4 overall pick in the Draft, but with all the movement atop the draft board it’s hard to say whether they are legitimate or just looking to boost the value with a bidding war.

What they shouldn’t do

Trade Kevin Love for Carmelo Anthony. Anthony is a terrific scorer. A late-clock assassin who can score from a range of areas on the floor and, as seen in his terrific Olympic career, a lethal spot-up shooter. The Cavs have all of that. What he isn’t, is even an average-level defender, not having played any high-level basketball of late and essentially disregarding that side of the floor during the season. That’s something the Cavs really don’t need. The equation is simple.

If they can add him through some other method, that’s fine, they just can’t give up their best asset for him.

I’d also be skeptical of trading for DeMarcus Cousins. The appeal of having an elite big man to fault the small-ball oriented teams is understandable, but DMC has moved further to the perimeter every year, requires the ball for peak output and continues to shoot more, which would prove counterproductive. And that’s ignoring the massive flight risk that is the Cousins experience.

What they should do

Proceed with caution, play the market.

Paul George is undoubtedly available, but he has made his intentions of joining the Lakers in a year very clear. Losing him for nothing would be devastating, and the rumours of LeBron considering leaving Cleveland makes that an especially frightening scenario. Because of his superior shooting to Butler, he is the best option available, but if they approach him as a rental they will need to pay accordingly.

Butler is a great alternative option, and he would be under contract for two seasons which mitigates the risk somewhat. His fit defensively is perfect, but it would be dependent on him improving his spot-up shooting drastically to fit in. It isn’t a tough ask, but it means the trade wouldn’t be the desired home-run.

Couple this with the particularly tough scenarios they would be looking to pull off, and all signs point to it being a tough ask. Dealing Love makes plenty of sense, but it has to be for someone who is going to impact the game differently than he already was, otherwise they are best holding onto him until a more appropriate offer presents itself.

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About the author

Brayden Issa

Brayden is a Sydney-based sports management student and sports fanatic, specialising in rugby league, basketball, football and cricket. He is concerned with everything related to professional sports performance and management.

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