When the Cleveland Cavaliers signed Kevin Love to a four-year, $120 million extension in the summer of 2018, there was a fair bit of head-scratching going on. LeBron James had just left for the Los Angeles Lakers. Kyrie Irving was in Boston. The Cavs were very clearly headed for a rebuild, whether Dan Gilbert wanted to admit or not, and Love didn't fit on that timeline.
The assumption was the Cavs would eventually trade Love, who perhaps, in the era of short-term star contracts leaving teams in the lurch, would be a more attractive asset given the long-term team control of his deal. But the Cavs never traded Love. Every day they sat on their hands watching whatever minimal market value he had in the first place -- on a max deal north of 30 years old -- fall off a cliff.
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Now, the Cavs are finally ready to operate on the premise that they stink. Collin Sexton is reportedly available, and Love's place on the team -- which never made much sense post-LeBron -- is officially pointless. But with two years and $60 million left on his deal, who's going to trade for him?
That, possibly, was where the Olympics could've come in, providing Love, for whatever minutes available to him, a stage to show he can still play at a high level. But now Love has pulled out of the Olympics due to a right calf injury, so he'll go into the offseason with his most recent showcase being the 25 games he played for the Cavs this past season, which were basically worthless as a realistic evaluation tool.
Love is not the same player anymore, but he likely still has plenty to offer as a floor-stretching shooter who can handle the boards. The Miami Heat have been rumored to be interested in a deal that would net them Love and Collin Sexton.
A trade of any kind would get the Cavs at least something in return for a player they have essentially wasted, and it would keep Love from having to go the buyout route, which could cost him a lot of money. When Blake Griffin agreed to a buyout with the Pistons, he forfeited some $13 million.
Whether it's a buyout or a trade, Love wants out of Cleveland as badly as Cleveland wants him off its books. Love has said the right things through the last few years, but his feelings are clear. He wants to compete again. If he is bought out, the Warriors, according to Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle, could become an aggressive suitor.
"The Warriors have been flirting with the idea of adding Kevin Love to their roster for years, and that courting might turn into a full-court press this month," Simmons wrote.
"There is growing sentiment around the league that Love will negotiate a buyout with Cleveland and sign a veteran-minimum contract with a contender, with one of the options being the Warriors."
Certainly Golden State wouldn't be the only team bidding for Love's services. The Heat could forget a bigger deal including Sexton and just add Love on a minimum deal. The Portland Trail Blazers have long had ties to Love, and without cap space or many assets to swing a meaningful trade, adding a player like Love via a buyout would be highly attractive. But now Damian Lillard reportedly wants out, and if that were to happen, a full-scale rebuild could be in store, and we know Love has no place in that. One way or another, there will be Love suitors when the money isn't an issue.
If Love is bought out, the Cavs can stretch his remaining salary, minus whatever the buyout amount is, over five years, which would free up their books as they try to rebuild. It's a win-win for both Love and the Cavs. There's a good chance it's going to happen this summer. If it does, the only question is where Love will end up.