The Cavs are in the Finals again, which isn’t so shocking when you look at the Eastern Conference landscape and LeBron James‘ continued ability to strap an undermanned Knicks-ian team to his back for the duration of May and April. But Kevin Love didn’t play that big a role after dislocating his shoulder in Game 3 during the Celtics sweep. Being that Love can opt out of his contract this summer, word comes from Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Love’s all set to exercise that option and immerse himself in a free agency landscape that’s largely centered around LaMarcus Aldridge and Marc Gasol.
“I think he’s going to look closely at Boston,” Wojnarowski continued. “I think he’ll look at L.A. I’m sure the Texas teams are going to try and get involved.”
Houston could really use a power forward to stretch the floor and open up more paint opportunities for Dwight Howard and James Harden. They could also open up a third max slot this summer to sign him in free agency.
“If you remember, he really liked Kevin McHale in Minnesota,” Wojnarowski added. “Would he fit potentially in Houston? It seems like every summer, they have the ability to go out and create a max slot, and they do this summer again. They know they have the option to do that.
Terrence Jones played well in the 2015 NBA Playoffs, but he’s not a legitimate three-point threat. Plus, Donatas Motiejūnas is more effective on the block despite a natural form on his shot from deep. Love makes the Rockets better on the offensive end, but Love’s defense is still enough of a concern San Antonio is likely out if Love opts out. His defensive ills might also deter Daryl Morey from opening up the necessary cap space to sign Love, even though they offered Chris Bosh a sweetheart of a max deal to leave Miami last summer.
Boston is even a better fit, even if Kelly Olynyk needs to buy Love a few drinks.
Wojnarowski called Boston a “real, legitimate possibility,” and their front office is appealing.
“I think Boston would be interesting, because Stevens and Danny Ainge are a very interesting recruiting duo to sell him on how they’d use him there,” the Yahoo reporter said.
But why would Love — who claims he’s all about winning — leave a Cavs team poised to contend in the weak Eastern Conference for as long as LeBron James is in uniform? Woj attempted to answer that question as well, since it’s probably the biggest one the Cavs forward will face once the NBA Finals end later in June.
The real issue stems from how Love fits in coach David Blatt’s system. Kevin was the tertiary option on most nights, with Kyrie Irving and LeBron acting as the Wade/James duo from Miami, and Love acting as a spot-up three-point shooter, rather than the all-around scoring and rebounding threat he was in Minnesota. Woj, like us, thinks it would have worked itself out if Love had stayed healthy for the duration of the playoffs.
“I know [Cleveland’s] winning without him, but I think in time they would’ve figured out how to make that work, and make it work better than it was,” Wojnarowski said. “But Love also has to be willing to be a part of that and take on that role as the third guy.
“I think everybody has a better appreciation for how Chris Bosh handled things in Miami, and what he sacrificed in terms of scoring, shots and all of those things, and he did it very willingly,” he continued.
“With Love, leading into it, it was like ‘Hey, I can do this.’ And then when they started to do it, it didn’t go great. There are certainly a lot of questions for him to answer for himself.”
It should be noted, Love seemed to find a rhythm in Game 2 against the Celtics, and they looked downright nasty in the first quarter of Game 3, spreading the ball around and flashing it between shooting threats on the perimeter rather than the standstill, LeBron-heavy attack they’ve formed with the absence of Love and an injury-ravaged Kyrie Irving.
If Love is really smart, he opts in on the $16,744,218 he’s owed next season, sees if he can find a scoring balance with Kyrie and LeBron that aligns better with his ego and takes heftier advantage of his skills. Then, he hits the free agency market in the summer of 2016 when teams will be flush with TV-rights cash and the skyrocketing salary cap that will trigger.
Then again, maybe Cleveland upsets Golden State in the Finals, and Love turns into Cleveland’s version of an injured Caron Butler on the 2011 Mavs team: expendable simply because they won it all without him.
The allure of Los Angeles, where he went to college and he’ll get more endorsement opportunities; the coach and GM in Boston who will take full advantage of his skills; the natural on-court fit in Houston with their need for a traditional stretch four, are all possible destinations for Kevin Love.
He has until the last day in June to decide on his plans, which will give him at least two weeks after the conclusion of the Finals. Kevin Love has another choice to make, but this one might truly answer what he really wants in his NBA career: a championship, or individual acclaim. Sometimes, you just can’t have both.