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Kevin Love’s Hall of Fame credentials: While We’re Waiting…

(Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Back at it with another segment of The Boots this week. As always, I’m assigning Boot Up and Boot Down comments to recent sports news items.

Boot Up: Kevin Love for the Hall of Fame? – Now that he has re-signed for the long-term in Cleveland, and we can put the silly season trade rumors to bed, it’s time to talk a little bit more about Kevin Love’s legacy. As it stands, the soon-to-be 30-year-old is a five-time All-Star, two-time All-NBA honoree, NBA champion (2016) and Olympic gold medalist (2012).

Those honors alone would put him bring him darn close to Hall of Fame contention. He’s one of only 12 NBA/ABA players to average at least 18 points and 11 rebounds per game in a career spanning over 600 games, per Basketball-Reference.com. The other players on that list – Schayes, Petit, Baylor, Chamberlain, Reed, Bellamy, Hayes, Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Barkley, and Olajuwon – are a who’s who of some of the greatest big men in league history.

Assuming good health, one would certainly imagine that his upcoming production more closely mirrors his final four seasons in Minnesota (23.5 points, 13.7 rebounds) than his first four in Cleveland (17.1 points, 10.0 rebounds). WFNY’s own Scott Sargent wrote about that in his Bleacher Report recap of the contract extension. Love already ranks in the top-100 all-time in both three-pointers made and total rebounds, one of only six such players within both thresholds. His unique skill set and accomplishments provide a clear glimpse of today’s modern NBA.

The Basketball Hall of Fame certainly is not quite as strict as the Baseball Hall of Fame. International contributions, multiple All-Star nods and record-setting numbers of any kind can bring a lot of names into the fabled halls of Springfield, Mass. With a few more All-Star worthy seasons, it’s quite easy to see Kevin Love making his way into the Hall of Fame. And boy, it would sure be neat to see him do so in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform.

 

Boot Down: The sad, sad reality of the Browns offensive stats – In the lead-up to some more Browns coverage at WFNY today, I brought out this terribly depressing series of passing statistics:

Over his past three seasons as a full-time starter in Buffalo, Tyrod Taylor has totaled 51 passing touchdowns and 16 interceptions in 44 games. He threw 20 TDs in 2015, then 17 in 2016 and only 14 last season. His strength is in avoiding turnovers – DeShone Kizer threw 22 last season alone – and that will certainly be a welcome sign on its own.

But goodness gracious. It’s perhaps worthwhile to thus reflect on the franchise offensive leaders since 1999 and how it stacks up league-wide:

Passing yards: Tim Couch 11,131. Couch put up those stats in 62 games with the Browns (average: 179.5 yards per game). This is the No. 62 mark of all quarterbacks dating back to 1999.

Rushing yards: Isaiah Crowell 3,118 yards. Crowell, as previously noted in The Boots in March, accumulated these stats in his 64 games over four seasons (average: 48.7 yards per game). That is the No. 103 leader of all rushing yards since 1999.

Receiving yards: Kevin Johnson 3,836 yards. Well, ain’t this the best of the bunch. KJ accomplished his receiving yards in 73 games over the first four-and-a-half seasons of the new Browns era (average: 52.5 yards per game). These yards for the Browns alone would rank No. 154 out of all receiving leaders since 1999. Woof.

 

Boot Up: Letting go of prospects – Last week’s trade of Francisco Mejia brought back intense flashbacks of another time the Cleveland Indians let go of an up-and-coming catcher prospect. And in the span of time since that last trade, my whole mindset on youngster-for-veteran trades has changed drastically.

In July 2006, the Indians dealt 37-year-old veteran closer Bob Wickman off to the Atlanta Braves for Max Ramirez. At age 21, Ramirez was a hot-shot prospect who to me, as a teenage baseball fan, I totally thought was a guaranteed sure thing in the big leagues. Of course, just 12 months later, the Indians then dealt Ramirez over to Texas for another aging veteran of their own, Kenny Lofton, for the wild 2007 playoff run.

The Max Ramirez trade, to me, was a heart-breaker. Why give up on a 22-year-old above-average hitting catcher for a 40-year-old guy clearly on his last legs?! Even for as well as the rest of 2007 went, and how Lofton provided a spark to that roster, I thought it was a clear miss. I thought Ramirez definitely was going to be a star (fact-check: he played only 45 games in the majors).

Which brings us to last week’s trade of Mejia, 22, for two long-term controlled major league relievers in Brad Hand and Adam Cimber. The trades couldn’t be more different outside of the young Cleveland Indians catchers involved! I have absolutely no qualms this time around in giving up on the future potential stardom that Mejia may have in the big leagues.

Two things have altered my thinking over time in comparison to these trades. One … we thankfully aren’t dealing with 40-year-old Kenny Lofton anymore. And two, contention windows are not exactly a real thing. The Indians should be preparing themselves for consistent contention for 2019-and-beyond.

Mejia’s presence would be a part of a new, new rebuild. Steve Kinsella wrote a 2012 article about abolishing the word “rebuild” and, to me, it is partly why this trade feels so good. The Indians are filling gaps in the roster for now and the future given the impending potential free agency of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. At this stage of the game, it’s just fine to let go of prospects who may or may not turn out to be anything.

 

Boot Down: Coming to terms with not tanking – Speaking of prospects, the contract extension for Kevin Love likely tilts the scales toward the Cavaliers not maintaining their 2019 top-10 protected first-round pick. And to throw my take in the ring for just a minute … it might not be the end of the world.

These new Cavs, post-LeBron again, will be quasi-rebuilding around Love, Larry Nance Jr. (the next likely extension candidate), Cedi Osman, Ante Zizic, Collin Sexton, et al. It’s still unclear if Rodney Hood will sign any type of multi-year deal, but he’s the type of player at the right age and right position who could fit alongside this core, too. Jordan Clarkson and Tristan Thompson will be sticking around for better or for worse. That’s going to be the center of this roster.

Right now, it screams like a team capable of winning 30-some odd games. That could be enough to compete for a measly No. 8 seed in the lowly Eastern Conference … or it could certainly be right at the verge of the top-10 position for keeping the 2019 draft pick. It’s going to be darn close, depending on any other moves to come. Ultimately, it’ll be a more entertaining team with a lot more credibility for the short-term. Investing in Kevin Love earns some kudos around the league and will be noticed by other player-agents.

Back in 2013, I wrote a long, long feature of The Diff comparing the Cavs’ trajectory at that time that of other long-term franchise models. The good side of those examples was obviously the Oklahoma City Thunder; the less sexy version was the Atlanta Hawks or the Memphis Grizzlies.

Success is relative; the Hawks accomplished 10 straight playoff appearances. Luck is also a major factor; The Thunder got undoubted Hall of Famers at No. 2 (Kevin Durant), No. 4 (Russell Westbrook) and No. 3 (James Harden) in back-to-back-to-back drafts. There are models of franchise success where teams hover around playoff mediocrity, don’t tank, and things are mostly fine! We all will survive. The basketball will be more enjoyable as a result.