Lone Wolf: Analyzing Love’s standing as a Cavalier

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Following a grueling six-game series in the NBA Finals without two members of its Big Three due to injury,1 fan uncertainty swelled among the grip of Cleveland Cavaliers fans following a loss to the then one-time champion Golden State Warriors. 

It was Northeast Ohio’s beloved LeBron James’ completion of his second NBA Finals series as a Cavalier and the first for the likeness of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. With the uncertainty of what a Cavalier team would look like with a live legged Irving and an action armed Love, there was no guarantee that the third member of James’ second NBA trifecta would flash wine and gold among his chest for a second season in Cleveland.

Love’s first free agency frenzy as a member of the Cavaliers came quickly following the Cavs’ initial loss to the Warriors. While the nervousness among fans became apparent with reported significant interest among the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, little was known that the one-armed man that did not finish his inaugural season “healthy” in Cleveland, would be the lone man remaining from The Land’s basketball big three.

A year earlier, the former UCLA Bruin had pieced together a savvy season in Minnesota as the face of the franchise for the Timberwolves. While entering the final year of his contract, trade rumors reclined the association for one of basketball’s most underrated stars. 

There was no telling as to when or even if one of the pieces of the Cavaliers puzzle would be traded, but meanwhile, the man that wore 23 was already recruiting the man that eventually stopped Steph Curry in game seven of the 2016 NBA Finals to Cleveland in summer of 2015.

James first became enamored with Love during their stint with the USA Olympic basketball team in the 2012 summer Olympic Games when the idea of super teams significantly spiking interest among star players among a basketball league that is essentially run by its employees.

Three years later, a deal was in place for Love to become teammates with James for the “second” time in his basketball career, except this time it was permanently — or so it was thought.

The following summer with plans to become an unrestricted free agent, there was little guarantee that Love would remain a Cavalier. “King James” and “K-Love” were seen poolside as what was guessed by “Cavs twitter” to be a recruitment meeting to keep Kevin in Cleveland. Little was known that it was no recruitment meeting at all, rather just a simple relaxing day between teammates with a decision already made to sign a 5-year, $113 million deal with the Cavaliers. 

An annual tradition was apparent among critics for Love’s name to be featured in trade talks for countless reasons that sometimes seemed unexplained. Now, the player that was pursued by the Lakers and Celtics in free agency and trade talks years before is now the feature of trade talks once again, but this time as the lone wolf in Cleveland.

Ironic is an understatement to describe the shake out for Ohio’s professional basketball team that now has Love being the last man remaining, who was the center of so many proposed trade talks throughout the last four years. After Kyrie Irving being traded to the Celtics, and LeBron James signing with the Lakers in free agency, there is only one shining star left.

It has been reported that the four-year seasoned Cavalier was told by the organization that he should not expect to be traded, but that seems like complete nonsense. The Athletic essentially confirmed that the thought of keeping Love in Wine and Gold for a supposed one or two more seasons was indeed nonsense and that the team is actively shopping Love in the trade market.

The only all-star as a Cav left in Cleveland dictates the next decade of the shaping of the city’s basketball franchise. The dictation is not as much as James’ departure — but a significant amount for an organization facing a few major decisions. 

A trade that landed sharpshooting three-point shooter Kyle Korver in winter of 2017 has not yet been officially completed, and that’s more bad news for the Cavs. Mediocrity is the worst place to be in the NBA, and it’s even worse more so for a team that has a protected first round pick pulsing for the Atlanta Hawks if the Cavs finish within the top 20 best teams in the NBA. Essentially, if the Cavs finish the season with the outcome being outside the top ten picks in either the years 2019 or 2020, the Hawks will have secured the Cavaliers first-round pick.

There is thought that prideful Cavs owner Dan Gilbert wants to respectfully  “stick it” to LeBron, by keeping the team in competitive shape to secure a playoff seed at the bottom of the Eastern Conference — something that has not been done by a Cavaliers team Lebronless since the team drafted him in 2003. 

Pride can be costly in this case for Gilbert and the Cavaliers, as the itch to become the 8th seed in the playoffs will risk potential restoration for a team that lost James twice, in years to follow. The first step is doing right by Love, and indeed trading him to a contender to complete his NBA career.

Sure, the Cavs can take a gamble and make a Love the franchise’s star player for the foreseeable future, but it seems highly unlikely that he’d be interested in re-signing once again for a team that has no chance at competing for an NBA championship. 

Love’s market is at an all-time low, and there is no guessing as to what the Cavs could net in-return for their star player. Perhaps the Cavs could run the risk of waiting to trade him at the deadline, with the idea of increasing his value on a Cavalier team that is supposed to have Love record significant numbers. 

The Cavs are in no position to take any such risks and are best positioned to move on from their final star player. Trading away Love and basically trading away the Cavs’ playoffs chances would be a tough pill to swallow for Gilbert, but that is the aftermath of the price you pay for one LeBron James.

The five-time all-star may have little to no market, but there is a personal belief that the team could net a late round first round pick and a young asset for their NBA Champion player. No, this is not necessarily ideal but parting ways with Love now and for a potential package of two young assets is a great start at rebuilding a team that has collapsed once again.

  1. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love both missed the majority of the series due to injuries. []