Cleveland Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers' Next Big Step Is to Trade for Kevin Love

Nov 4, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love (42) and Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Tristan Thompson (13) at Quicken Loans Arena. Cleveland won 93-92. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports
Greg SwartzCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterJuly 11, 2014

The Cleveland Cavaliers just brought LeBron James home.

Could another superstar soon be on the way?

While reports previously surfaced that the Cavs were interested in trading for Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star forward Kevin Love, the signing of James now makes a deal for Love more likely.

Marc Stein of ESPN says that Love is looking at Cleveland in a whole new light.

Chris Broussard of ESPN had previously confirmed Love's interest in the Cavaliers, should they land James.

Depending on what they would have to give up to acquire Love, a core of the T-Wolves forward, James, Irving, Andrew Wiggins and Anderson Varejao would automatically be one of the best teams in the NBA. After all, Love is just 25 years old to go along with the 29-year-old James, 22-year-old Irving and 19-year-old Wiggins.

Now with James on board, the Cavs have a tremendous opportunity to take yet another step toward a title by landing an additional superstar in Love.

 

Love's Contract Situation

Set to make $15.7 million this season, Love can (and almost certainly will) opt out of his $16.7 million player option for 2015-16.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - April 9: Kevin Love #42 of the Minnesota Timberwolves handles the ball against the Chicago Bulls during the game on April 9, 2014 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by d
David Sherman/Getty Images

This makes any trade for Love quite tricky. Without any assurance from him or his agent, the Cavs could risk getting him as a one-year rental, even after signing James.

Would Cleveland be willing to trade for Love, knowing that he could opt out and leave after just one season?

I believe so, although it would definitely affect the compensation being offered for his services.

 

Compensation for Love

Even after dumping Tyler Zeller, Sergey Karasev and a top-10-protected 2016 first-round pick in a cap-space-clearing deal, the Cavaliers are still loaded with attractive trade assets.

With Minnesota likely asking for draft picks, young talent and salary relief, here's what the Cavs could offer:

  • Wiggins, who was 2014's first overall pick and has unlimited upside
  • Dion Waiters, the fourth overall pick in 2012, who averaged 19.3 points and 3.7 assists after the All-Star break last season
  • Tristan Thompson, 2011's fourth overall pick, who finished sixth in NBA offensive rebounding last year
  • Anthony Bennett, 2013's first overall pick, who's dropped significant weight this offseason
  • 2015 first-round pick from Miami Heat, top-10 protected
  • 2015 first-round pick from Memphis Grizzlies, protected from Nos. 1 to 5 and 15 to 30
  • 2015 first-round pick (Chicago Bulls have right to swap first-rounders)

Naturally, the first asset that Minnesota should ask for is Wiggins. After him, Waiters stands as the best trade chip. In 24 games as a starter last season, Waiters averaged 18.3 points and 3.5 assists.

 

Could Waiters be going to Minnesota for Love?
Could Waiters be going to Minnesota for Love?Gary Dineen/Getty Images

Thompson, 23, and Bennett, 21, are both young power forwards who could slide into Love's former position in Minnesota. While Thompson is much more developed and is a nightly double-double threat (36 last season), Bennett possesses the greater upside.

While he struggled through his rookie season by being severely out of shape and playing in a Mike Brown-crafted offense, Bennett could still be quite good.

It's worth noting that as he got more comfortable last season, Bennett's field-goal percentage jumped from 31.8 percent before the All-Star break to 47.3 percent after.

Cleveland also has prospects Carrick Felix, Matthew Dellavedova, Scotty Hopson and Joe Harris to offer.

Varejao's name could also come up, but the Cavs will almost certainly hang on to him given that he's a friend of James. Varejao is the only current Cavalier to have played with James during his first stay in Cleveland, and the two have a good relationship to this day.

 

CLEVELAND - MAY 20: LeBron James #23 and Anderson Varejao #17 of the Cleveland Cavaliers look on against the Orlando Magic in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2009 Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 20, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOT
Elsa/Getty Images

The Cavs have plenty to offer for Love, but what combination of picks and players would satisfy both sides?

 

Trade Package

A Cavaliers trade proposal for Love will revolve around one question: What are the chances he'll re-sign?

Obviously James now plays a huge role in this, but doesn't necessarily mean Love is a lock to re-sign.

First of all, Wiggins should be off limits no matter what. The Timberwolves know they'll likely lose Love this offseason. The main leverage they possess are other strong potential offers (Golden State Warriors) on the table as well.

In any proposal Minnesota receives, it won't get a player with as much upside as Wiggins. The Cavs don't necessarily have to include him to put together a strong offer.

 

Cleveland shouldn't trade Wiggins, even for Love.
Cleveland shouldn't trade Wiggins, even for Love.USA TODAY Sports

Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today reports that the Cavaliers have already told Wiggins he won't be traded, which is absolutely the right move without an extension confirmation from Love.

With Wiggins off the table, Cleveland will almost have to include Waiters. The 22-year-old guard would blossom as a starter playing next to a pass-first point guard like Ricky Rubio.

Next, the Cavs would either have to send Thompson, Bennett or possibly both. Again, if Love hasn't committed, there's no way Cleveland should offer the two together. Let Minnesota choose one or the other.

Draft picks now come into play.

With three first-rounders to offer in the upcoming draft, Cleveland should be willing to part with every last one to land Love.

Even with no assurance from Love, the Cavs should feel comfortable offering the Timberwolves a package of Waiters, Bennett and three 2015 first-round picks. Brendan Haywood ($2.2 million) could also be added to help match up salaries.

Such a deal would net the Cavaliers a core of James, Irving, Love, Wiggins, Thompson and Varejao while still leaving them with the mid-level exception ($5.3 million) and bi-annual exception ($2.08 million), to bring in free agents, per Basketball-Insiders.com.

Now with James, they need to focus on trading for Love, even if it means parting with much of their young talent and draft picks.

Is it risky?

Absolutely.

Cleveland can afford to take a gamble like it never has before. If we've learned anything recently, it's that luck and good fortune may finally be on the Cavaliers' side.

 

Stats provided by ESPN.com unless otherwise noted. Salary figures via shamsports.com.

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