Kevin Love is expected to seriously study the free-agent market this summer and consider leaving the Cavaliers after one year with the franchise, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.
“He’s got options,” the Yahoo! Sports NBA insider said in a radio appearance on The Jason McIntyre Show on Yahoo! Sports Radio. “He could stay another year [by not opting out] and go into free agency next year.
“But he’s had injuries, and he might just want to sign a four-year deal somewhere else,” Wojnarowski added.
Love, Cleveland’s starting power forward, is out for the postseason after suffering a shoulder injury in Game 4 of Cleveland’s first-round series in Boston.
Incidentally, those Celtics could be in play for Love this summer, along with the Lakers and Rockets.
“I think he’s going to look around,” Wojnarowski said. “I think he’s going to look closely at Boston. I think he’ll look at LA. I’m sure the Texas teams are going to try and get involved.
“If you remember, he really liked Kevin McHale in Minnesota,” Wojnarowski continued. “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.
“I think he’ll be in play. He could stay where he is, but there’s no question he’s going to look long and hard at what his options are.”
Whether Love stays in Cleveland or exits, Wojnarowski said Love would like to have a greater sense of what his role would be on a given team and potentially what players he’d be surrounded with.
“He sort of took the trade to Cleveland without really talking about what his role would be, or discussing with [David] Blatt how he’d be used,” Wojnarowski said.
The Yahoo! insider referred to Boston in particular as a “real, legitimate possibility”.
“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,” he said.
Wojnarowski pointed out that the Cavaliers could potentially do a sign-and-trade for Love, allowing them to recoup some value. However, should Love choose a destination such as Boston that already has cap room, he’d have no financial incentive to accept a sign-and-trade, much like what happened to the Lakers when Dwight Howard chose the Rockets back in July 2013.
“It would be difficult,” Wojnarowski said.
One obvious downside for the Cavaliers is that Love’s postseason injury cut short a chance for both Blatt and Love to further integrate him into the system. In the regular season, Love’s numbers dipped from averages of 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game in 2013-14 in Minnesota to 16.4 points and 9.7 rebounds with Cleveland in 2014-15.
“I know they’re 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.”
Love has a deadline of June 30 to notify Cleveland of his intentions to exercise his player option or opt out and become a free agent this summer.
MILLSAP SAYS HAWKS’ CLOSENESS WILL PLAY KEY ROLE IN FREE AGENCY
Like Love, another marquee power forward option in this summer’s free agency is Paul Millsap, whose Hawks were just eliminated by the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday night.
But unlike the situation in Cleveland, Millsap was clearly comfortable with his role in Atlanta, and he says their closeness could play a key role in his decision.
From Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“I think looking at different options, looking at this team, looking at what we’ve built thus far, in weighing my options I can’t make a decision right now,” Millsap said. “It’s been a long series, a long year, for me and the team. Let things die down, cool off, relax and think about it a little bit. We are a family. This team is close. It will play a lot into the decision.”
Millsap, who averaged 16.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game with the Hawks this season, figures to get a significant raise from the two-year, $19-million deal he signed with Atlanta in July 2013. He’s even expanded his game to become a behind-the-arc threat, giving him more value in a shooter’s league.
The bigger questions in all this could come from Atlanta’s side and whether Hawks’ ownership is willing to pay Millsap at the rate he’s likely to command. Small forward DeMarre Carroll is also set to become a free agent and earn a big salary raise, and the team’s loss to Cleveland clearly exposed a need to bring in more depth across the board and additional rebounding up front.
Can the Hawks accomplish that while also spending big on both Carroll and Millsap? Time will tell.
OTHER NEWS FROM AROUND THE LEAGUE
In an appearance on Colin Cowherd’s show on ESPN Radio, Dudley held little back:
“Most guys don’t want to play with Kobe,” Dudley said. “He gets in this thing where he doesn’t pass and then overpasses and then tries to get triple doubles every night…that’s why I think it will be a while for the Lakers to get good because they’ve got no stars. I would be surprised if (Kevin) Love goes there.”
The potential of that burden on free agents could be why Los Angeles GM Mitch Kupchak has reiterated of late that Bryant is likely to retire after the 2015-16 season.
Some rival executives believe the Brooklyn Nets are set to explore the trade marketplace for Mason Plumlee, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com.
This task certainly would have been simpler, had the Nets sold high on Mason Plumlee and traded him when the calls were flooding in early the previous season … when the going rate for centers was so favorable.
It’s unavoidably tantalizing to think about what the Nets might have gotten for Plumlee, had they actively shopped him before he fell out of favor — bearing in mind the two future first-round picks Denver extracted from Cleveland for Timofey Mozgov.
Some rival executives think the Nets might go ahead and explore the Plumlee marketplace anyway, in hopes teams remember his dogged play for Team USA the past summer more than his struggles to get on the floor under first-year Nets coach Lionel Hollins.
Plumlee, who averaged 8.7 points and 6.2 rebounds in 21 minutes per game, has at least two more years of cheap labor left on his rookie-scale deal, making him a cap-friendly target for many teams around the league in need of an extra big man. His slow fall from Hollins’ rotation in Brooklyn could also indicate that the Nets don’t see him as a major piece of their puzzle.
That said, skilled centers who are 6-foot-11 and 25 years old don’t grow on trees, and Brooklyn GM Billy King undoubtedly knows that. Expect his asking price to be high, unless the team taking Plumlee also shows willingness to absorb a bad contract like Deron Williams or Joe Johnson.
Ben DuBose is a veteran sports reporter who has followed the Houston Rockets and the NBA since Hakeem Olajuwon was Akeem Olajuwon. He writes for both SheridanHoops and ClutchFans, an independent Rockets blog. You can follow him on Twitter.