Heading into the 2014-15 NBA season, the Cleveland Cavaliers traded their most recent first overall pick Andrew Wiggins and other assets to acquire Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves. To the casual fan, this looked like a solid move. LeBron was coming home, Kyrie was an up-and-coming star in the making and Love was an All-Star in Minnesota. However the time has come for the Cavs to break up this Big Three.
Love needs to be traded if the Cavs want any chance of a ring. The problem Love presents is directly tied to LeBron and Kyrie; Love needs the ball in his hands to make plays. However the offense is ball-dominated by LeBron and Kyrie. Love does not get nearly the touches he received in Minnesota, and in many games is relegated to simply being a spot-up three-point shooter. He is a much better player than that and for many teams would be the focal point of an offense. Both for Cleveland and the sake of the team acquiring him, moving Love would be a good deal.
Now what could the Cavs use to improve? We established above that a ball-dominant player is not an option. That leaves a couple of skills that this ideal trade acquisition would have. First, he would be an extraordinary spot-up shooter who moves well without the basketball. Defensively he would be able to lock up the opposing team’s best guard so that Kyrie, still somewhat of a limitation defensively, would be able to guard the weaker guard.
To picture the type of player that would be ideal, one needs go no further than Klay Thompson of the Warriors. Obviously he is not on the block … One player who comes to mind is Milwaukee shooting guard Khris Middleton. He is a six-foot seven-inch swingman who is widely regarded as a great defender and a solid shooter. Milwaukee would probably even trade the Cavs another impact piece, as in most circles Love would be considered more valuable; there is also Love’s high salary to cover. The Magic’s Victor Oladipo also could fulfill the same role for the Cavs, although he is a bit undersized to play the two and would leave the Cavs’ starting backcourt a little small.
There is another option. The Cavs can attempt to move Love for a starting power forward or center. With LeBron’s positional flexibility and the ability to slide a defensively sound Iman Shumpert into the starting lineup, a player who defends the rim, finishes inside, and maybe can space the floor out to around 18 feet would be an option. Basically a better rim defending, less ball-dominant Love.
One player sort of in this mold is Serge Ibaka, but the Thunder surely would not trade such an integral piece. Hassan Whiteside of the Heat would be an interesting option, along with Rudy Gobert of the Jazz. Both are giants in the paint who block a lot of shots. Neither are regarded as great floor spacers, but if LeBron is at the four that hardly matters.
Both players would get plenty of dunks off of passes from LeBron and Kyrie, and would defend on drives when players are beat off the dribble. When LeBron sits, the ability to play Tristan Thompson and the new big side by side would cause nightmares in the paint for opposing teams.
Love is a highly skilled basketball player. However on the floor with the Cavaliers, he is probably less important than he would be on the floor for any of the other 29 teams in the Association. Somebody might look at a Love for Middleton trade and think the Cavs got ripped off.
However the key is to put the best team on the floor, not the best players, and either a good shooting wing defender or a good finishing post defender give the Cavs the best chance to do that. Sure, moving Love would seem radical. However making a radical move might be the only chance the Cavs have to bring a championship to Cleveland with LeBron.