Yes, we’ve been down this road before. And no, it doesn’t exactly line up with the plan of having cap space for two max-free agents this summer. But if these issues in Cleveland continue and they look to make a big move, the Los Angeles Lakers should give serious consideration to a trade for Kevin Love.
The Lakers and Cavaliers have reportedly held trade conversations, with Jordan Clarkson’s name speculated as being discussed, so why not just go big?
My idea: Clarkson, Julius Randle, Corey Brewer’s expiring contract, and the 2020 first-round pick (Nos. 1-10 protected) for Love. You could also replace Brewer with Lopez’s expiring and add Channing Frye’s and Jose Calderon’s expiring deals to make the money work.
But I prefer the first scenario. I completely understand the Lakers’ plan of luring two free agents this summer and it makes sense, but it’s also a huge risk.
Potentially trading good, young pieces like Clarkson and/or Randle simply to clear up space, without any assurances of a star coming is very dangerous. And it’s not like the Lakers have a good recent history of convincing big names to sign.
Admittedly, things are different now with president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka in the front office. Add to that a young core of Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, and Lonzo Ball showing more promise than ever. But that still doesn’t make things a lock.
You know what does help stars sign with a new team? Other stars. And for as much flak as Kevin Love has gotten, he was just named to his second straight All-Star Game and fifth overall.
Love would be a great fit for the Lakers scheme and what head coach Luke Walton wants to do. He would basically give the Lakers what they expected offensively from Brook Lopez. He is averaging 18.2 points and 9.5 rebounds in less than 30 minutes per game.
Love would be easily the team’s best 3-point shooter (39.8 percent) and give a boost to the Lakers’ free-throw woes (88.3 percent). Plus, he would give the Lakers a true go-to scorer in the post, where he doesn’t get as much opportunity in Cleveland because of the team makeup.
Love is also one of the best outlet passers in the league, so he would be great at getting the break started for the Lakers.
Most importantly, however, he would give the Lakers an in-house star, along with the already existing young core that would seriously appeal to the likes of Paul George or DeMarcus Cousins in the summer.
The Lakers would still have room for one max-deal thanks to $40 million worth of expiring contracts in Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Additionally, they could still stretch Luol Deng’s contract for more salary cap space if necessary.
Of course, there is always the very real possibility that the Lakers are unable to lure a big name this summer. LeBron James has always been a long shot. Paul George, if taken at his word, seems more and more likely to remain in Oklahoma City.
And no one has any clue what to make of DeMarcus Cousins, especially now that his season is done after suffering a torn Achilles.
If the Lakers were to fail in their quest to land a big name, they could simply use their cap space intelligently while setting themselves up for another run in the summer of 2019.
Love’s contract is guaranteed for next year, but he has a player option that following summer. If he opts-out for one more big contract that frees up more cap space for the Lakers when Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, and Kyrie Irving will likely all be unrestricted free agents (Butler and Irving have player options).
If Love opts-in, he becomes a $25-million expiring contract that the Lakers could shop around if they desired.
This isn’t to say Love is an absolutely perfect fit. A Love-Lopez frontcourt would bring some serious concerns defensively. Love is not the quick, athletic type of player the Lakers are looking for in this defensive scheme.
There’s also the positional issue of Love playing the same spot as Kuzma. Playing smaller or bigger is always an option, but his time in Cleveland has proven that Love should not be the last line of defense as he provides little in terms of rim protection.
Needless to say there are some positional worries. Nonetheless, the positives outweigh the negatives in this instance.
There’s no proof that Love is even on the trade block or that the Lakers would be interested, but if the opportunity presents itself, the Lakers need to take a long look.
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