In a nightmarish offseason where they saw their greatest player in franchise history leave for a second time, Cleveland was not been fazed and has turned their attention towards their new franchise cornerstone. The Cavaliers have signed All-Star forward Kevin Love to a four-year extension that will pay him around $30 million annually. While this signing has obvious implications for Cleveland, it also has a broad impact across many teams and events in the NBA.
The Teams Affected:
After losing LeBron to LA, Cleveland was left with more questions than answers in regards to the direction of the team. The series of deals they made at the trade deadline last season did not pan out as they hoped, and as a result they are left with an core consisting of Love and a group of average role players. Players such as JR Smith and George Hill will fetch almost nothing in the trade market due to their large contracts, but they can still contribute to the Cavs.
In addition to their plethora of overpaid vets, young players such as Larry Nance Jr., Rodney Hood, and Collin Sexton create a youthful core that should Cavaliers fans hope. While this roster situation gives Cleveland the tempting option to tank, they are choosing to stay competitive in a weak Eastern Conference.
However, the most important aspect of this deal is the flexibility the Cavaliers now have. It is clear now that they are going to attempt to stay competitive this year, and if that works out then they can ride this core and gradually try to acquire talent around Love. Although, if this experiment fails, Cleveland now has a very tradable contract that they can deal and jumpstart the rebuilding process.
The Atlanta Hawks:
In the deal that sent sharpshooter Kyle Korver to the Cavaliers, the Hawks obtained Cleveland’s 2019 unprotected first round pick. If the Cavaliers had chosen to blow the team up and rebuild, this would have been an extremely valuable pick. However, now that it is clear that is not the direction the team is headed in, the pick becomes less enticing to the retooling Hawks. Atlanta is probably the most negatively impacted team by this extension.
The Teams Competing for the Eighth Seed in the East:
Before diving into this let’s examine my current power rankings in the Eastern Conference.
- Boston Celtics
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Toronto Raptors
- Indiana Pacers
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Washington Wizards
- Miami Heat
I can not overemphasize just how open the race for the eighth spot in the East is right now. Any number of teams could be forgoing tanking in hopes of treating their fan base to a playoff appearance. For the franchises looking to do just that, their competition just got a little tougher. If the players on Cleveland’s roster can return to the excellent form many of them showed, which is a big if, they have the talent to compete for any of the bottom four playoff spots in the East. Because of this, teams like the Knicks or Bulls are likely unhappy that the Cavaliers are refusing to blow up the team.
Any Team That Needs a Stretch Four Who Can Score and Pass at a High Level:
The reason that this deal was unpopular to may was in large part due to what was perceived as a massive pay raise for Love. However, he is only making six million more in his extension than he will this season. Because of this, the narrative that the contract is untradable is entirely untrue.
Love is now a very intriguing trade piece to those teams in need of a big man. Teams such as Portland or Toronto, who before may have viewed a trade of this nature as a one year rental, now would receive Love under contract for four years which is much more attractive to potential trade partners. If the Cavaliers are struggling around the trade deadline, and a team believes they are an All-Star away from competing for a championship, I would not be surprised if Love was traded.
Other Fun Things That are a Result of the Extension:
The NBA might get to see Minnesota-era Kevin Love Again:
After four years in Cleveland where Love struggled with a reduced role and injuries, many NBA fans have forgotten how good he was in Minnessota. Over six seasons Love was the star of six bad teams in Minnesota and put up some crazy stats. As a 22 year old he led the league in rebounding at 15.2 per game while also scoring 20 points per game. He was a lethal scorer and a fantastic playmaker. Now that he is going to be in the spotlight once again in the midwest, it will be interesting to see if he can return to his previous form.
2019 Free Agency:
This year’s cycle of free agency resulted in an unprecedented number of players taking one year contracts with the hope of fetching more money next offseason. Because of this, 2019 free agency is now set to have an unusual amount of talent. The problem with this resides in the money teams will have to spend.
The projected cap in the 2019-2020 season is $108 million and as a result NBA teams will not have an abundance of money to spend on free agents. When taking these factors into account, it becomes clear that some players are going to have to settle for less money than they may had hoped.
Before his extension, Love could have opted into free agency next year, and likely would have received close to a max contract. Thanks to the new contract, that max money will be opened up to be spent on other players.
It is pretty insane how just one contract extension can impact so many aspects of a multi-billion dollar industry. Kevin Love is now one of the richest men in the NBA, and the league is altered because of it.