At 19-46, the Cavaliers had the worst record in the Eastern Conference when the NBA suspended its season in March. Given the Cavs’ performance over the last two seasons — coinciding with LeBron James‘ exit — it’s clear the Cavs need a rebuild. A big piece of the rebuild would mean trading Kevin Love and getting his big salary off Cleveland’s books.
This plan, however, seems like it will have to be pushed back due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the NBA.
Kevin Love’s contractual situation with the Cavaliers
The Cavs signed the veteran center to a four-year, $120 million extension in July 2018, details Spotrac.com. this is the first season of that massive extension that paid him just under $29 million this season. He’s due to make more than $31.2 million each of the next two seasons. Love’s salary in the final year of this extension in 2022-23 will again be nearly $29 million.
That is a lot of money to pay a single player for a team near the bottom of the league, especially when the player is already in his 30s. With finances in mind, trading Love must be near the top of the Cavaliers’ to-do list to improve their roster.
Love wants out of Cleveland?
Wanting to move Love seems to be mutual. Love has told the front office he wants to go to a contender, according to Forbes. Earlier this season, he even launched a tirade against general manager Koby Altman and then-head coach John Beilein. He let them know that he was not happy with the team’s direction.
The trade deadline came about a month later. Love was still on the Cavs on the other side of the deadline. The team reportedly had offers for him, but none that were compelling enough to ultimately trade him.
Love’s attitude improved after the trade deadline. He became less disgruntled than he had been earlier in the season; he even went out of his way to support his younger teammates. Love’s happier demeanor showed on the court, as he averaged 16.8 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 3.6 assists following the deadline.
Will Love be on the Cavaliers until 2021?
Even when Love’s relationship with the team improved post-deadline, people still thought trading him would happen this summer. That is unlikely to happen now — and it’s because of COVID-19. It’s never easy to trade a player with a contract as big as Love’s. Not all teams can afford to take on such a big-money player.
But this offseason, in particular, is going to make it even harder to deal Love and his contract. The NBA is unlikely to have fans at stands for the remainder of this season, whenever it resumes. That will result in about $690 million in lost ticket revenue just for the regular season — with even more of a loss for the postseason.
A domino effect of the revenue loss is free agency being restricted due to the salary cap likely dropping with the revenue loss. The expected lower salary cap puts Cleveland in an even tougher position with Love because it will be even harder for another team to absorb Love’s cap hit than it would be in a normal season.
Expect Love to remain on the Cavs for the 2020-21 season, then be traded in the 2021 offseason. At that time, Love will likely be a part of the secondary market with players like James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Kawhi Leonard slated to be free agents.