In a clash of Eastern Conference powers, the Hawks beat the Cavs on Friday night by a score of 106-97. Kevin Love, who took 11 shots from behind the arc in the loss but only amassed 14 points, seems to be uneasy about his role on the team, as he tells Chris Hayes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. “I heard some people calling me that but I know I’m not a stretch-four,” Love said. “I’m a post player who can shoot. Right now I’m just doing what I’m called to do. For good, bad or indifferent, I’m playing my role and doing what’s asked of me.”
Hayes’ article prompted Grantland’s Bill Simmons to ask where Kevin Love is going to live in Boston next season and suggest rental properties in the area (Twitter links). While Simmons, who is a well-known Celtics fan, was obviously being frivolous and a bit partial, he points a spotlight on Love’s situation. The 26-year old is experiencing one of his worst seasons as a pro. Love has been playing a good chuck of his minutes away from the basket, causing his rebounding numbers to drop to 10.2 per game, his worst mark since his rookie year. He isn’t getting many post up opportunities and it has hurt his offense. He is only scoring 16.9 points per game, the lowest amount since the 2009/10 season.
Although the Celtics are planning to target Love in the offseason, along with other marquee free agents, it doesn’t mean the power forward will be heading to Boston if he does decide to leave town. There will be no shortage of suitors for the UCLA product. Los Angeles and New York are both projected to have cap room for at least one maximum level salary contract and they both would likely get meetings with Love should he hit the open market. The Suns could potentially be another team to enter the Love sweepstakes. After clearing nearly $12.4MM from next season’s payroll with the trades at this year’s deadline, Phoenix will only have about $41MM in commitments for 2015/16 against a projected $68MM salary cap, which as Chuck Myron of Hoops Rumors notes, is more than enough to dangle a maximum salary contract offer at a free agent.
Love’s first season as a Cavalier has been a roller coaster ride. When he was traded to the Cleveland for a package of players, including No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins, he undoubtedly knew the team’s philosophy would be centered around LeBron James and even incumbent star Kyrie Irving. Yet, Love probably didn’t believe he would be relegated to such a complementary role that he is currently playing.
None of this means he will leave Cleveland. Love has a player option worth slightly more than $16.744MM next season and it was reported about two months ago that he plans to opt in. However, a lot can change between January and the end of the league year, and how successful the Cavs are this season will likely have an impact on his decision. Winning cures many ails. If Cleveland takes home the Larry O’Brien trophy, I’d speculate that Love stays put and embraces his role on a championship team. Anything less will certainly probe more questions about Love’s future and how much he is willing to sacrifice for a team that’s not playing in June.
Do you believe Kevin Love will be a Cavalier next season?