Cleveland Cavaliers Power Forward Kevin Love recently showed why he is a wanted commodity in the NBA by leading Cleveland to its first win in 10 games. Thanks to a 30 point, 17 rebound double-double from the former Minnesota Timberwolves player, Cavaliers bagged 117-109 win over San Antonio Spurs in overtime. DeMar DeRozan didn’t particularly endear himself to the Spurs fateful by missing crucial free throws late in the game to give San Antonio an expected win.
DeRozan has had problems fitting into the Spurs machine due to his poor output on defence and over reliance on scoring jump shots than three point shots. While DeRozan has stayed true to his game despite the shock trade that shipped him out of Toronto Raptors, same could be said about Love who continues to produce double-doubles in spite of him being in and out of the lineup.
Cleveland is rebuilding after a four year NBA Finals run with LeBron James and have placed premium on developing young players like Darius Garland, Cedi Osman and Collin Sexton by playing them extensive minutes. Guys like Love have their fair share of minutes on the court only when they aren’t ruled out due to team issued rest or injury. This strategy is rational as keeping Love relatively fresh and healthy keeps Cleveland’s chances of accruing a major haul of returns from a trade alive.
A handful of teams are reportedly interested in Love services including Portland Trailblazers, Phoenix Suns, Miami Heat and Boston Celtics. Love would fit in nicely with the interested teams mentioned due to his versatility on offense and rebounding prowess. Portland needs a true Power Forward in the absence of Zach Collins, Suns need a veteran three point shooting threat (something Ricky Rubio isn’t) to ease the burden on young Guards Kelly Oubre Jnr. and Devin Booker. Miami needs an upgrade on Kelly Olynyk to give Heat a puncher’s chance in the playoffs while Boston needs all 6 foot 10 inches of Love in its undersized starting lineup.
However, one team that needs to trade for Love and the remaining $90 million he is owed for the next three seasons is the Orlando Magic. Orlando ranks eighth in the Eastern Conference standings with 11 wins and 13 losses and aims to build on the surprise playoff appearance the team experienced last season in Steve Clifford’s first year as Head Coach. Last season, Magic ranked 22nd in the 30 team NBA offensively but impressed with a top 10 rank on defence.
The same theme is playing out this season with Magic ranking ninth in the league on defence but 27th on offense. Clifford’s strength is on defence but his resources on offense are limited though they are very solid in preventing teams from scoring at will. In a three point scoring heavy league, Orlando’s challenges stretching the court with inconsistent shooters prevents the team from living up to its immense potential.
A host of Power Forwards and Centers who aren’t renowned for shooting are on the roster; Aaron Gordon, Mohammed Bamba, Khem Birch, Jonathan Isaac, Nikola Vucevic and Amile Jefferson present a unique challenge to Clifford. The abundance of big men on the roster forces Magic to have three Power Forwards or Centers in the starting lineup alongside Evan Fournier and Markelle Fultz or DJ Augustin. Only a high scoring backcourt like that of Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry or Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum can offset such shooting challenges.
The lack of spacing has hurt the development of Isaac and Bamba in particular after getting picked high in last season’s draft. Like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Andre Drummond, both work best as the sole big man in a lineup without having another long limbed, big body clogging the paint. Having Kevin Love around helps a ton with that as his ability to draw defenders away from the paint gives more room for Vucevic and company to do damage inside the painted area.
Sorting through the glut of non shooting big men is eased by the inclusion of a young player in a possible deal for Love. Magic could trade Isaac, Michael Carter-Williams and a future draft pick for Love. A possible starting lineup of Fultz, Fournier, Gordon, Love and Vucevic is a strong lineup with Terrence Ross and Augustin manning the second unit’s backcourt with Bamba and Birch in the frontcourt.
On a personal level, Orlando’s strong defensive tendencies would mask the weakness in Love’s game playing defence. To enjoy a sustained run in the playoffs, Orlando Magic needs to make a trade for Love immediately.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter