Which Eastern Conference Team Has Best Shot at Love?


Kevin Love has probably been in the trade rumor mill more than any other NBA player in the country over the past few years. Yet he’s still in Cleveland. It seems that ever since he first touched foot in Northwest Ohio as a member of the Cavaliers, speculation about the power forward being shipped out has been a constant footnote to his name. Somehow, Kevin dodged being a victim of the nonstop trades during the LeBron era, even signing two new contracts during his time in Cleveland to extend his stay.

Never as perfect a fit as was envisioned when the Cavaliers sent away Andrew Wiggins for him, Love still played a critical part in the 2016 title. Possibly the most notable contribution was this clutch defensive possession from Love, who has never been one to be mistaken as a good defender.


Things feel different this season, though, as a trade feels inevitable. After a strong start, in which the Cavs also performed better than expected, it seemed Love, along with fellow champion Tristan Thompson, may be able to keep the team competitive. Those hopes quickly flamed out, as Cleveland is in the midst of a grueling stretch of losses. Kevin Love has appeared mentally checked out at times, seemingly lacking the motivation to put everything out on the court for a team that has been torched on the regular lately. With the Cavs reportedly now open to trade offers for their best player, it appears that there was never a more likely time for Love to finally hang up his Wine and Gold attire than now.

Bigs who can pass, rebound, and stretch the floor all at elite levels will always be in high demand in this league. Very few teams will turn down a player of Love’s caliber who can contribute in as many areas as he can. However, some teams just don’t seem like realistic trade candidates because of various factors. Most teams, though, should have reasonable interest, despite the hefty contract attached to him. Let’s take a look at what each team could potentially cobble together for what could be the first trade of the NBA regular season.

Atlanta Hawks

Cavs get: Cam Reddish, Chandler Parsons, 2020 Nets 1st Rd Pick (Lottery Protected)

Hawks get: Kevin Love

Despite Trae Young’s brilliance this season, the Hawks have been one of the worst teams in the NBA to start off the season. Kevin Love appears to be way ahead of Atlanta’s timeline, but a recent report could lead to Atlanta finding itself in bigger trade rumors.

The Hawks would have no problem matching salary in a potential trade, with Evan Turner, Chandler Parsons, and Allen Crabbe all making $18 million-plus per year. The problem is the sweeteners. The Hawks own all of their 1st rounders in the future, plus a lottery-protected first from Brooklyn, but as Atlanta is still deep in their rebuild, it’s unlikely they are willing to part with any, except for possibly the Nets pick.

Trae Young is obviously untouchable, and it’s likely that John Collins, Kevin Huerter, and DeAndre Hunter aren’t included in any serious trade discussions at the moment. Rookies Cam Reddish and Bruno Fernando have intrigue as well, but again it’s unclear how high the Atlanta front office is on the duo.

Boston Celtics

Cavs get: Gordon Hayward

Celtics get: Kevin Love, 2022 Wizards 2nd Rd Pick

I was never a fan of the Aron Baynes trade by the Celtics this past offseason. His stellar play for Phoenix this season has made the move look even more questionable. With Al Horford gone as well, Boston has done an admirable job of filling in the gaps made from their exits by committee with Daniel Theis, Robert Williams, and Enes Kanter all stepping up. However, the center position is undeniably still their biggest weakness.

While Kevin Love is not the rim protector that a lot of Celtics fans have been hoping for, he’s a coach’s dream on the offensive side. Boston seems to have one too many wings on its roster, not that it’s ever a bad problem to have too many wings in today’s NBA, but Gordon Hayward has always been the odd one out. More than 2 years after he made his much-anticipated debut for Boston, the former Utah Jazz star has still never been able to get acclimated with his new team, mainly due to injuries.

With Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum continuing to develop pleasingly, there may be no reason to keep around the inconsistent, injury-plagued Hayward. Boston has a plethora of picks and interesting young players, including Romeo Langford, Carsen Edwards, Grant Williams, and Semi Ojeleye, all of whom could realistically be acquired via trade.

However, making a trade for Love without including Kemba Walker or Gordon Hayward makes things really tricky. Without the two, you then have to throw in Marcus Smart, and a lot of Boston’s current rotation in order to match salaries. At this point, the trade doesn’t become worth it anymore for Cleveland, because they’d have to cut most of the players they receive to stay under the maximum roster size. Another option would be to get messy and include a third or fourth team, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll just stick with a Kevin-Gordon swap for now.

Brooklyn Nets

Cavs get: Kyrie Irving

Nets get: Kevin Love, Darius Garland

Brooklyn already seems to be riding high on the Kyrie Irving experience that drew the ire of many Celtics fans in the last two years. His dazzle and tendencies to do the spectacular have been showcased plenty already before his recent nagging injury. This was always going to be a strange year for the Nets, as they await the return of Kevin Durant next year, but Kyrie is making it all the more peculiar for Brooklyn.

Irving racked up the stats in his first few games as a Net, but the team underperformed in regards to wins and losses. Ever since he has been sidelined, though, the team has played more up to the level many expected them to. The main catalyst to this, being Spencer Dinwiddie and his all-star worthy level of play as of late.

It’s very, very early to give up on the Kyrie show already, but for a team that doesn’t have a single true power forward on their roster, Love has to be at least mildly interesting to Brooklyn. Shipping Kyrie out would allow Dinwiddie to remain in a starting role that he’s excelled in.

Trying to piece together a trade offer for Love with other players on the Nets roster becomes difficult, as it would have to include Joe Harris and Garrett Temple who have been playing great basketball to start out the season, plus DeAndre Jordan to match salaries. With Caris Levert already out, that leaves the team very shorthanded at the SG position, and players that the Cavs are likely to have little interest in.

Throwing in Darius Garland makes this a spicy possibility for Brooklyn, as they get a chance to develop the young PG off the bench, in a season where he’s struggled to make an impact out of the gates. If Cleveland really has interest in a Kyrie Irving reunion, and a prayer at salvaging a miserable start, then this would make for quite the juicy trade to start out the season.

Charlotte Hornets

Cavs get: Dwayne Bacon, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, 2020 1st Round Pick (Top 10 protected)

Hornets get: Kevin Love, Ante Zizic

Despite losing probably the best player in Hornets history in Kemba Walker, the Hornets have remained pretty competitive. Sitting just outside the playoff picture puts them in a familiar position as they have found themselves in for many seasons past. It’s coming to the point where they have to decide whether to tear it all down, and begin a real rebuild, or push the chips in towards real contention.

With reports coming out that they have rumored interest in Andre Drummond of the Pistons, it would seem they’re leaning towards the latter. Kevin Love would be another strong veteran piece to add to an overachieving Hornets team that’s still hoping to achieve more. The most real playoff experience any player on the Hornets roster has is probably Terry Rozier in his run as starting PG in place of Kyrie in the 2018 playoffs.

Matching salary in a potential deal is no problem for Charlotte. Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams, Bismack Biyombo, Terry Rozier, Cody Zeller, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are all bearers of bad contracts.  Those 6 players, none of whom are much above average at the best, combine for $105 million/year. That’s about $4 million shy of this year’s salary cap.

Throwing in Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist makes the trade work money-wise, but they would also be strong candidates to be flipped at the trade deadline to a contending team, similar to the Alec Burks situation last year for Cleveland. However, even if neither are re-directed out, both players’ salaries expire at the end of the season, giving Cleveland much more flexibility.

Finding sweeteners to add to the trade is a little bit more difficult, with Devonte’ Graham, PJ Washington, and Miles Bridges all highly valued by the franchise moving forward, but also all key contributors to the team now. Malik Monk would be an enticing add, but his fit with the Cavs current structure would be very questionable. The team already has plenty of score first, pass second guards in Garland, Sexton, and Porter.

Giving up a lightly protected first-rounder and a B-tier prospect (Dwayne Bacon) along with salary filler may be enough to get the job done, and make Charlotte a more serious threat as things heat up toward the end of the season.

Chicago Bulls

Cavs get: Lauri Markkanen, Thaddeus Young, Cristiano Felicio

Bulls get: Kevin Love, Alfonzo McKinnie, Ante Zizic

After a disappointing start to the season, Chicago could attempt to salvage it by making a splashy mid-season trade. The Cavaliers could be in prime position to take advantage of a desperate Bulls team jumping the gun to immediate competitiveness. If you’re looking for someone to blame for Chicago’s slow start, then Lauri Markkanen could shoulder a decent load of the blame.

The sweet-shooting Finnish power forward has many similarities to Kevin Love, but Love is much more of a finished form than Markkanen is at this point. He has struggled from all areas of the floor so far this season, but there is no reason to lose hope in his bright future. Personally, if I were the Bulls front office, I would reject this trade proposal in a heartbeat.

If Chicago were to make a run at Love, though, there are limited player combinations they could piece together for a hypothetical trade, with this one likely being the most logical one. Thaddeus Young and Cristiano Felicio are merely here for salary matching purposes. Young would likely be traded again by the Cavs before the deadline in this scenario.

The NBA is as unpredictable as they come, so while I don’t foresee this as a legit trade option anytime soon, for the Cavaliers, you never really know what will happen next in this league. Chicago is a team worth keeping tabs on.

Detroit Pistons

Truthfully, I don’t see any way Detroit finds itself in the Kevin Love sweepstakes. They are already set at both the power forward and center positions with Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. Love likely isn’t an upgrade over either big, and bringing him off the bench is a waste of time and talent.

Unless Detroit involves itself as a facilitator in a 3 team trade with Cleveland, there’s not much to here. This doesn’t take away from the fact that Bruce Brown and Christian Wood are prospects I’m sure the Cavs would be perfectly fine with adding to their rebuild.

Indiana Pacers

Cavs get: Myles Turner, Doug McDermott

Pacers get: Kevin Love, Alfonzo McKinnie, 2022 Wizards 2nd Rd Pick

Once an afterthought in the Paul George trade, Domantas Sabonis has arguably been Indiana’s best player since Victor Oladipo’s been out. With two talented big men in Sabonis and Myles Turner, the Pacers have some difficult decisions to make. They are both most effective when played at the C position. Last season Sabonis came off the bench, while Turner started. Domantas had a heck of a year, putting himself into contention for 6th man of the year.

This year with him sliding into the starting lineup alongside Myles Turner, he has continued to produce in great volume, showing improvement as a playmaker as well. Malcolm Brogdon has been great as well with a greater workload than his time with the Bucks. Oladipo’s return is on the horizon, and it begs the question: is this team ready to go all in?

If Kevin Love is on Indiana’s radar, then it has two realistic options. Brogdon and Dipo aren’t getting traded anytime soon. Domantas Sabonis can’t be since he recently inked a contract extension to stay in town. So to match salaries they either have to give up Myles Turner or a good portion of their rotation.

Again, as with some other teams mentioned above, it’s unlikely Cleveland has any interest in some veteran role-players as a return for their best player, so unless a 3rd team is added, Myles Turner is likely the most realistic trade candidate. Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an easy trade to convince the Pacers into accepting.

Indiana has been high on Myles Turner’s potential for a long time, but it seems like he may have hit his ceiling early on in his career. Turner is an excellent rim protector, and a plus 3-point shooter for a Center, but expecting him to become an offensive focal point may never become reality.

On the other end, a Kevin Love-Domantas Sabonis frontcourt could be a bit shaky defensively. Neither player known for their defensive prowess, it could lead to some ugly nights for the Pacers on that end. However, if the Pacers are a feeling a little bit edgy and hoping for greater things in the playoffs, then there may be no better place to look than adding a former champion in Kevin Love.

Miami Heat

Cavs get: Justise Winslow, James Johnson, KZ Okpala

Heat get: Kevin Love, Ante Zizic

Miami is on the rise once again with a chance to make some noise in the playoffs this season. Jimmy Butler has been well worth the max contract. Undrafted rookie and sophomore Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson are outperforming any sort of expectations anybody could’ve had for them coming into the season. Add in the strong play of other youngsters Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro, and the Heat are perfectly set up to compete now and in the future.

One player noticeably absent from that group, though, is Justise Winslow, who’s play has been hampered a little bit by injury and lack of a consistent role this season. After a breakout season last year, in which a lot of minutes for him came from playing point guard, his performance this season has been slightly disappointing.

The Heat have been rumored for a while to be chasing an additional star to add to their core and boost their roster. While Chris Paul’s name has been mentioned a lot, perhaps the player that could round Miami out could be Kevin Love. It’s easy to point out Winslow as a potential piece in such a trade. To match salary, the Heat have a plethora of overpaid veterans. James Johnson, Dion Waiters, Kelly Olynyk, Meyers Leonard, and Goran Dragic all have the salaries to round out a deal. Don’t count Miami out of this one.

Milwaukee Bucks

While Kevin Love would be a very intriguing fit with the Bucks alongside Giannis, I don’t see a Love-to-Milwaukee trade within any realm of possibility at the moment. With the Bucks in a historically great stretch of basketball right now, it is unlikely they are willing to make any significant changes to their roster.

To even get a trade completed between the two teams, the Bucks would have to sacrifice one of their 4 best players, Antetokounmpo, Middleton, Bledsoe, or Brook Lopez, so salaries match. While DJ Wilson and Donte DiVincenzo are players I’m sure the Cavaliers wouldn’t mind adding, there’s no way the Bucks get in the way of their current momentum.

New York Knicks

Cavs get: Julius Randle, Elfrid Payton, Wayne Ellington, 2019 2nd Rd pick

Knicks get: Kevin Love, Jordan Clarkson

There’s been a couple of rumors floating around that the New York Knicks curiously have interest in a Kevin Love trade. It seems they just can’t get enough power forwards. However, I have serious doubts on the credibility of these claims. If the Knicks still think they can salvage this season and make a playoff push, then that’s laughable. Plus, if they think that Kevin Love is the guy to turn around their team, I’m sorry to break it to New York, but Minnesota Kevin Love ceased to exist a long time ago.

However, we have seen the Knicks do stranger things before. If we actually dig into things, it’s very difficult to dissect this New York roster. 60% of the team was either signed in free agency or drafted. Making out who the team considers their core is difficult work. Obviously, RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson are players the Knicks would like to keep, but beyond them, it gets real blurry real fast.

Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton are probably the two most disappointing signees for New York. Both had strong seasons as teammates for New Orleans a season ago, but have failed to make consistent impacts out of the gates. Randle and Payton are capable of contributing in great ways to their teams, and perhaps a scenery could be the best possible situation for them both.

As for Kevin Love’s fit with this team, he would be an ideal fit next to RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson, sliding in at the starting PF spot. This would allow him to space the floor offensively, giving Barrett more room to drive and work inside. On the defensive end, the shot-blocking Mitchell Robinson would be able to make up for his deficiencies on that end of the floor.

Orlando Magic

Cavs get: Aaron Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu

Magic get: Kevin Love. Alfonzo McKinnie

I can’t say that I see the Magic as any sincere players in a Kevin Love bidding war. They have the assets to get a deal done with players like Aaron Gordon and Mo Bamba. Both players seem to be working their way out of their team’s long term core, with semi-discouraging inabilities to take more steps forward in development.

This is in no way criticism of either player, though. Similar to the Myles Turner situation in Indiana, Aaron Gordon at his current state is still a very good player. A very strong defensive player, who is still yet to take that leap forward as a consistent offensive threat, Aaron Gordon may find himself to be a better fit elsewhere.

Bamba, on the other hand, is an expectingly raw player, still. However, similar to Aaron Gordon, the Magic may just not be the right fit for him. With Nikola Vucevic having a career resurgence the past couple of years, the starting center position is currently clenched with a firm grasp. With Vucevic out right now, it would seem like a prime opportunity for Mo to make a statement. However, Khem Birch has surpassed him to take over in his absence.

Cleveland would surely welcome either player with welcome arms, but it would seem curious to me for why Orlando would consider a Kevin Love trade. Currently hanging on to the 8th seed, it’s been a slow start to a highly anticipated season for the team after their playoff appearance last season. Trading for Love could be a jolt to spark the team back in the right direction and giving them more potential to hang with tough opponents.

Last season, Steve Clifford did an incredible job of coaching a team that started 3 average, at best, defenders in Vucevic, Augustin, and Fournier to one of the stoutest defensive teams in the country. This has still been the case this season, but the offense has sputtered to great lengths. Adding Kevin Love would no doubt aid the team in that area. However, Orlando runs the risk of severely weakening their defense if they make such a trade.

Adding Love may just overload the Magic’s rotation with too many weak defenders to hide, but I wouldn’t count Steve Clifford out of it. The offense would be pretty. Kevin Love and Nikola Vucevic are both capable of sitting at the elbow and making plays. They can bang inside, and stroke the three-ball from outside. With 2 playmaking bigs, it would allow Fultz, Fournier, and Isaac to move off the ball, get open looks, and cut to the rim. While you could talk yourself into a potential fit, though, I don’t see it coming into reality.

Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers are having a successful season yet again, and this time with LeBron and Kawhi out of the east, their excuses for failing in the playoffs are running out. In this situation though, Kevin Love is not the solution. The 76ers are already set at the PF & C positions with Horford and Embiid. There is no point in mixing that duo up so early into their partnership. Matching salary would even be a struggle for the Sixers, so there really is no reason to look deeper into this scenario.

Toronto Raptors

Cavs get: Serge Ibaka, Stanley Johnson, Chris Boucher, 2019 1st Rd Pick

Raptors get: Kevin Love, Ante Zizic

This is a very possible trade option in my opinion. If the Raptors decide to bring in a little more firepower for another run at the Finals, then Kevin Love could be an ideal option. His fit in the Raptors starting lineup is perfect. Although not the defender that Marc Gasol is, he provides an upgrade over the aging Grizzlies legend in every nearly every other category.

Siakam and Love at the 4 and 5 would be the perfect yin and yang to each other, each one’s holes perfectly covered up by the other’s strengths. Worst case scenario, if Kevin Love can’t hang with the more physical centers in the NBA, like Drummond and Embiid, then he could be replaced by Gasol in the starting lineup, and come off the bench as a super sub.

While Tristan Thompson has been rumored as a trade target for Toronto, Kevin Love could end up being the superior option for the team.  No doubt, though, if the Cavs pull off a trade with the Raptors for either of the 2 frontcourt players, they would be eyeing OG Anunoby as part of the return. However, with Anunoby proving his worth through some strong play to start out the season, that may be slightly unrealistic.

Stanley Johnson, Boucher, and a first-round pick would be a mediocre return, but the possibility of flipping Serge Ibaka at the trade deadline, for more potential assets, could make this deal worth it in the long run for the Cavs. Keep an eye on the Raptors in the Kevin Love sweepstakes. After all, no one expected them to swoop in and steal Kawhi Leonard from the Spurs, and look where that got them.

Washington Wizards

Cavs get: Troy Brown Jr, Ian Mahinmi, CJ Miles, 2020 1st Rd Pick (Top 7 protected)

Wizards get: Kevin Love, Ante Zizic

Kevin in the capital has an interesting ring to it. Acquiring Love could push Washington into more serious contention for a playoff spot this year. With Thomas Bryant currently injured, Kevin Love could slide in at the 5 without an issue, but his long term position would be at the 4, alongside Bryant. This would slide Hachimura up to the SF position.

No matter how much help Love could provide this year, though, the real intrigue with this trade comes next year. With a core of a hopefully healthy John Wall, Bradley Beal, Kevin Love, Rui Hachimura, Thomas Bryant, and Davis Bertans, the Wizards could be poised to make some noise. The risk in this would be if it all blows up, they could potentially surrender their 1st Round pick to Cleveland.

Troy Brown Jr, selected at 15th overall in the 2018 NBA draft, hasn’t lived up to expectations yet for the Wizards, going through another rough season. With Isaac Bonga starting at small forward over him, it may be clear that a change of scenery is needed. Cleveland could be that opportunity for him.

With that, we’ve wrapped up all 14 opposing teams residing in the Eastern Conference. While nowhere near the beast he was in Minnesota, Kevin Love is still a very capable power forward/center capable of taking a team to the next level. There is little doubt in my mind that the Cavs will have trouble finding a suitor to take him on, it’s just a matter of when GM Koby Altman decides to pull the trigger.

Stay tuned for a follow-up article covering all western conference teams and potential deals with the Cavs for Kevin Love. That is unless Love is traded first, and with how fast the NBA moves nowadays, you can never really tell when something huge is going to happen. Make sure you turn on your Twitter notifications for Woj and Shams!

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