What if the Detroit Pistons had come calling about Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love?
Talk about blockbuster deals. Game-changers. That’s what could have come to fruition in the Land had things gone just a bit differently this past week. According to Sports Illustrated’s Jake Fischer, Kevin Love was a trade target for the Detroit Pistons and had they failed to strike a deal with the Los Angeles Clippers for Blake Griffin, they were ready to move in on the Cleveland Cavaliers’ versatile big man.
If the Pistons failed to close on Griffin, Detroit was prepared to turn its attention to Kevin Love.
Considering the package they offered for Griffin, a highly talented but injury-prone forward making about $8 million more than Love, the Cleveland Cavaliers could have made away like bandits. The Pistons traded Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjonovic and a first-round pick for Griffin, who will be 29-years-old before the end of the season.
The combined $25 million from Harris and Bradley’s salary would have worked in a trade for Love and is likely the personnel package the Cavs would have taken for Love.
What makes the idea of swapping Love for Bradley and Harris such an intriguing option is the increased speed, youth and versatility of the roster that comes with such a deal.
With Harris playing in place of Love at power forward, the 24-year-old combo forward would have added a player shooting 45.1 percent from the field, 40.9 percent from three-point range (including 41.7 percent from the corners and 36.4 percent from three since the 2014-2015 season).
These are numbers that illustrate one key factor in replacing Love, who has made 40.4 percent of his three-point attempts this season (on 5.4 attempts per game compared to Harris’ 5.8 attempts per game). Harris can be a knockdown spot-up shooter himself.
In the Cavs’ offense, particularly in the starting unit, Love is the team’s primary catch-and-shoot option and the space he provides by forcing big men to guard him on the perimeter opens up lanes for James and company to drive.
Love’s ability to occasionally take his man off-the-dribble only makes it harder for slower big men to cover him. Conversely, if a smaller player is matched up with Love so that they can chase him off three-point line, he can post them up or give the ball to James so that he can blow by a slower man.
Harris’ three-point shot and athleticism would have allowed the Cavs to continue running the offense they were comfortable with, albeit a better version of it thanks to Harris’ shooting ability, athleticism, ability to score off-the-dribble, in isolation and as a post-up player.
Harris, who has career-highs of 18.1 points (set this season) and 7.0 rebounds (set in 2013-2014) per game, would have made Tristan Thompson more expendable in trade talks since the Cavs would likely need more size in the frontcourt to offset the difference in Harris and Love’s rebound ability. Armed with an extra first-round pick, the Cavs could very well have sent the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick to the Clippers in exchange for DeAndre Jordan.
Bradley’s role on the team wouldn’t have been as clear. It’s possible he would have started games at shooting guard, providing consistent perimeter shooting and taking defensive pressure off of Isaiah Thomas by guarding the tough and explosive point guards dispersed throughout the league.
That would be the best way to use him, although he could have found himself coming off the bench with Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Kyle Korver, Jae Crowder, Jeff Green and Channing Frye.
It’s a big-time “what could have been” moment for the Cavs, who have alternately been blessed to have a player with Love’s offensive capabilities struggled due to team defense exacerbated by Love’s natural limitations on the defensive end. A team that also needs more youth and defensive ability throughout the rotation in order to improve their transition, individual and team defense.
With all that said, if other teams are targeting Love in a trade, would they still be interested in his services knowing he’ll be coming back from an injury but one to his non-shooting hand?
*All stats gathered from www.basketball-reference.com and stats.nba.com