HBO Sports Analyst Bill Simmons, formerly of ESPN, has thrown his hat into the CJ McCollum trade debates.
Kevin Love for CJ McCollum, straight up. The Cavs would save $18 million [in salary] and $50 million on the luxury tax. Portland has $20 million in cap space. McCollum and Damian Lillard, where am I going with that? Two under-sized shooters? It's fun, but congratulations I'm the eight-seed for the next ten years.
Whereas if you put McCollum on Cleveland, he's now playing over J.R. Smith and now shooting over 40% from three. You have another shooter. I get JR Smith off the court because that dude cannot be on a championship team. [Cleveland]'s probably better even though it makes no sense because Kevin Love is better than McCollum. If you're Portland you have to think about it.
A Love for McCollum trade would work, according to ESPN's trade machine. As Simmons suggests, the trade would save the Cavs, who are $24.6 million over the luxury tax threshold, $17 million in salary by swapping Love's $19.7 million contract for McCollum's $2.5 million contract. They would also see a significantly reduced luxury tax payment. In total, the transaction would save Cleveland more than $40,000,000.
In addition to the fiscal savings, the Cavs may also want to trade Love to alleviate alleged chemistry issues in the locker room. Despite signing an extension this summer, rumors have swirled that Love has been dissatisfied in Cleveland. After a loss to the Warriors on Monday night, Love and Cavaliers forward Lebron James engaged in what have been characterized as thinly veiled criticisms of each other.
Earlier today, Peter Vecsey further fueled the speculation with this tweet suggesting that Love had clashed with former head coach David Blatt:
David Blatt told friends in Israel last week, "It's either me or Kevin Love." Just surprised LeBron didn't decide sooner...— Peter Vecsey (@PeterVecsey1) January 22, 2016
Any conflict between Love and other Cavaliers' personnel may stem from his current role on the team. Love has been relegated to a lesser position in Cleveland's offense after spending several years in Minnesota as a high volume all-star. This season he is averaging only 12.7 field goal attempts per game, compared to as many as 19.3 per game while with the Timberwolves. Experts have argued that Love is "terribly misused" in Cleveland, acting almost exclusively as a spot-up shooter.
If the Cavs are hoping to unload Love to further quell turmoil, a McCollum for Love trade does make a certain amount of sense. As Simmons argued, the Cavs would save an exceedingly large sum of money, while also acquiring a scoring guard to replace J.R. Smith in the rotation. McCollum would give the Cavs more flexibility to solve match-up problems against the Golden State Warriors should the teams meet in the finals.
In this scenario, the Blazers would be betting that Love would return to the 25 point/13 rebound per night all-star form he showed in Minnesota. Offensively he would improve the Blazers attack by providing a low-post scorer, outside shooter, and passer. Pick and rolls, Portland's most run offensive set, with Love and Damian Lillard would be exceptionally difficult to defend. Love is also a better passer than Mason Plumlee and Meyers Leonard, who have been called upon to act as high post distributors regularly this season. Essentially, he would provide an all-star level replacement for Leonard on offense.
Love is not a good defender so the Blazers would still likely need to acquire a rim-protecting center to become competitive. The defensive effect would be that Portland's two offensively strong, but defensively weak stars would not be playing the same position, thus limiting defensive liability in any single area of the court.
Love is locked in at the maximum salary for 4.5 years, as set by last year's lower salary cap. Love's age (27) and contract align well with the five years remaining on 25-year old Damian Lillard's contract. McCollum's contract is set to expire after next season.
If this hypothetical trade were offered, the Blazers would ultimately have to weigh their confidence in McCollum's long term growth, their ability to re-sign him, and whether or not the team could be competitive while paying $40+ million to two defensively challenged guards, against the benefits that Love would bring.
Simmons' suggested trade would serve as a double homecoming. Love grew up in the Portland area and attended Lake Oswego High School. McCollum is a native of Canton and went to GlenOak High School.
Readers - weigh in below. Would you trade McCollum for Love?
-- Hat tip to JSur07
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