Today's Blazer's Edge Mailbag question comes via Twitter, where you can find the official site account @Blazersedge and my personal account @DaveDeckard. We should also note that it's been discussed recently in this Fanpost by cbreez.
If you've got a juicy Portland Trail Blazers question, you can hit me up on Twitter too or send it to email@example.com.
@KevinAHoy I mean, Love or Monroe could be targets. I'm not sure Vonleh as a throw-in gets you anywhere at this point but salary matching.— David Deckard (@DaveDeckard) August 2, 2016
Kevin was also firm that we should thank his friend Jon G who came up with the original trade proposal, so it's totally Mailbag by Committee day.
This question really has two parts: Should the Blazers be interested in Kevin Love? If so, is that package sufficient to pry him away from the Cleveland Cavaliers?
We've talked about the first question before. Love displayed All-World talent in 2013-14, scoring 26 points per game, posting 10 defensive rebounds and 3 offensive rebounds besides. For perspective, his per-36-minutes scoring average of 25.9 that year ranks ahead of Damian Lillard's career high of 25.3. If Love returned to that level, the Blazers would have the equivalent of two Lillards and a CJ McCollum besides. Those 2013-14 rebounding totals weren't even close to Love's career best either. His production goes beyond impressive. Under the right conditions Kevin Love is downright scary.
Unfortunately those right conditions haven't been present in Cleveland the last couple years. Love now sports a shiny new championship ring courtesy of LeBron James, but playing alongside The King has eaten the heart out of Love's scoring production. People shuddered when Chris Bosh's per-game and per-36 scoring averages dropped 5 points after joining James in Miami. Love lost 10 ppg and 8 points-per-36 the minute he put on a Cavaliers uniform. 16 ppg on 42% shooting pales compared to his former glory. Pedestrian doesn't do it; he needs a Segway.
The story gets worse when you consider that Love plays defense like a Twilight groupie in Taylor Lautner's Jacuzzi, which is to say "not at all". He's never been a good defender. He'll never be a good defender. If Love's team is going to excel, he needs players around him to compensate for that shortcoming, allowing him to cruise free and easy on offense.
That brings us to the Trail Blazers.
Love's rebounding and scoring would recommend him to Portland. The Blazers could use both from their bigs, especially the scoring. Even the 42% shooting clip doesn't look so bad when you consider Love's offense has been drifting steadily farther from the hoop as the years pass. In 2011-12 he attempted 27% of his shots beyond the three-point arc. In 2013-14 that number rose to 35.5%, last year 45%. He shoots 36% from distance overall. That's hardly a Steph Curry clip but from a power forward it'll do. It'd more than do in a Portland frontcourt where most of the rotation players have an effective offensive range of two feet. Love wouldn't be fighting Mason Plumlee and Festus Ezeli for paint space, he'd be creating it. Anyone who winced when Plumlee whipped the ball from the foul line to three-point shooters during last year's playoffs should welcome Love with open arms.
The other end of the floor provides the most serious check against Portland's enthusiasm a Love deal. When I discussed this subject several months ago, I pointed out that the Lillard-Love combo would cede approximately 200 points to opponent pick-and-rolls. Ezeli better be waiting behind them with spiked shoulder pads, a fishing net, and a bazooka...provided he didn't foul out in the first five possessions. As beautiful as a Love-Lillard-CJ McCollum offense sounds (Big Three!) it's hard to imagine even the best small forward and center defenders keeping the court secure alongside that trio.
The proposed trade above has Al-Farouq Aminu heading to Cleveland alongside Ed Davis and Noah Vonleh. The Blazers currently have too many forwards needing court time. This trade would lessen that concern but the defensive loss would be substantial. Aminu keyed Portland's defense last season; they'd be replacing their best defender with one of their worst.
I'm not sure the Cavaliers jump at that trade proposal either. They'd probably like the toughness of Davis and Aminu but LeBron better have his jumper honed because opponents will be packing the lane when he plays alongside either forward. Vonleh is salary ballast right now in this or any deal. I don't see him tripping the trigger for the Cavs.
Since Cleveland does have roster space to make use of a 3-for-1 deal, a more interesting permutation would be Aminu, Davis, and Meyers Leonard. The salaries would match; Cleveland would be getting more usable talent and potential. Leonard is the closest analog to Love on Portland's roster (obviously far less accomplished and polished). Cleveland could use him in the three-point shooting role and even coax a little defense out of him. Leonard could learn under the tutelage of Channing Frye and Chris Anderson, each encompassing different aspects of his ideal game. A deal including Leonard would make more sense.
If the Blazers were to complete that trade, their depth hard would read:
PG--Lillard, McCollum, Napier
SG--McCollum, Crabbe, Turner
PF--Love, Harkless, Vonleh
There's less depth in terms of sheer numbers but the Blazers won't be able to play all their current forwards anyway. They'd still be double-covered, fielding experienced options at every starting and reserve position, Both the players they'd keep and the players they'd trade away would be able to make more effective use of their talent. The deal makes sense for everyone involved in that way.
Would I do it? If Kevin Love could play a lick of defense (or if Portland's starting backcourt were stronger defensively) I wouldn't hesitate a second. Even knowing the team would need to win with overwhelming offense, it's still tempting. As recently as a couple years ago Love was considered the best power forward in the game, famously cited above a former Trail Blazers power forward that fans no longer like to name aloud. At the time I was not so sure of that designation but there's no denying that Love is 27 years old, has perpetual All-Star potential, and would flourish in a Terry Stotts offensive system.
Given that, I'm split on this proposal. I could find reasons to love it or hate it. At the very least Portland would have to consider it seriously. Chances to snag a guy with Love's potential for three likable, but in absolute terms fairly nondescript, players don't come along often. If consolidation is the name of the game, Portland might not be able to do much better. It's worth thinking about.
(P.S. It's worth noting that Allen Crabbe would make sense in Cleveland as well. His salary would preclude a higher-level 3-for-1 deal, but the Blazers could still offer a 2-for-1 or ask for another player to make the numbers balance.)
Thanks for the exercise, Kevin! Everybody keep those questions coming to firstname.lastname@example.org!