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Kevin Love as a Trail Blazer Just Makes Sense

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Why Cleveland’s forward would fit in Portland now when he never would have before.

NBA: Playoffs-Boston Celtics at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Star power forwards have been a hot topic around Trail Blazers nation this summer. Another one comes up in this edition of the Blazer’s Edge Mailbag.

Yo Dave,

Chris Haynes recently stated on the Dan Patrick show that if Cleveland lost the finals Kevin Love would be traded. This got me wondering if they would take a first round pick and Allen Crabbe for him? Would they take it? Would Love be a good fit in Portland? I love the idea of Dame, CJ, Love and Nurkic!

John Pumpkin

When the Blazers had cap flexibility and potential free agents on the horizon, acquiring Kevin Love would have made little sense. He was too expensive, his defense had the potential to create a toxic sludge stew when combined with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum...there were better options.

In 2017 with the team flat-lined, broke, and many times rejected, Love might just be the answer.

The problems with adding Love to Portland’s mix tape haven’t gone away, but the questions have changed. We need no longer ask whether Love is enough to push the Trail Blazers over the top. We need no longer ask whether he’ll inhibit the growth curve of Portland’s young players. We don’t have to balance his upside with his huge cap footprint anymore. All we need to know now is whether he’ll be more serviceable than Allen Crabbe at the same relative amount of money. It’s that simple.

With McCollum and Lillard hogging up the backcourt, Evan Turner waiting in the wings, and a potential draft pick filling any empty corners, the answer to that question is going to be a resounding, “Yes!” from every angle.

The financials of a Love-for-Crabbe exchange make sense...mostly. Love’s contract runs for the next two years guaranteed: $22.6 million in 2017-18 and $24.2 million in 2018-19. He has a player option in 2019-20 for $25.6 million. Crabbe’s numbers over that same period are $19.3 million, $18.5 million, and $18.5 million, the final season a player option just like Love’s.

The first-year difference between the two ends up negligible. After that the gap spreads, culminating with Love earning almost $6 million more per season. The Blazers would be firmly entrenched in Luxury Tax Hell at that point, courtesy of Jusuf Nurkic’s new contract and needing to carry more than four players on the team. That $6 million gap could balloon to $20 million in real dollars.

The Blazers could solve the issue by attaching other players to the deal. Noah Vonleh would even out the finances this year. Including Ed Davis instead would actually save Portland money. Neither one is guaranteed to be with the team long-term, though. If the Cavaliers wanted Moe Harkless or Meyers Leonard in addition to Crabbe (both of which would make some sense in Cleveland) Portland could breathe easier. This would be the definition of a sweetheart deal. Throwing in a draft pick to make it happen wouldn’t be a huge burden considering the talent influx and long-term tax relief.

For those worried about talent and fit, Love had a resurgence last season. He scores 19 per game, has a serviceable three-point shot, and plays at a position of need. He’s 28 and under a binding contract. Getting all those things wrapped in one package for excess players from a muddled roster would be a godsend no matter what Love’s shortcomings may be.

Cleveland’s side may be a sticky wicket. They’re already at the pinnacle of the Eastern Conference and should remain there as long as LeBron James is functional. Golden State is their problem. Assuming the most enticing talent package is on the table, Crabbe, Harkless, and the 15th pick would help them. Would those players make the difference between winning and losing in the NBA Finals against the Warriors, though? Would they help more than Kevin Love has? That’s doubtful.

Cleveland doesn’t get a clear upgrade, doesn’t get cap savings, and any future potential they pick up will be compensated for by LeBron aging in parallel. I’m not sure what they can reasonably expect in trade for Love, but there’s got to be more upside than that for them.

So yeah, given the current state of the team I’d take Kevin Love without a second thought. He wouldn’t put the Blazers in contention but he’d give them the aura of those mid-80’s teams with Steve Johnson and Kiki Vandeweghe...not ready to be taken seriously yet but stocked with assets and able to give most teams a good run.

How about the rest of you? Yes or no on a Love-for-Crabbe (and change) deal? How high do you think Love could help the Blazers rise?

Have at it in the comment section. And if you have questions like Mr. Pumpkin above, send them along to blazersub@gmail.com!

—Dave blazersub@gmail.com / @Blazersedge / @DaveDeckard