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Heat, Sixers Square Off in Duel over Love

A couple of East Coast teams are chasing the suddenly-free forward.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

No name has been hotter in the 2023 NBA buyout market than recent-vintage Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love. The former All-Star and the Cavaliers have agreed to part ways, and according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Miami Heat have the inside track to earn his services next. The Philadelphia 76ers are queuing up for an interview before Love makes a final decision, though, creating an interesting race between Eastern Conference contenders.

ESPN Sources: Kevin Love and the Cleveland Cavaliers have completed a contract buyout. The Miami Heat are a frontrunner to sign Love, but he plans to talk to the Philadelphia 76ers before making a decision.

Love is currently averaging 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in 20.0 minutes per game, having appeared 41 times for the Cavaliers this season, with 3 starts. He’s only shooting 38.9% from the floor and 35.4% from the three-point arc, but as late as last season, he was shooting 43% and 39%, respectively.

The buyout market is particularly attractive for teams looking to add a rotation player on the cheap. By NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement rules, the player must come to terms with his current team for the full amount of the contract or a mutually-satisfactory compromise. After that agreement is made and executed, he becomes a free agent.

Here’s the catch. Almost all the salary the makes by signing with a new team is deducted from the prior team’s obligation, meaning the player, himself, will not earn more by signing a bigger contract once he’s been bought out. If Cleveland owes Love $29 million and he signs for $10 million, he wouldn’t get $39 million. Instead he’d get close to his original amount, while his new team took over the payments Cleveland owed him.

Obviously, under these circumstances, there’s no incentive for a player to sign for anything more than a minimum contract with a new team. The player doesn’t get more of that, and the team doesn’t want to spend extra money alleviating someone else’s financial obligation. That means buyout players come fantastically cheap, at the lowest salary possible. That’s why contending teams—often financially strapped—troll the waters for veteran players like Love to fill out their roster.