Love and the Cavaliers inked a four-year, $120 million extension on Tuesday, according to ESPN, which will theoretically make the forward the face of the franchise for the foreseeable future.
“Kevin’s talent and character are both at a very high level and he has earned his role at the centre of what we want to do moving forward,” Cleveland general manager Koby Altman said in a statement.
Love still has one year on his current deal before the extension kicks in for the 2019-20 season, and his new contract will reportedly pay him $8 million less than the full max he could have earned.
The deal seems to indicate the road the Cavaliers want to pursue after James left for the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency this summer. Cleveland could have chosen to play out the final year of Love’s contract and let him walk next offseason, clearing $24.1m from their cap space, or they could have pursued a trade to accelerate a rebuild.
By giving him an extension, the Cavaliers appear intent on staying competitive and vying for a playoff spot in a relatively weak Eastern Conference.
As the primary option in the offence, Love’s numbers could look like they did during his days with the Minnesota Timberwolves, with whom he averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists in his final season back in 2013-14.
However, Minnesota never made the playoffs once during Love’s tenure as his eye-popping stats were considered mostly empty. As the lone star on the new-look Cavaliers, Love could struggle to keep them nearly as relevant as they were with James.
Love’s deal doesn’t preclude him from being traded, though. If Cleveland aren’t where they want to be in the middle of the season, it’s possible the Cavaliers could look to move him.
While the extension means he’s under contract for several year, that may make it more difficult to trade him, however. Love will be 34 in the final season of his deal, which should reduce the appeal of a player whose trade value was already low relative to his stature.
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