Now that Kevin Love is out for the rest of the playoffs with a shoulder injury, attention has turned to his immediate future with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers have some significant advantages in keeping Love this summer: they can offer him more money, a longer contract, and a chance to compete for a title.
However, Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on The Dan Patrick Show that Love re-signing with the Cavs isn’t such a sure thing. Wojnarowski told Patrick:
“I think he has all year long looked longingly at free agency and the possibility of what else is out there… He’s going to look at free agency, I think he’s going to look at other teams. He could always opt in for another year and go into free agency next summer where there’s that even bigger pool of money, but there’s legitimate fear within the Cavs that he’ll just walk.”
Love would be risking a huge amount of money by not re-signing with Cleveland. If he opts out of the final year of his contract, becomes a free agent this summer, and signs with another team, he’d be eligible for a max contract worth about $US86 million over four years.
The smarter financial decision for Love would be to opt into his $US16.7 million player option for 2015-16 and become a free agent in 2016, when the salary cap is set to explode because of the league’s new TV deal. If he were to re-sign with the Cavaliers that summer, he’d be eligible for a five-year deal worth 30% of the estimated $US89 million salary cap with 7.5% raises each season. That would be a five-year, $US153 million deal.
So, depending on when Love chooses to become a free agent and where he chooses to go, he could be facing a $US67 million difference in earnings.
Even if Love wants to leave, he’d be smarter to wait until 2016. If he opts-in to his 2015-16 contract and then leaves next summer, he’d be eligible for a max contract worth about $US114 million over four years. This would still represent a nearly $US40 million difference from re-signing with Cleveland in 2016, but he’d earn more money than if he walked this summer.
For many players, that would be too much to turn down, especially if it meant competing for a title. However, there’s a human element that can’t be ignored in these situations.
Chris Bosh warned Love before the season that his role would be marginalized by playing with two ball-dominant offensive players. Not only did Love see a dip in his numbers, he was often under-used in offensive schemes, forced to play a “stretch-four” role for which he’s arguably over-qualified. Additionally, his awkward relationship with LeBron James hasn’t made his adjustment any easier.
It might seem laughable to turn down millions of dollars and a chance to compete for a title, but if Wojnarowski’s report is to be believed there’s at least a chance that Love, 1) doesn’t think he fits in Cleveland, and 2) thinks he can be the best player on a title team and doesn’t want to be diminished as a third fiddle.
As ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reported, the Cavaliers have basically already started their recruiting pitch for Love this summer. Losing Love would be a nightmare for the Cavs. They wouldn’t have the financial capability to replace him with a free agent of his calibre, and they’d have traded former No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett, 2014 No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins, and a future first-round pick for a one-year rental.
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