The biggest storyline in the NBA during this offseason has been the return of LeBron James to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Following the four-time MVP’s return, there has been a flurry of rumors of the possibility of Kevin Love teaming up with him through a much-speculated trade. This past week, however, the rumor became a more probable reality, when Cleveland and Love’s current home, the Minnesota Timberwolves, agreed on the deal to be concluded on August 23. While it appears Kevin Love will be traded in 13 days, the NBA still has an option to veto the deal if impropriety was conducted.
As it stands, Kevin Love will be traded by Minnesota to Cleveland for the top pick in the last two drafts, Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, along with a first-round draft pick. However, in order for the deal to be completed, Wiggins, who recently signed with Cleveland, will have to wait 30 days to be traded, due to league rules that state that a drafted player cannot be traded until after he has spent 30 days on the team.
A bigger possible issue for the deal might be Love’s inevitable contract extension with the Cleveland Cavaliers, reportedly worth five years of $120 million. What complicates the trade in this scenario is that no player can take part in contract extension negotiations while still part of another team. As such, Cleveland is prohibited from talking details with the Minnesota power forward, until the trade is completed. Therefore, if proof is found that the Cavaliers have already approached Love with this contract extension, the NBA has the power to block the high profile trade.
Ultimately, Cleveland wants Love on board for the long haul. Many would call it incredibly risky for the team to conduct the trade for him without a guarantee of him signing long-term. If he does not sign long-term, he would essentially be the same risk to Cleveland that he currently is with Minnesota, potentially leaving town for nothing. As such, he would come at the same risk that Dwight Howard came to the Lakers a few years back, by playing one season with the team, only to leave for another franchise at the end of the year.
This trade puts the NBA in a tricky situation. It would be hard to believe that Cleveland has approached this trade without talking to Love or Minnesota about putting a contract extension in place. If they did that, they would, essentially, lose their top draft picks over the last few years for nothing. It would make them worse off next year, in theory, if Love chose to go elsewhere. At the same time, it would be hypocritical of Silver and the NBA to veto this trade. After all, in February of 2011, a similar scenario took place between the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks. Three years ago, Carmelo Anthony had all but said he would sign with a different team during that offseason. Due to that revelation, Denver wanted to trade the All-Star in order to get something in return. As such, New York management made sure that Anthony would sign an extension that was worth three years, $65 million prior to a trade, which, ultimately, is what the small forward signed.
During the Carmelo Anthony situation a few years ago, the NBA knew he would sign an extension. New York had spoken to him and Denver about such a deal. If the NBA vetoes the Kevin Love deal, it would make the league look hypocritical. Certainly, the league is now run by Adam Silver, not David Stern. However, the past would indicate that if the Anthony trade was conducted with an extension in place, the Kevin Love trade should be allowed to as well. If the NBA decides to go in the opposite direction and veto it, Silver could be facing harsh criticism, something he may not want at this point during his short tenure.
The Kevin Love trade situation has been a part of the NBA offseason rumors all summer long. Now that the trade has a little under two weeks left from being completed, it would complicate things tremendously if the league vetoes the Kevin Love swap. It would create more turmoil for both teams, with potential fines coming to both. It also would mean that the Love drama would continue until another team approached Minnesota, but without the hopes of a contract extension. This may be a pivotal moment in the career of Adam Silver and for the league as a whole. Either he follows the proposed NBA guidelines or he uses the Carmelo Anthony trade as continuity for trades such as this in the future. Whatever he does decide though, he needs to choose wisely.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey