“In The Scope With Joshua M. Hicks” is a weekly column from the lead columnist of WARR
Kevin Love has always made it public that whether or not LeBron James stayed in Cleveland, he wanted to play for the Cavaliers, continuing to make Cleveland home.
Although it had been reported that the Cavs were keeping all options open in the wake of losing LeBron, among those options included trading Love and starting a rebuild with a much younger Cavs team, the franchise expressed mutual interest in believing in Love by officially signing him to a 4-year, $120 million extension. Love secured his bag, but one must ask themselves if the Cavs made the right move by keeping Love in a long-term deal?
By signing Love, the Cavs are showing confidence that they still have enough talent to compete in the Eastern Conference, even without King James, who left the team he took to four straight NBA Finals for the legendary purple and gold Lakers. One could argue is sufficient, especially since the East is still considerably wide open and by defining staying relevant as in possibly making the playoffs, even as an eighth seed, is a possible positive outcome.
The last seven teams in the East that missed the playoffs (New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, Charlotte Hornets, Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons) had a combined record of 208-366 (56 percent) of their games last season, and with their recent offseason moves, although they are improving, many believe are not expecting huge progressions, especially within next season.
The Cavs have young talent with mass experience in their primes. Players like Jordan Clarkson, who before being traded from the Lakers to the Cavs averaged 14 points on 49 percent shooting and Rodney Hood (if retained as a current restricted free agent), who averaged 15 points on 42 percent shooting, will continue to grow and develop now that the pressure of winning and being under the spotlight no longer exists.
As the first options now on the team, they will also be able to pair well with shooter Kyle Korver, an improving Cedi Osman, their first-round pick Alabama guard Collin “Young Bull” Sexton, a promising point guard that can really excel under the leadership of Tyron Lue. Sexton will also have the opportunity of being a mentee to the quality veteran defensive point guard George Hill, who was amongst the best shooting 43 percent from three last season and roughly a 40 percent career three shooter.
Love being the main option allows the offense to flow through him, giving him the freedom to showcase his full arsenal of being more than just a corner three– point shooter like recent years. His career numbers have been pretty consistent, averaging 19 points and 12 rebounds on 48 percent shooting and 36 percent from the three during his six years in a Timberwolves uniform compared to 17 points and 10 rebounds on 51 percent shooting and 36 percent shooting from the three so far in a Cavs uniform. The opportunity to expand and increase his stats line is more evident than ever, especially since he has arguably better teammates than he did in his Minnesota days.
Most importantly, we cannot overlook the Cavs history of rebuilding, especially since “The Chosen One” first left his hometown team. In the rebuilding stages, the Cavs could not recruit major free agents to the team and drafted first overall in three of the next four seasons before James’ return to The Land. One draft pick (Anthony Bennett) did not last a year with the team, while Andrew Wiggins did not even last half of the summer before being part of the Love-trade and Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving were eventually shipped out of town no matter the success.
The Cavs franchise in the four seasons without their ultimate leader accomplished a 97-215 record, according to Cleveland.com. The Cavs made sure that future this time without James would be different, and keeping Love was the difference maker. By keeping a quality-caliber All-Star in Love long-term prevents repeating the history of the Cavs rebuilding phases, and keeps the team afloat within a weakened Eastern Conference.
The Cavs future success without James is still unknown, but at least this time we can hopefully expect the outcome to be different thanks to Love’s stay.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Chicago-based sports writer and broadcaster, follow him on Twitter @jhicks042; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio