The Cleveland Cavaliers know their window of winning an NBA championship closes as LeBron James gets older and older.
Cleveland has experienced unprecedented success in franchise history with James on the roster. Since selecting James with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 draft, the Cavs have claimed four Central division crowns and reached the playoffs seven times. They are playing in their third NBA Finals, though they are currently down to the Golden State Warriors 2-0.
The Cavaliers have been thoroughly outplayed in the first two games of the series by the Warriors, as Cleveland’s Big 3 have struggled mightily. James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love have combined for 100 points, as they are just 37-for-98 shooting from the field (37.7 percent) and 7-for-25 from beyond the arc (28 percent). The trio also have come up with 40 rebounds, doled out 25 assists and committed 22 turnovers. The Cavs have been outscored by the Warriors by 80 points when the three players have been on the floor.
If the Cavs don’t turn things around quickly in the series versus the Warriors, there could be some major changes next year in Cleveland. Chris Mannix of The Vertical reports that the major change may mean the end of the Kevin Love era in Cleveland.
“If they go out like this, I’m betting on a Kevin Love auction,” a league executive told Mannix.
Love looked tentative in Game 2 and rushed several of his seven shots. He finished the game with just five points, on 2-of-7 shooting from the floor, and three rebounds in 21 minutes. He was down on the floor for a while after being hit in the back of the head by a Harrison Barnes elbow as Barnes went for a rebound with a little more than five minutes left in the second quarter.
According to Yahoo Sports, Love is back in Cleveland after being cleared to traveled. His status is unknown, though he will likely fight to play in Game 3, which set for Wednesday.
Love hasn’t looked comfortable since coming to Cleveland in the block-buster deal that involved Andrew Wiggins in 2014. He came into this postseason with a lot to prove, as his 2015-2016 numbers were slightly down from his 2014-15 numbers. Love produced 35 double-doubles and averaged 16.0 points, along with 9.9 rebounds, while shooting 41.9 percent from the field, as well as 36.0 percent from the three-point line during the regular season.
Love started the playoffs with eight straight double-doubles, as the Cavs swept through the first two rounds. The 27-year-old has recorded 10 double-doubles and reached double-figures in scoring in 14-of-his-16 games, which includes six games of 20 or more points. Love is averaging 11.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, and shooting 37.5 percent from the field in Finals.
Former NBA player John Salley, on the Mike &Mike ESPN Radio Show, said Love would look good in Los Angeles with the Lakers. Love has also been linked to the Boston Celtics in the past.
By trading Love, Cleveland would likely open some cap space. The Cavaliers currently have $72.9 million in guaranteed money owed to seven players, per Basketball Insiders. LeBron James ($24.004 million), J.R. Smith ($5.37 million) and Mo Williams ($2.19 million) all have early termination options, and each is expected to exercise that option. James will definitely be back, while Smith and Williams’ statuses are up in the air.
Smith is the shooter that Cleveland needs to help spread the floor with Irving and James ability to get to the rim. The 30-year-old has been practically invisible during the Finals and has been held under 10 points in four of the last five postseason contests. Still, Smith is averaging 11.0 points in the postseason, as he is shooting 44.7 percent from the field and 45.1 percent from beyond the arc.
Williams hasn’t been part of the Cavs’ rotation all season, appearing in 41 games during the regular season and nine postseason contests. He still has the ability to score and is a solid perimeter shooter.
Matthew Dellavedova will likely be a restricted free agent once he receives his $1.43 million qualifying tender. Dellavedova is a feisty point guard that gets into opponents on the defensive end. He is a very good playmaker and three-point shooter.
Dahntay Jones’ contract is non-guaranteed for next year for $1.5 million. The 35-year-old appeared in just one regular season game for the Cavs and has seen limited action in his 11 postseason games.
Jordan McRae has a team option for next season. The 25-year-old has shown some scoring ability and is a candidate to return in 2016-17.
Timofey Mozgov, Richard Jefferson, and James Jones are unrestricted free agents. It will be a surprise if any of the three players return, though Jefferson seems the most likely to.
[Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press]