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Kevin Love’s 5 best destinations after buyout with Cavs, ranked

Kevin Love’s 5 best destinations after buyout with Cavs, ranked

Kevin Love and the Cleveland Cavaliers have finally parted ways after nine seasons and one memorable NBA championship together. Love and the Cavs have agreed to a buyout which puts the veteran power forward on the free agent market just ahead of the stretch run for the playoffs. Love had been out of the rotation in Cleveland for the last three weeks and is seeking a new home where he can get some real playing time, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The 34-year-old Love was one of the longest tenured players in the NBA with one team after coming to the Cavaliers in a trade for No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins ahead of the 2014-2015 season. Love made two All-Star appearances in Cleveland, and was a big part of the Cavs’ 2016 championship team. Love has always been known for his shooting and passing, but it was a key defensive stop on Stephen Curry during the 2016 Finals that survives as his defining moment.

Love’s play had been declining for a couple seasons in Cleveland after LeBron James and Kyrie Irving left the franchise, but he enjoyed a major bounce-back campaign last year by averaging nearly 14 points per game and hitting 40 percent of his threes. He immediately becomes one of the biggest names on the buyout market. Who could use his services for the rest of this year? Here are five teams that would fit him well.

5. Los Angeles Lakers

The LeBron connection makes the Lakers an obvious fit. James and Love have maintained a close relationship since winning the 2016 championship together, and it would make sense if LeBron pushed to get the team to sign his friend. The Lakers don’t take or make many threes, which is an area where Love could help. LA has also been a poor offensive rebounding team all year, and Love still has some ability in that area, too.

I just wonder if the Lakers really have any minutes in the rotation for Love after making so many moves at the trade deadline. LA is already trying to find minutes for new additions Jarred Vanderbilt and Mo Bamba in the front court, and parted ways with productive backup center Thomas Bryant to do it. LA would probably welcome having another shooter like Love around, but if he wants consistent minutes this might not be the best fit.

4. Chicago Bulls

The Bulls have been extremely disappointing all year without injured guard Lonzo Ball, and their season only got more maddening when the team decided to stand pat at the trade deadline. If Chicago is serious about still making a playoff push, they have a few glaring holes they need to fix, starting with shooting. That’s where Kevin Love can help.

The Bulls currently rank dead last in the league in both three-point makes and three-point attempts. Love is a career 37.2 percent shooter from deep, and it’s one part of his game that aged well. The Bulls don’t have much depth in the front court as it is without injured small ball forward Javonte Green. Love feels like an easy plug-and-play solution in the rotation who can help fix the outside shooting problem that has plagued the Bulls all year.

3. Miami Heat

Like the Bulls, the Heat were also one of the few teams in the league not to do anything at the trade deadline. It was just last season when Miami came within a Jimmy Butler three-pointer of going to the NBA Finals, but the team has never really hit its stride this year because of injuries and a struggling offense. At the moment, the Heat rank No. 27 in the league in offensive efficiency. This Miami team just isn’t good enough shooting the ball — they make only 33.4 percent of their shots from three-point range, which ranks No. 28 in the league.

The Heat have mostly been playing wings in the rotation around star center Bam Adebayo. Signing Love would give them another big body inside that can also help address their shooting problem. Love’s slow feet on defense would be somewhat minimized by Miami’s frequent use of zone defense, too. There’s a clear path to minutes in the rotation for Love if he signs in Miami.

2. Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks won a championship in 2021, and are one of the favorites again this year. Love’s game is a good fit for Milwaukee’s system: this team spaces the floor well and hoists threes with volume around MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo’s drives to the rim, and that’s exactly what Love can do. The Bucks have been trying to integrate free agent signing Joe Ingles lately as he returns from injury, and they just traded for Jae Crowder to help beef up their shooting and front court defense. Are there still minutes here for Love?

While his role might be more inconstant than in other spots, Milwaukee would offer Love the chance to win another ring. His game is a wonderful fit with Antetokounmpo, who could cover up for him on the defensive end, and help get Love open on offense with his constant rim pressure. Signing Love would be good insurance for Bobby Portis and Brook Lopez during the playoffs, but if everyone is healthy I could see him getting more DNPs.

1. Phoenix Suns

The Suns traded basically every future asset they own for Kevin Durant at the NBA trade deadline because they want to win the championship this season. Durant and Devin Booker immediately form the league’s most deadly 1-2 scoring punch. Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton are pretty damn good, too. One question for Phoenix is going to be its depth, particularly in the front court. That’s where Love can help.

The Suns only have Bismack Biyombo and Jock Landale at backup center. T.J. Warren, Torrey Craig, and Darius Bazley will compete for minutes at the backup forward spot, but Love is a better spot-up three-point shooter than any of them. Phoenix has so much pick-and-roll ball handling at the moment that Love should offer value as someone who can pop to the three-point line. His rebounding would help, too.

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