The Cleveland Cavaliers made two big moves last offseason in signing LeBron James and trading for Kevin Love. The trade cost them two former first-round draft picks in Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett to acquire the forward who was supposed to be the final piece of the puzzle for the Cavaliers. Love struggled during the regular season and ended the year with a season-ending injury, never truly fitting in to Cleveland. Now, he is exploring his options and opting to become a free agent.
According to ESPN's Marc Stein, Love has informed the Cavaliers that he is opting out of his $16.7 million option and testing out free agency. This could be a number of things. Love has maintained all along that he intends to stay in Cleveland because the team gives him the best chance to win. Stein reports the Cavaliers knew Love was planning on opting out, but hope to re-sign the forward to another one-year deal. That would allow Love to capitalize when the NBA salary caps increase next year. However, opting out opens a small window for teams to try and pry Love out of Cleveland as they all lineup to meet with the forward.
Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that James has no plans of recruiting Love back to Cleveland. James was a big reason why the Cavaliers traded for Love in the first place, but he will not play recruiter twice. Haynes reports that James believes Love understands he can be a part of something special in Cleveland and it is his call on whether or not he intends to stay.
Cleveland can offer Love $2.3 million more than any other team, but that would likely come in a one-year deal rather than a long-term contract. According to the Plain Dealer, signing Love to a max deal this season is the priority while Love's time would come next season. The Cavaliers simply cannot afford to hand out multiple long-term deals which could hurt the futures of players like JR Smith who also announced he is opting out with the intentions of getting a pay raise from Cleveland.
The Cavaliers have a lot of decisions to make. If they were to really lose Love, the trade would be deemed a real failure for the team and leave them searching more in free agency than they originally intended on doing. With James on the roster, the Cavaliers would recruit just about anyone to fill the shoes of Love. The question is whether the Cavaliers can afford them as players like Paul Millsap, David West and Brandon Bass become available.