This piece is about the recent Kevin Love for Carmelo Anthony Rumor.
More to the point, it’s to rebuff all the idiotic puff pieces that say it’s silly with my own idiotic puff piece that makes the rumor make sense for Cleveland. And while it doesn’t touch in depth on the parallels such a trade would have with the Adrian Dantley-Mark Aguirre trade nearly 30 years ago, they are there.
That trade allowed a mildly floundering Pistons team to gel cohesively and go on to win a second title. In addition, Mark Aguirre, for whatever reason had taken on a reputation as not a winning player. (A la Carmelo.) Whereas Adrian Dantley was a scoring forward who didn’t play much defense. (That is to say, Kevin Love.)
The secret ingredient that made the trade possible. Isiah Thomas’s boyhood friendship with Mark Aguirre. It was that friendship which convinced the Pistons to go ahead with the deal, since they believed Thomas would be able to convince Aguirre, a scorer, to fall in line.
Again, very similar. Except in this scenario Lebron James is playing the part of Thomas.
So how might this trade work for Cleveland?
Well, let’s first ask, what does any team that has Lebron really need? First, a center who can rebound, defend his position, set screens and switch. Second, two-way players who can shoot threes. Lots of them. That’s how you get line-ups like these:
These are the line-ups that won Miami the 2013 NBA Championship. The lineups no team could deal with in the playoffs.
What do most of them have in common? Lebron James.
What else? Shooters who played their asses off and played defense. We’re talking about Shane Battier, Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers and Ray Allen, who didn’t play as much defense, but is for obvious reasons considered the greatest shooter in NBA history. Usually three of them are out there together with a Big.
Sometimes the Big was Anderson, who rolled hard to the rim, could catch the ball and finish. Sometimes the Big was Bosh who, other than Garnett or Nowitzki, was probably the most reliable guy in the league hitting 16-20 foot jumpers off of screening action.
Well, Cleveland already has a couple of Bigs who fit the bill in Tristan Thompson and Channing Frye. A third if you count Love, whose getting traded in this scenario.
What Most Of The Idiotic Puff Pieces Are Saying
Now of course, we all know what most of the idiotic puff pieces are saying. No way Cleveland breaks up its core. It was good enough to get to the Finals two years in a row and win once. And of course, Kevin Love is a pretty great player to have on your team against most teams in the league, including perhaps this year’s version of the Spurs.
The problem is that the Cavaliers, should they get to the Finals for a third time, are more than likely going to play the Golden State Warriors. The problem there is that Kevin Love wasn’t a terribly good fit on the court in that series last season.
Cleveland won 4 games vs. Golden State. In one of them Love didn’t play. In the other three, he averaged 25 minutes and was only truly impactful in the closeout game, in which he pulled down 14 boards, dished 3 assists and even came up with 2 steals.
That was before Golden State subbed out David Lee and Andrew Bogut for Kevin Durant, Zaza Pachulia and David West. We’ve all seen the results. Curry-Thompson-Iguodola-Durant-Green. This is just not a potential series that’s built for Kevin Love to be hugely successful in more than spot minutes.
The Other Problem
The other problem is that everyone is overestimating Kyrie Irving’s likely production should the Cleveland Cavaliers make the Finals again. Games 3 through 7 Kyrie Irving was fantastic last year. As good as he’s almost ever been from the standpoint of making shots and playing defense.
This is Kyrie Irving’s line from Games 3 Through 7. 30.8 points per game, 50.8% from the field, 46.7% from three, 95.2% from the Free Throw line, 4.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists. That’s not only as good as Kyrie Irving has ever been. That’s basically as good as anyone has ever been.
You see, only 14 players have ever reached that level, and every one of them is named Michael Jordan.
Or not. There’s some other greats mixed in there too. Kevin Durant, Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Adrian Dantley. But the closest comparable player, considering the shot-making, is really Steph Curry. So when we’re talking about Kyrie Irving being the 2nd best player on a championship team, let’s be real. We’re talking about that week and half period where Kyrie Irving turned into Steph Curry.
It’s amazing he had that in him. He should go down in history for it. One of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen. But we’re not altogether likely to see it again. This is not what we normally see from Kyrie, even in this, his best offensive season.
So What Does Cleveland Need?
Lebron thinks they need more playmaking. That may be true. I think they need some real 3-And-D players that will shift Lebron to PF and make Cleveland a nearly impossible out on both sides of the ball. Especially after J.R. Smith comes back from injury.
The thing is, New York has two of them in Courtney Lee and Justin Holiday. With Lee having a 4-year contract and Holiday being a Free Agent after the year. Then of course, there’s Carmelo, whose Olympic career suggests is much better as a finisher of plays than as a creator of them.
Or if you prefer to stick to the NBA three-point line, this is what Carmelo Anthony looks like in Catch-and-Shoot situations this year:
Just a heads up. A 62.5% Effective Field Goal Percentage is good. How good? It’s basically what Steph Curry did in the best offensive season we’ve ever seen. (63% eFG% in 2015-16.) This is the kind of player that can add marginal wins to Cleveland. Especially if he’s accompanied by Justin Holiday and perhaps Courtney Lee. That’s true, even if we consider, he was only a 54% eFG% player off-the-catch in 2015-16, not receiving passes from a player the caliber of Lebron.
So what might a trade look like?
New York gets their target in Love. They free themselves from Carmelo and Courtney Lee’s contract, which is basically an albatross on a bad team. Or rather, they exchange it for Shumpert’s, which is cheaper and less years. A fairly lateral move by RPM and On/Off numbers. Though as recently as two years ago, Shumpert’s was seen as significantly better due to his defensive impact.
Maybe that means Cleveland wants to keep Shumpert. After all, he is shooting 40% from three this year. And Cleveland really holds more cards here. There’s no desperation there. They won the Championship with a squad much like this one last year.
Fine, then let’s say, Carmelo Anthony and Justin Holiday for Love and Liggins. Basically, the same thing. Maybe there are picks included. Who knows? The point is that this is a trade that can work for Cleveland. Especially if it pushes Lebron to Power Forward versus the Warriors. And even at times gets to dictate match-ups, with shooters and two-way fill ins.
I’d even personally consider using Carmelo as a 6th man. In a more versatile version of the role Ray Allen played for those Miami Heat teams. With of course some more minutes than Allen was ready to receive at that point of his career.
I don’t know why Cleveland dismisses such an offer out of hand, considering New York has a couple of pieces they should find interesting, beyond Carmelo. Which leads me to believe, most likely, this trade was never seriously offered. Which is why this puff piece is so idiotic. But also as well, there might be a better Kevin Love deal on the horizon. I don’t know what that would be. Maybe Danny Ainge underestimates the two-way impact of Jae Crowder, though I doubt it. Especially with Crowder shooting 43% from three this year.
A Summation of Why Cleveland Should Be Interested, If Nothing Better Is On The Horizon
Kevin Love is great. Against most teams he’s been fantastic. But there’s a reason he’s got a negative -14 plus-minus against Golden State (Draymond/Durant) this year, and beyond that, -12 against the Clippers (Blake), -17 against Indiana (Turner/Young), -14 against Milwaukee(Giannis/Parker), -2 against Houston (Anderson), -9 against Chicago (Mirotic/McDermott), -10 against Atlanta (Millsap), -5 against Orlando (Ibaka/Gordon), -6 against Utah (Favors/Gobert/Lyles) and is barely breaking even against Philadelphia (Ilyasova/Saric/Embiid). This is a player that really struggles to play in space on defense, and really struggles to hang with super athletic players.
In addition, Love’s not nearly as talented a shot maker as Carmelo. The key you have to look at it is what percentage of these players field goals are assisted. Over 50% from Two for Love and nearly 100% from Three. Whereas Carmelo is at 30% and 70%. That difference is significant, and it’s dragging down Carmelo’s numbers. At least on the surface. Context is important, and it suggests, for Carmelo, there’s a lot of room for improvement.
Normally you’d worry about a guy like Carmelo changing teams. After all, outside of Syracuse and the Olympics he’s never won. He doesn’t seem to have winning habits.
However, Lebron is the NBA’s chief alpha dog and historically been able to get guys to fall in line behind him. For instance, once upon a time, people were worried with JR Smith, yet all we saw was a 3% point rise in Smith’s three-point percentage (from around 39% to around 40%) and a 7 point rise in Smith’s 2-Pt percentage (from around 43% to nearly 50%), in addition to defense that improved dramatically overnight. Is it a risk? Yes. Seems like a risk that Cleveland would have to take, especially if they can add a player like Justin Holiday in addition. But who knows, maybe there’s another Love trade on the horizon?