For years, Kevin Love is a player at least a decent sized segment of Utah Jazz fans have wanted on the team. Well, Love is in the news right now, as he will be competing for Team USA as it tries to win a gold medal at the Olympics.
Rumors are swirling that he and the Cleveland Cavaliers will agree to terms on a buyout of his massive contract (more on that in a bit) and that Love will then join a contending team.
The Jazz could certainly fall into the “contending teams” category, so is it time for them to try to acquire Love?
The case for Love
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when Jazz fans started pining for Love, but it came at a time when he was consistently a top player in the NBA (he was named an All-Star in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2017 and 2018) as a “stretch four” and the Jazz were starting Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert together in the frontcourt.
The Golden State Warriors had really fundamentally changed the way teams viewed the “four” (“power forward”) position, and Jazz fans wanted more shooting and playmaking than Favors could offer, while those are areas Love excelled at, in addition to being an excellent rebounder.
To boot, Love has a house in Park City and once called it his favorite place in the United States, and he grew up in the affluent Lake Oswego, Oregon.
“Wait, a star NBA player loves Utah? Make it happen, Jazz management!” was the essential makeup of a common refrain at the time among fans who wanted Love.
Well, it never happened, and then Love signed a four-year, $120 million contract extension with the Cavaliers that started in the 2019-20 season. The prevailing thought then was that a rebuilding Cavaliers team could eventually use his huge salary in a trade to get more up-and-coming players on smaller contracts, but Love has only played in 81 games the past two seasons, and his contract is now an albatross.
At this point, Love and the Cavaliers agreeing to a buyout of his contract is looking more and more like what will happen. In a buyout, the team waives the player and the two sides agree to an amount in the remaining contract that the player has to forfeit.
The player then goes on waivers for 48 hours. During these two days, any team in the league is eligible to pick up the player, but the catch is that the team has to pay the full salary on the contract that existed before the player was waived, and the team can’t go over the salary cap to do it.
Love would be a classic buyout candidate, as those players are often good ones who are on bad teams. It follows, then, that those players usually sign with a good team. Already, Love is being linked to teams such as the Brooklyn Nets and Golden State Warriors.
The case against Love to the Jazz
While Love probably would have fit in very well with the Jazz’s core a few years ago, the team has been completely transformed and doesn’t really need what Love can offer, and his shortcomings are the same ones the Jazz have now.
Specifically, the Jazz don’t need a “stretch four” anymore, as their two starting forwards, Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O’Neale, are good outside shooters. Truthfully, Love at this point in his career is more of a “stretch five,” or center, as he probably can’t defend 4s anymore.
You could make an argument that the Jazz now need a stretch five, but the sort of small center with shooting ability they need is one who is athletic enough to defend on the perimeter, and Love cannot do that nearly effectively enough, to probably put it too kindly.
Perhaps if Love wants to come to the Jazz so badly that he’s willing to take a very small amount of money like a veteran’s minimum, he could be worth using a roster spot on, but if he commands more money than that, the Jazz are probably better served looking at other players in August’s free agency period.
The bottom line
Love could have been an excellent fit for the Jazz a few years ago playing next to Gobert, but Love himself, the Jazz and the NBA have evolved to the point that a marriage just doesn’t make much sense at this point.
Never say never, but from this point of view, it would be a significant surprise if the two sides agreed to a deal.