Well, so much for the drama.
Kevin Love agreed to a five-year, $110 million contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, forsaking other opportunities and opting to return to a franchise that should be a force in the coming years.
How surprised should we be by this?
“Not at all surprised, to be honest with you,” Sports Illustrated NBA writer Chris Mannix said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “My position all along – from everything I heard publicly from Kevin Love, as we all did, and privately behind the scenes – was that his preference was not only to stay in Cleveland, but to sign a long-term deal. And that, frankly, jives with everything Kevin Love has done in his past. You go back to 2012 in Minnesota, where the Timberwolves – who were comically mismanaged at the time by David Kahn – they wanted Kevin Love to sign a short-term deal. Kevin Love wanted the full five years. They wound up giving him the four with the third-year opt out, which is why we’re here where we are today. But Kevin has always been motivated in a large part by financial security. So him taking that full five years from the Cavaliers is not at all surprising.”
Love, who is coming off statistically his worst season since 2009-10, will rejoin a crowded Cavs front-court featuring Timofey Mozgov, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao. Love averaged 16.4 points and 9.7 rebounds last season; he had averaged a double-double in each of his previous five seasons and 20+ points in three of the previous four. He also played just 33.8 minutes per game – his fewest in five years.
Shouldn’t that be a bit of a concern for Love?
“I mean, look, you’re right,” Mannix said. “The minutes are going to be much tighter for Kevin Love than what they used to be, and obviously with the way Tristan Thompson played in the postseason, he has earned perhaps even more of an opportunity going into next season. But LeBron, he can play power forward, but he’s still a small forward. We saw how the Cavaliers just ran through the Eastern Conference playing a more traditional lineup most of the time with Mozgov at 5 and Thompson at 4. I don’t think Kevin Love is going into this with his eyes shut. I think he knows that he may not be competing for his starting spot, but he’s not going to have the type of numbers that he’s used to in Minnesota. And the current trade-off for that is they are the odds-on-by-far-favorites to clobber everybody in the Eastern Conference and will be a favorite against anybody in the West.””
Love’s deal was the highlight of a busy Wednesday. Jimmy Butler reached a five-year, $90 million deal with the Bulls, while Tyson Chandler agreed to a four-year, $52 million deal with the Suns. Several other players agreed to deals, including Goran Dragic, Mike Dunleavy and Danny Green.
“It’s happening pretty quickly,” Mannix said of the free-agency flurry. “I didn’t expect today (to be so busy). There’s always going to be activity, but (there were) final decisions being made by a lot more guys than were anticipated. This is the kind of thing where usually it might run until mid-July, but we could have most of these deals wrapped up before the end of the weekend.”