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The NBA Draft is over and NBA free agency is in full swing. The league is getting its annual shake-up with new faces in new places, all with the hope of being able to find the right mix to claim the 2018 NBA title.
While there are certainly still moves to be made, the main wave of big changes has already occurred. Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Gordon Hayward and Paul Millsap are all in new places. The NBA looks significantly different than it did three weeks ago and yet, little has changed.
For all the teams hoping to dethrone the Golden State Warriors, one sobering statistic keeps coming to mind, 16-1. The Golden State Warriors went 16-1 in the playoffs en route to the 2017 NBA Championship.
Despite all the recent moves, the reality is that as of right now, the Cleveland Cavaliers are in the best position to defeat the Warriors in 2018. Last year they lost to the Warriors 4-1, and could have easily been swept.
Cleveland might be the closest to toppling Golden State but that doesn’t mean they’re actually close. While other near-contenders (Boston and Houston) continue to make moves, Cleveland is seemingly stuck in the position of being second best.
With some bad contracts on their books, an aging roster and very little in the way of desirable trade assets, there is little Cleveland can do to get over the hump. Which brings us to Kevin Love.
Obviously, trading LeBron James or Kyrie Irving is a no-go. With that being the case, many NBA fans have pointed to Love as being the piece Cleveland would need to move to upgrade their roster significantly.
Initially, many of these proposed trades had George or Butler as their targets. With those two now off the table, Carmelo Anthony’s name keeps popping up. If Cleveland can find a way to acquire Anthony without giving up Love, they should do it (although this wouldn’t solve almost any of their matchup issues with Golden State). If the only way to get Anthony is by sending Love packing, Cleveland should absolutely reject that idea.
Love was not the reason Cleveland lost in the finals. He averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds over the course of the series. Those numbers are solid, even if they aren’t fantastic. He also put up 19 points and 11 rebounds per game during the regular season. That kind of production shouldn’t be tossed aside in the search for a scapegoat.
The former league-leading rebounder put up those numbers while not having the ball in his hands much with James and Irving being the primary offensive weapons.
A nightly 20-10 from a player getting a lot of his points on catch-and-shoot is not easy to find. If you remove his production and substitute in Anthony’s (22 points and six rebounds per game), you get a net of three more points per game with five less rebounds. How is that going to change the 4-1 outcome of last month’s Finals?
Anthony is just one of the players who has been suggested as the answer to Cleveland’s Golden State question (the other two having been George and Butler). All three are ball-dominant players which is not something an offense featuring James and Irving needs more of.
What Cleveland needs is a more versatile bench, better perimeter defense and an actual rebounder besides Love and Tristan Thompson. What they don’t require, is to get rid of their walking double-double who needs minimal plays called for him.
For Cleveland, Love isn’t all they need but they shouldn’t be in any hurry to move on from him.