By Brian Robb, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics are primed to have a very eventful offseason when it comes to roster construction. With ample draft picks and salary cap space in place to maneuver with, Danny Ainge started to test the waters on making a potential big splash at the trade deadline. Jahill Okafor was reportedly one big name the Celtics were discussing last month, but it appears an old flame was also on the target list as well.READ MORE: Stimulus Check Update: Is A Fourth Relief Payment Coming?
Zach Lowe of ESPN.com reported Tuesday that the Celtics and Cavaliers had discussions about power forward Kevin Love at the trade deadline, but talks fell apart after Ainge sent a “low-ball” offer Cleveland’s way that the front office wouldn’t consider.
While it’s not surprising to see Cleveland’s hesitancy in moving a core piece during a season when it is the top contender in the Eastern Conference, the current complexion of the Cavs’ season make this situation one that Celtics fans should watch closely. The midseason coaching shift to Ty Lue has not produced better results for LeBron and his supporting cast, particularly Love.
The three-time All-Star is having his worst full season since 2009-10, posting subpar shooting numbers (41.4% FG, 34.4% 3FG) for an offense in which he’s an awkward fit as a third option at times. Additionally, the Cavs seemingly added a cheaper version of the stretch four skillset he’s used for last month by trading for sharpshooting big man Channing Frye.
If the Cavs have a disappointing finish in the postseason this year, it would not be surprising to see them shake things up a bit and Love is a potential candidate to go due to his salary. Frye makes about a third ($7.6 million) of what Love is owed in 2016-17 and that’s money the Cavs would be better served in addressing other areas of weakness (defense) on the roster.
Love is easily the more talented all-around player than Frye, but he’s not being used as such in an offense with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving where everyone works best with the ball in their hands. Love has been relegated into a pick-and-pop player and 3-point shooter, two things he’s not excelling at enough to justify a max salary for the next four years.READ MORE: US Job Openings Reached Record Levels To Start April; Northeast Had Nearly 1.5 Million
The question for Boston’s front office this summer will be just how much the 27-year-old would be worth to them in a starring role in Boston. Love is still signed for the next four seasons at over $93 million, making him a pricy commitment for the long-term, but one that could be worth the price with a rising salary cap next summer.
The question will come down to assets for Ainge, as well as which free agents are intrigued with Boston on the open market. The top option will always be signing top names without having to give up compensation, so the team will almost certainly wait to take shots at landing Kevin Durant, Al Horford etc. before giving up major assets for Love.
However, there is always the possibility of a scenario where you need another big piece to help entice a player to be willing to come to Boston. Love could be a nice buy-low target for Boston in that kind of scenario, just like Ray Allen was in 2007 in getting Kevin Garnett to agree to come to Boston.
The risks could not be ignored in betting big on Love in that scenario with his declining numbers, injury history and potentially strengthening your Eastern Conference rivals. Still, if Boston wants to get a pair of stars to align with Isaiah Thomas though, acquiring Love via trade might be one of the best ways to make it happen.
If the Cavs surprise everyone and shock the Spurs or Warriors in the NBA Finals, this discussion becomes moot. Love isn’t going anywhere in that case. The odds are stacked against that scenario right now though, based on the team’s play, leading to potentially active summers in both Boston and Cleveland.MORE NEWS: Massachusetts Surpasses 3 Million People Fully Vaccinated Against COVID
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.