As currently constituted, the Cleveland Cavaliers are the most expensive team in NBA history. David Griffin is paying $108,300,458 for a team down 2-0 in the NBA Finals. The current NBA salary cap is $70 million. That means David Griffin is paying more in luxury tax than I will make in my entire lifetime, which is all well and good when LeBron is happy and the team is cohesive and Cleveland is winning NBA championships.
But given the likely result of this series, in a few weeks the Cavaliers will be losers of two straight NBA Finals. For the second straight year, they will have blown through the Eastern Conference only to be dispatched by the vastly superior Western Conference.
If you’re LeBron, this is not good enough. You did not come back to Cleveland only to win more conference championships. You came to march down the biggest street in Cleveland** with a ring on your finger and a trophy in your hand.
If you’re David Griffin, your only priority this offseason—assuming your team loses—is keeping LeBron happy. That has to be the only thing that matters. It isn’t necessarily fair, because that is exactly what you have been doing by assembling this team, but if you want LeBron on your team, which I imagine is the case, then that is what has to happen.
So, how do you keep LeBron happy, while also trimming some salary fat? Do you get rid of Kyrie Irving?
No way. His $16 million contract is a relative bargain. Plus LeBron seems to like him, and for what it’s worth, he is the longest tenured Cavalier on this roster. Seriously.
Do you get rid of the grossly-overpaid Tristan Thompson? You should, but it isn’t that easy. Thompson’s offseason holdout would have turned into a contract with another team in every other NBA circumstance. But he is one of LeBron’s guys—which essentially trumps everything—so he signed a ludicrous five year $82 million contract.
(Remember LeBron’s passive-aggressive Instagram post on this matter?)
Now Cleveland is stuck with a good offensive rebounder eating up a large portion of their cap for the next four years.
You can cut a bunch of dead weight in guys like JR Smith and Iman Shumpert (the Trash Bros), but that won’t solve the roster problem or the salary problem.
If you’re David Griffin, the only way to shake up the roster in an impactful way while also shedding yourself of potential luxury fees is to ship off Kevin Love.
If the Warriors head to Cleveland and unceremoniously sweep away the Cavs, consider Kevin Love gone. What would be the point of keeping him? After the season, Griffin needs to ask himself three questions about every player on the team except LeBron.
- Does LeBron like this player?
- Is this player making too much money?
- Can this player really help you beat a team from the Western Conference?
Let’s see. Does LeBron like Kevin Love? LeBron?
The passive-aggressive Tweet of death.
Is Kevin Love making too much money? He is making what the market was willing to pay him. But yes, his five year, $113 million contract is far too much for what has become a glorified stretch four. If Griffin were to put Love on the trading block, the offers would come flowing in. Love is still a ‘star,’ and NBA teams are willing to throw whatever amount of money or players it takes to get a ‘star.’
(CC: Celtics. You think Danny Ainge wouldn’t throw half his roster at Kevin Love?)
Did Kevin Love show anything in these Finals that leads you to believe you need him to beat a Western Conference team?
I know he got a concussion pretty early in game two, but his numbers before that were fairly underwhelming. He shot 7-17 in game one with 13 rebounds and four turnovers. In twenty game two minutes, he scored five points, grabbed three rebounds, and did a whole bunch of floating around. He didn’t pass the eye test. He seemed passive and disinterested in ‘the moment.’
That’s a clean strikeout on Cleveland’s ‘How Important Is This Guy Scale.’
It seems like Love will be out, or at least limited, in game three. So the only way he salvages his time in Cleveland is if LeBron wins game three, then Love unleashes himself on the Warriors in games four, five, and six. He will have to show up and hit three pointers and rebound and pass. He will have to prove to LeBron that he is worthy—no easy task for a moody and impatient superstar entering the back-nine of his career.
He has run out of time. It’s time for Kevin Love to transcend into a game-changing, first-tier star, or his remaining time in Cleveland will last only as long as this series will.
Image via AP
** The biggest street in Cleveland = The tallest leprechaun