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Report: Kevin Love might follow LeBron James’ lead on free agency next summer

Aug 7, 2014, 1:55 PM EDT

The strangest part of the reported Kevin Love trade – Love to the Cavaliers for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a future first-round pick – was this line:

Cleveland is making the deal with Minnesota with a firm agreement Love will opt out of his contract in 2015 and re-sign with the Cavaliers on a five-year, $120 million-plus contract extension, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Love, based on the projected 2015-16 salary cap, could make only only $108,690,125. But that’s a relatively minor detail. Exact contract terms are difficult to pin down, and the size of a max contract won’t be determined until next July anyway. Either way, Love would get paid a lot of money – certainly the most allowable – if he re-signs next year.

But Love can’t make that agreement binding. The only way the Cavaliers get any assurance on his future is him opting in to the final year of his contract. An extension is not allowed until January and not feasible regardless.

So, despite whatever Love told anyone or whatever Cleveland believes, Love’s contract future is technically unknown. Perhaps practically unknown, too.

Ken Berger of CBS Sports:

If I had to guess, LeBron James will opt out of the final year of his two-year contract, which is set to pay him $21,573,398 in 2015-16. Based on the projected cap, he could re-sign for $22,053,069 that year. It would make sense to do that on another two-year deal with a player option, opt out once again in 2016 and finally sign a long-term contract when the cap could skyrocket.

Here’s the problem with Love following LeBron’s lead: He’s not LeBron.

For one, the difference in 2015-16 max salary between Love opting in ($16,744,219) and opting out ($18,902,630) is slated to be much more significant than with LeBron ($2,158,411 vs. $479,671). If LeBron opts in, will Love really do that, too?

For another, LeBron has much more security – based on his previous contracts, endorsement income and higher level of play – to take short deals and time his big payday. If he gets injured and misses all of next season, teams will still line up to give him a max contract. That isn’t quite the case for Love.

Love would be wise to get his big payday next summer, but like LeBron, he’ll have options. He should do what’s best for him and not worry about following LeBron’s lead.

Sure, he might get stuck on a team without LeBron, but I think that’s a chance worth taking. LeBron has given every indication he’s committed to Northeast Ohio for the long haul. Love should take him at his word. Not only would LeBron have a lot to lose by leaving again, that’s all Love can offer the Cavaliers – his word.

And if LeBron turns his back on Cleveland and Love, at least Love would have about 109 million reasons to get over it.

  1. ProBasketballPundit - Aug 7, 2014 at 2:00 PM

    I’m reading about Bird rights right now and Cleveland won’t have LeBron’s full Bird rights until the summer of 2017. However, I believe they’ll have Love’s immediately because his contract was traded. So for Love it would be advisable to sign a long term deal immediately seeing as how he can get the best salary percentages and increases already.

    • sportsfan18 - Aug 7, 2014 at 2:44 PM

      Good point.

      I guess it depends on how much the salary cap spikes though.

      Love’s agent and Love will have to work out the math and I’m sure they’ll go the route to maximize his earnings.

      As always, time will tell.

    • Kevin S. - Aug 7, 2014 at 8:47 PM

      With LeBron going short-term, Bird Rights aren’t an issue. Non-Bird rights next summer will allow the Cavs to give LeBron up to 120% of what he makes this year (although the max will likely be below that). The following season, they can use either non-Bird or Early Bird rights to sign LeBron again, depending on whether he wants to go short-term or long-term.

      • bkbell3 - Aug 7, 2014 at 10:55 PM

        Yes, his contract with early bird rights is so close to the max with bird rights that it will not matter,BUT if they sign him with non bird rights,which they won’t, they cannot exceed the cap to resign him. They need at least early bird rights to exceed the cap to resign him. Love and lbj can time it to opt out and have a little cap room to sign some free agents to fit under the cap if it’s done right and the cap goes up as expected in each of the next few years esp. in 2016 when the new tv deal could double. Then resign them and exceed the cap. Next year they have team options on some guys and qualifying offers to make or not make and mike miller has a 3mil player option also. I hope they have a good cap guy because it’s going to take some fancy moves to get the most out of love and lbj contract moves.

      • Kevin S. - Aug 8, 2014 at 7:00 AM

        Not sure where you’re getting your info from, but according to this: http://www.cbafaq.com/salarycap.htm#Q25 there’s nothing that says the Cavs can’t go over the cap to re-sign LeBron next summer. If they couldn’t, then there wouldn’t be non-Bird rights, there’d just be cap space.

  2. chiadam - Aug 7, 2014 at 2:03 PM

    Isn’t this exactly what Miami was trying to avoid by having Bosh, Wade and James opt out? How will Cleveland build any sort of team and still pay James, Irving and Love?

    • apkyletexas - Aug 7, 2014 at 2:13 PM

      Gilbert better not balk at paying a luxury tax like Mickey did. That appears to be a fast way to lose the King.

      • rrhoe - Aug 7, 2014 at 2:56 PM

        Great point,hypothetically speaking,suppose Gilbert balked at paying luxury taxes to retain not only Love and LeBron but the rest of the roster(including improvements),everybody is not gonna take less money just to play with LeBron(and the vet min players just not gonna cut it),and LeBron,being the player/GM/Owner that he seems to want to be determines they’re not doing enough. CLE would be set back for years if they lose both,not that its gonna happen(I hope),but it can…….

      • bm3490 - Aug 7, 2014 at 7:23 PM

        If recent memory serves me correct, wasn’t Gilbert one of the biggest advocates of this new CBA to avoid “Super” teams. So how much will Gilbert really pay in luxury taxes to keep the team together, especially if they are not winning champiomships?

    • bougin89 - Aug 7, 2014 at 2:34 PM

      That’s what you get for trading for Love. You have, at least arguably, one of the best trios in the NBA in Irving, Love, Lebron. They won’t be able to build much around them except for veterans on minimum deals. It’ll be interesting if they pay up to resign Waiters, Tristan, and Varajeo when their respective times come.

      • antistratfordian - Aug 7, 2014 at 4:29 PM

        That’s what you get? As if Cleveland’s problems are a bad thing. Inflexibility because you have LeBron, Love and Irving on your team is a great problem to have.

      • bougin89 - Aug 7, 2014 at 4:34 PM

        It certainly is a great problem to have. Any Cleveland fan should be ecstatic right now. They went for the great trio instead of more depth. They actually gave up less than what was originally reported and they didn’t have to take on Kevin Martin or anyone else’s contract…

        And hey, maybe Gilbert pays heavily into the luxury tax and resigns Waiters, Varajeo, Tristan when they are due. They would still have decent depth and I haven’t seen anyone rule that out as a possibility yet.

      • antistratfordian - Aug 7, 2014 at 4:42 PM

        Well if they win a ring this year none of that will matter – mission accomplished. Blow the team up. LeBron can retire.

      • bougin89 - Aug 7, 2014 at 4:46 PM

        Just a hunch, but I think the Cavs are thinking 4-5 year run as the top in the East.

      • antistratfordian - Aug 7, 2014 at 5:47 PM

        Yeah, I see that – but I’m just saying… they’re just trying to win one… anything after that is super gravy style.

      • bougin89 - Aug 8, 2014 at 10:38 AM

        If(maybe it should be when) Lebron brings a title to the Cavs that will do way more for his legacy than the two titles in Miami. Way, way more.

      • bkbell3 - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:03 PM

        bougin89,those decisions come next year. Andy is a free agent, tristan will have a qualifying offer and be a restricted free agent if they do, and waiters has a team option if they so chose and miller has a 3mil player option. They also have a team option on bennet who will probably be gone it the love trade though.

      • bougin89 - Aug 8, 2014 at 10:41 AM

        Very true. Gilbert has opened his pockets before. I’m not ruling out the possibility he pays deep into the luxury tax to keep the depth they have. They will actually save money resigning Varajeo(no way he makes as much next year as he does this year) but Tristan and Waiters will be looking to get paid. They clearly aren’t max guys or anything like that but they’ll be looking for long term security(financially speaking).

    • zoomy123 - Aug 7, 2014 at 4:39 PM

      Bleahcerreport had a great article about precisely this dilemma. I can’t remember who wrote it but they pointed out that LBJ is a genius because he’s at the forefront of developing a new big 3 model, one based around bird rights. Including the K-Love trade, Cleveland has 7 players who are 25 or younger and Cleveland has the bird rights on all of them. Cleveland is sitting pretty right now because they have a bevy of young players that they can keep or get rid of at their discretion; and they can go over the salary cap to keep any or all of them b/c of bird rights. People try to compare this to the Miami situation but it’s completely different.

      • bkbell3 - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:11 PM

        Zoomy123, but all those players including lbj will have cap holds until they resign them or renounce them. Plus unused roster spots up to 13 have cap holds also. Next year andy is a free agent, waiters and bennet have team options and tristen will need a qualifying offer if the cavs want and then will be a restricted free agent. Only harris,and irving and wiggings right now have guaranteed contracts next year and miller has a player option for 3 mil next year. So wiggins and bennet will be gone so they won’t have 7. They might have signed some small fish in the last week or so that i’m missing like james jones.

      • zoomy123 - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:51 PM

        I have no idea what you just wrote. Irving, Waiters, Thompson, Harris, Dellavedova, Powell & Love makes 7. They will all be signed or have their options picked up.

      • bkbell3 - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:57 PM

        Zoomy, you said 7 young guys on rookie contracts that they could keep or lit go. Irving is starting a 5 year deal, love i wasn’t including with the young guys, i mentioned harris who makes 800,000, i also mentioned thompson . i said o might of missed some small fry and isn’t powell a veteran? I also mention waiters.Take out irving,powell and love and that’s 4

      • bkbell3 - Aug 8, 2014 at 12:05 AM

        oh i see you were talking about bird right guys, ok but what is new about that, you still have cap holds that keep you from having all your guys be free agents and filling up the cap with free agents they resigning all your bird guys. Cap holds for love and lbj alone next year if they opt out will be way over 40mil and another 15.5 for irving plus harris and miller and tristen if they don’t renounce him and probable 12mil for andy unless they renounce him also. Plus cap holds for unused roster spots so where is the cap room to sign guys without renouncing alot of guys?

  3. canucks30 - Aug 7, 2014 at 2:04 PM

    LeBron James will never leave the Cleveland Cavaliers

  4. rrhoe - Aug 7, 2014 at 2:11 PM

    I may be in the minority here but he would HAVE to opt in for next year for me to make this deal,not that I wouldn’t trust him but Dwight Howard also comes to mind. The fact that he’s stated that he wants to be courted next year during FA scares me…….CLE is giving up alot with no guarantees(just his word,yeah right)…………..

    • fanofthegame79 - Aug 7, 2014 at 3:09 PM

      Love said months ago that he would re-sign with Cleveland if LeBron were there. Also, Dwight never wanted to play with the Lakers, they weren’t a team on his “list”.

  5. HitsDingers - Aug 7, 2014 at 2:12 PM

    Here’s the problem with your analysis: it overlooks the obvious. Love doesn’t have to take short deals to have the ability to opt out ever year. Player options provide security against injury (he doesn’t NEED to opt out) while also offering the benefit of flexibility (he CAN opt out if he wants). Furthermore, it’s highly likely Love would know about an injury prior to opting out. He doesn’t need to act blindly.

    • Dan Feldman - Aug 7, 2014 at 2:29 PM

      An option can occur only prior to the final year of a contract.

      • bougin89 - Aug 7, 2014 at 2:37 PM

        You can get around that with an early termination clause which Bosh, Wade, and James all had with Miami. It made each of their deals have what amounted to player options for the last two seasons of their deals.

      • Dan Feldman - Aug 7, 2014 at 2:40 PM

        That is no longer possible in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.

      • bougin89 - Aug 7, 2014 at 2:41 PM

        Ahhh. Good info.

  6. jeffkx - Aug 7, 2014 at 2:15 PM

    Woj said there has been a 5 year, $120m deal agreed upon. Which is what will happen. Anyone else saying he won’t is being fed false info.

  7. Mr. Wright 212 - Aug 7, 2014 at 2:54 PM

    I’d laugh if they both packed up and went to NY next summer.

    • kd35usedthunder - Aug 7, 2014 at 3:41 PM

      Yeah, and then the Knicks sign Kevin Durant, Aaron Rodgers, and Mike Trout, right?

      • Mr. Wright 212 - Aug 7, 2014 at 6:42 PM

        You try to crack wise, but they will have the money to do it if they both opt out after the first year, WHICH WILL BE THEIR OPTION.

      • Kevin S. - Aug 7, 2014 at 8:59 PM

        Jesus H. Christ on a pogo-stick, are you really enough of a delusional homer to think LeBron is going to turn around and spit in the faces of the Ohio fans again to go to the freakin’ Knicks? The Knicks *won’t* have enough cap space to offer both max contracts unless the cap jumps to about $85 million, and they aren’t going to leave a young growing core to play with Melo (and all three really can’t share the court at the same time), Calderon and table scraps. Just give it up already.

  8. jasper36 - Aug 7, 2014 at 3:19 PM

    I thought PBT had an earlier article that read Love would sign a 5 year extension when the trade was completed?

    • antistratfordian - Aug 7, 2014 at 4:32 PM

      Not when the trade was completed, but a firm agreement to sign a 5 year extension eventually, at the right time – at least that’s how I understood it.

    • bkbell3 - Aug 7, 2014 at 11:23 PM

      There is no such thing as a 5 year extension. An extension can only total 4 years including any years remaining on your current contract. If you are in your final year you can add 3 more years. If you have your currant year and next year left you can only add 2 more years in the new cba. That’s why no big players not on rookie contracts become free agents because they can sign 5 year contracts with 7.5% raises versus 4 years total with only 4.5% raises for an extension. I believe a rookie can extend in his last year of his contract for 4 additional years, not sure of the raises though.

  9. seasickcecil - Aug 7, 2014 at 8:44 PM

    This will help clear things up a bit: http://www.cleveland.com/pluto/index.ssf/2014/08/cleveland_cavaliers_believe_od.html

  10. seasickcecil - Aug 7, 2014 at 8:54 PM

    So as Terry Pluto(one of the best columnists in the country) says, “Here come the odds: The Cavs will gamble that Love would rather play with James in Cleveland for more than $120 million over five years — as opposed to playing elsewhere for about $88 million over four years.”

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