There is a strong feeling that the Utah Jazz should replace Derrick Favors with a modern stretch four. Is there a way that they could get Kevin Love?
I should express my biases early on in this article: I have long been enamored by the idea of Kevin Love playing for the Utah Jazz. I haven’t seen this reported anywhere as a legitimate possibility, but on paper, I just think this makes sense.
Heading into this offseason, the Jazz are going to be facing many tough decisions. One of the biggest that is looming is going to be the decision to re-sign Derrick Favors or not. And there’s a lot going into making that decision for GM Dennis Lindsey. What is the outside interest in Favors? How much is it going to cost to re-sign him? Do the Jazz feel like he fits for the direction that they are going? And maybe most importantly, does Favors even want to be here?
I recently wrote a long article about Favors and who would be the likely free agent candidates if a return to Utah wasn’t in the cards. Outside of potentially overpaying for younger restricted free agents like Aaron Gordon, Jabari Parker or Julius Randle, there just aren’t a ton of appealing options.
One way around the limited options in free agency would be to work out a sign-and-trade with Favors. One of the best players that the Jazz could theoretically target is the much maligned Kevin Love.
Much of this is going to depend on the outcome of this NBA Finals, and the direction that the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise is likely to go if LeBron James were to leave during free agency. The assumption of most is that if/when James leaves in free agency, the Cavaliers will be forced to initiate a rebuild.
In that scenario, Love has the highest trade value of the players who would be left on the Cavs, and it would be worth it for the Jazz to put together a trade package to get him.
Many have forgotten how talented Love is, and a big part of that is due to his acceptance of a lesser role, and for his becoming a common scapegoat when the Cavs are struggling. In his four seasons prior to joining the Cavs, he averaged 22.2 points and a whopping 14.4 rebounds per game.
His final year in Minnesota, Love averaged 26 points, 12.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists and shot 37.6 percent from three. Per Basketball Reference, only six other players have ever matched a season of 26-12-4, and it hadn’t been done in close to 30 years.
Since joining Cleveland, Love has been forced into a complementary role, which has led many to wonder if he could ever become the player he once was. A large part of that has simply been a lack of consistent touches, though, and there have been recent moments that show he is still capable of putting up big numbers.
During these current NBA Finals, Love has actually been the lone member of the Cavs who has been able to help LeBron James. He is averaging 21.5 points and 11.5 rebounds through two games.
It’s also worth remembering that Love played his best basketball with current Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio. Perhaps a reunion would do them both good.
How can it happen though? Currently, Love just completed the third year of a five-year contract, set to pay him $113 million. Over the next two seasons, he is set to make $25 million on average for the final two years of that contract. The Jazz would be taking on a lot to make it happen, but they would be getting a player who could step in and immediately help the Jazz to compete.
The path to opening up that $25 million is going to be simpler for them than almost any other team, too.
Favors is set to hit the open market, and while he had an effective season for the Jazz, he is not going to be viewed as a top-tier free agent. His last contract was for four years and $46 million; my assumption is that he will not be able to get more than what that contract was paying him. Unless a bottom level team wants to offer him a significant one-year deal, it is likely that Favors will sign in the 10-12 million per year range.
If the Jazz were to sign Favors to a contract with the intent to trade him, they could package Favors with Alec Burks, who will be on an expiring contract worth $11.5 million. Already, that puts Utah closer to the 25 million that Love would be making. The Jazz may just need to add one of their lesser contracts like Tony Bradley and a future pick to get the deal done.
The big question the Jazz would need to ask themselves is if Love fits with the identity of the team. I believe the answer is an absolute yes. Offensively, there is no doubt about the positive impact that he would have. Lindsey has been openly vocal about his desire to get a stretch four who can play next to Rudy Gobert, and Love is one of the best in the league to fill that role.
The major appeal of Love is that you can finally bring in a stretch four, while not sacrificing size and rebounding. Love is 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds; prior to going to Cleveland, he was rebounding the ball at a historic rate. He has averaged 11.3 rebounds throughout his career.
In fact, Love is the only player in NBA history who has made over 1,000 career 3-pointers, while also averaging 10-plus rebounds.
Defense is the going to be the main concern, but with an anchor like Gobert, you can afford to take on a defensive liability. Love does have limitations due to his athleticism, but a lot of his defensive struggles have been issues of will and poor coaching.
In a situation like Utah, with strong defensive players around him and a coach that won’t put up with poor defensive effort, I believe he could be passable.
The offensive uptick Love would provide makes this trade worth it to me. He would open up the floor for the Jazz in a way they have never been able to do before. Gobert would have more room to roam the paint, and players like Rubio, Donovan Mitchell and Dante Exum would have bigger driving lanes to attack.
Again, I have no idea if this is even on the radar for the Utah Jazz. Or if they’d be interested if it was. That being said, if the Cavs lose and LeBron James opts to leave Cleveland, I do believe Kevin Love will be made available. If the Jazz are searching for a star to pair with Gobert and Mitchell, Love is absolutely a player they should target via trade.