Kevin Love landing spots: Lakers, Knicks, Warriors, Suns, Heat among teams that make varying levels of sense

kevin love

Kevin Love is reportedly nearing a buyout with the Cleveland Cavaliers. When that becomes official, Love will be a free agent with no shortage of suitors. 

NOTE: Everything you’re about to read with regard to how Love, specifically as a 3-point shooter, can still provide value is only true if he’s healthy. He fractured his thumb back in November and struggled to shoot when he came back. He fell out of Cleveland’s rotation largely because of this, and of late hasn’t played at all. 

But teams will do their research. They won’t sign him if he can’t shoot. Assuming he does still have some game left in him, below is a look at seven teams, in no particular order, that would make varying levels of sense as a Love landing spot. 

The Lakers addressed their shooting deficiencies with the trade-deadline additions of D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley, and to a lesser extent Mo Bamba, but they still need all the capable marksmen they can get to space the floor around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. 

The Lakers have made just 10.4 3-pointers per game so far this season, the second-lowest mark in the league. Love, who is just a season removed from shooting 39 percent from deep on over six attempts per game, helps that, and we know he’s comfortable in a LeBron-led system as a shooter/rebounder from the success they had together in Cleveland.

The Knicks could use a shooting big and they have open roster space. Jalen Brunson would make great use of a spacing/popping shooter like Love. The Knicks are a high-volume 3-point shooting team, but do not confuse that with being a good 3-point shooting team; only six teams connect from deep at a worse percentage. 

The possible issue here? Tom Thibodeau loves defense and he tends to rely heavily on his top-rotational guys. Seated toward the deeper part of the bench, would Love get enough minutes to satisfy him in New York? 

Not trading for Love during his prime was one of the best moves the Warriors never made, deciding to instead hang on to Klay Thompson, and a dynasty ensued. Obviously Love isn’t anywhere near the same player as he was back then, but he still makes some sense for the Warriors, who made good use of stretch big Nemanja Bjelica on their championship run last season. 

The Warriors lack for quality depth in general. They’d like a better defender than Love, who could be seen as something of a less-athletic JaMychal Green toward the back end of Golden State’s potential playoff rotation, but Green is hardly cemented. He and Love could be a game-to-game, who-has-the-hot-hand type thing. 

The Suns are loaded, but like any team that trades multiple rotational pieces for a superstar, they now lack depth. Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson and Jae Crowder, three big parts of what they’d become the last few years, are gone, and Love represents an NBA champion veteran who can fill out the bench lineups. 

Also, you know Love is comfortable in big, late-round playoff games, where the Suns expect to be come May and — they hope — June. This is a proven, role-accepting winner with plenty of experience supporting the efforts of a superstar, of which the Suns now have two in Kevin Durant and Devin Booker. Chris Paul will make great use of a guy like Love. 

The Hawks really need 3-point shooting. Particularly from a big man, as neither Clint Capela nor Onyeka Okongwu fits that bill and John Collins, who has become an also-ran in Atlanta’s offense, has fallen off a cliff as a 3-point shooter — from 36 percent last season and 40 percent the two seasons before that to under 25 percent this year. 

The Hawks rely entirely on Trae Young and Dejounte Murray creating from either pick-and-roll or isolation. In isolation, Love provides spacing and a capable shooter when those guys collapse the defense, and the pick and rolls can become pick-and-pops with Love. 

The Hawks take the fewest 3-pointers in the league as a percentage of their total shot diet, per Cleaning the Glass, and connect on those long range attempts at the sixth-worst rate. All told they make just 10.5 3-pointers per game, tied for the third lowest mark in the league. Love makes a lot of sense here manning second units with one of either Young or Murray. 

Shams Charania of The Athletic, who broke the news of Love’s expected buyout, noted that the Heat have emerged as an early candidate to sign Love. It would make sense. 

The Heat lost PJ Tucker at the four spot over the summer, and while Love obviously doesn’t provide Tucker’s defensive value, he represents a floor-spacing threat who can also make an impact as a connective passer in Miami’s drive-and-kick system, as Tucker did. 

The Heat love to launch 3s, but their 33.4-percent success rate so far this season is third worst in the league. Love addresses that, as he does for all these teams. 

I mentioned earlier that the Lakers made the second-fewest 3-pointers per game in the league. The only team that makes even fewer is the Bulls. It could be worth noting that Chicago is one of the potential landing spots for Russell Westbrook, who was a college teammate of Love’s at UCLA. 

The Bulls, who do lack front-court depth, didn’t do anything at the trade deadline, and this would be at least a marginal move to perhaps inspire some excitement, though I would caution against thinking that Love would be a true needle-mover on what is a pretty flawed Chicago team.