by Brandon Quinones| After a year filled with uncertainty and where all hope seemed lost at one point in terms of a basketball season, the Utah Jazz made the best of their opportunity in the NBA bubble.
The Jazz managed to pull off another successful winning seasonwhere they reeled off a 44-28 record and had a historic series against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, in which they ultimately lost in seven games.
After watching the Jazz this season, one has to be encouraged right away by how phenomenal All-Star Donovan Mitchell played throughout the season and especially in the bubble. As mentioned on NBA.com, Donovan Mitchell showed flashes of superstardom as evidenced by his historic 57 point outing that was the highest single-game playoff total in franchise history and third most all-time in a single NBA playoff game. This performance trailed only Hall of Famers Michael Jordan and Elgin Baylor, who had 63 and 61 respectively.
Now that the Utah Jazz can officially say that they have their franchise star, the question officially becomes what can they do to surround him with more talent to capture that elusive first championship for the franchise?
When evaluating the team as it is, the Jazz have already constructed a good roster with All-Star Center Rudy Gobert, savvy veteran and marksman Joe Ingles. They also acquired Bojan Bogdanovic and Mike Conley last Summer. These are all players who have had excellent careers up to this point.
It was evident last year that the Jazz needed more of an offensive punch to help out Mitchell, which led to their acquisition of Point Guard Mike Conley to help with ball-handling duties and take some pressure off of Mitchell. A year later, Conley struggled to stay healthy for much of the season and underperformed. After falling short another year, some moves may have to be made. Why not take a look at a guy like Kevin Love?
Kevin Love makes a strong case as a possible piece the Utah Jazz can look to acquire to bolster their roster going forward. Love can be a great fit on this version of the Jazz for a couple of reasons. For one, Love would be a great fit alongside Rudy Gobert in the frontcourt since they complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Gobert is arguably the top defensive Center in the league (Two-time Defensive Player of the Year), which is exactly what you want as a frontcourt running mate to pair with Kevin Love considering that he has never been known as a strong defender. On the flip side, Gobert has limited offensive upside considering that he does not create shots nor does his shot range extend past the paint as evidenced by the fact that about 75 percent of his field goals made are points in the paint.
This is why Love could be a great fit alongside Gobert since he is capable of spacing the floor. Love has averaged 37.6 percent from three last five seasons. He is also skilled at posting up on his defender. Pairing these two will undoubtedly also form what could be the best rebounding duo in the league considering that Gobert averaged 13.5 rebounds per game this past season while Love averaged 9.8 rebounds. This could have a game changing impact considering the fact that they can create second-chance scoring opportunities, especially with guys like Mitchell and Bogdanovic being open on the perimeter after those rebounds.
Although Love is not the threat he once was in Minnesota, he is still impactful enough where some of the offense can still be run through him at times as a second or third option considering that he averaged 17.6 points per game last season on 45 percent from the field, 37.4 percent from three, and 85.4 percent from the free throw line. In addition, Love has been very underrated as a good passing big man throughout his career which is what makes him so multifunctional. He could be a second or third option on a good team like the Utah Jazz.
Adding Love will create a new dynamic on the team as it gives Donovan Mitchell and others a true threat in the pick and roll, or more importantly, the pick and pop, an element not possible with Gobert. On paper, it seems like a tall task trying to stop a Mitchell/Love pick-and-pop duo with shooters such as Bogdanovic and Ingles on the perimeter waiting to catch and shoot the three.
Although there are reasons to believe that adding Kevin Love makes sense, there are several factors that need to be taken into account on behalf of the Cleveland Cavaliers if this trade were to occur. First, to acquire Kevin Love, the Jazz would most likely have to trade Mike Conley for salary-matching purposes, but that may not be enough for Cleveland.
As mentioned by Bleacher Report’s very own Mike Chiari who quotes Chris Fedor from Cleveland.com, the Cavaliers consider Love to be a valuable piece and would only consider trading him for “a combination of picks and players.”
To entice things for Cleveland’s side of things, the Jazz may have to throw in a young piece, such as Forward Juwan Morgan or Georges Niang, as well as maybe adding a second-round pick or two, while the Cavs may possibly end up asking for a first. While Cleveland mentions Love as valuable and unwilling to part with him in a salary dump, they may have just said that in efforts to increase his trade value.
Since the Cavs are rebuilding and Love does not really fit their timeline any longer, they may be willing to do this swap. It clears up future money for any free agents Cleveland may be looking to attract or for any future trades they hope to complete. In addition, if this trade is completed, the Cavs would likely acquire a pick or two and have Conley to mentor their two young Guards in Darius Garland and Collin Sexton. This is assuming Conley does not get moved immediately as part of some multi-team trade.
This could be a difficult decision for the Jazz if the organization still believes that Conley would be a better fit on the team as a secondary ball-handler to Donovan Mitchell than Love would be, as well as if they refuse to part with any picks or other players. Trading Conley could mean more ball-handling responsibilities for Mitchell, which by watching him this playoff run may not be a bad thing after all. By adding Love, the team takes on his max salary for the next three years up until the 2022-23 season. On the other hand, Conley becomes a free agent after next season. It will be interesting to see if the team would be willing to take on Love’s contract or keep the salary sheet clean for the future.
Another factor to consider if the Jazz acquire Love is that Bogdanovic would have to spend more minutes at Small Forward since Love would slide in at the four next to Gobert. Although it is definitely something to consider, it definitely seems like a possibility considering Bogdanovic has played the three before and is capable of both creating his own shot, as well as playing off the ball. While trading Conley does leave the team without a true Point Guard, they can continue to develop and watch as Mitchell grows into an elite level playmaker or address the position through another trade or by signing a free agent to a reasonable contract.
Adding Love does bring its risks considering he has also missed some time with injuries, but the payoff may just be worth it for the Jazz. Love is battle tested having been to the NBA Finals four straight years from the 2014-15 season to the 2017-2018 season. Adding a player of his caliber (5x All-Star and 2x All-NBA) and with his championship pedigree could help provide the Jazz with a profound impact, both on the court and off it as well. With an emerging superstar in Donovan Mitchell, another All-Star in Rudy Gobert, and a strong coaching staff led by Quin Snyder, a player of Love’s caliber may be what the Jazz need to take this team to the next level.
Image courtesy Bleacher Report