The Cleveland Cavaliers and forward Kevin Love are in the process of finalizing a buyout agreement, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported Wednesday evening. According to Charania, the Miami Heat, who have two open roster spots, are expected to have interest for the five-time All-Star.
“The Cleveland Cavaliers and Kevin Love are finalizing a contract buyout, with the Miami Heat expected to emerge as a suitor for the five-time All-Star should the sides finalize parting ways, league sources tell The Athletic,” Charania wrote.
“The Heat have an open roster spot and have canvassed the market recently for a big man, sources said. Miami could offer Love a reserve role with ample minutes behind All-Star Bam Adebayo. Miami is seventh in the East at 32-27, but only a half-game behind the sixth-place Knicks and 2 1/2 games behind the Nets.”
Love is in the final season of a four-year, $120 million with Cleveland. The 34-year-old is averaging 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in 20.0 minutes, shooting 38.5 percent from the floor, 35.4 percent from the 3-point line and 88.9 percent from the free-throw line. His per 36 minute averages equal out to 15.2 points and 12.3 rebounds; that’s good production.
While he’s still appeared in 41 of Cleveland’s 61 games this season, he’s missed time with thumb and back injuries. He also has not played since Jan. 24, racking up nine consecutive DNP-CD’s.
Love’s been behind Dean Wade and Cedi Osman in Cleveland’s loaded frontcourt rotation of late. He’s been apart of the Cavs since 2014-15 — LeBron James’ first season back for his second Cleveland stint — when he was traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves in a deal for former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins.
The Heat could desperately use an experienced backup big behind Bam Adebayo — especially a stretch-five. Miami flipped Dewayne Dedmon — who was having a terrible season — to the San Antonio Spurs (with a second-round pick) for extra luxury tax space ahead of the trade deadline. But the front office elected to stand Pat (pun intended) for any other subsequent transactions.
Miami’s only playable backup big right now is Orlando Robinson, who’s currently on a two-way contract and not playoff eligible. Omer Yurtseven is still recovering from an ankle injury and isn’t expected to return until after the All-Star break.
Miami currently ranks No. 28 in 3-point percentage (33.4 percent) and dead-last in catch-and-shoot 3-point shooting (33.3 percent), per Second Spectrum tracking data. Love, who’s netted 36.8 percent of his spot-up triples over the last three seasons (34.6 percent this season), could help mitigate some of its shooting struggles at a minimal cost.
Since it dealt Dedmon on Feb. 7, two days before the deadline trade deadline, by rule, Miami must add a 14th player by Feb. 21. That could include converting Robinson (or Jamal Cain) to a standard contract or signing Love (or another buyout candidate) to its roster.
A benefit the Heat have in the buyout market is they have both their bi-annual (~$4.11 million) and the remainder of their mid-level exception (~4.01M) available — while staying below the tax — if they don’t want to sign a buyout player to the minimum.
Assuming Love finalizes a buyout and agrees to a minimum deal with the Heat on Thursday, his cap-hit would prorate to roughly $549K instead of $1.8M, maintaining their flexibility to still use their BAE/MLE (while still sitting below the tax) if they want to fill that final roster spot for someone else. His prorated salary in that same hypothetical decreases to approximately $496K if he signs on Feb. 21.
Conversely, Love’s hypothetical 2022-23 cap-hit — if he signed either the full BAE or the rest of the MLE on Thursday — would be approximately $3.2 million, while both figures decrease to about $3 million if he signs either of those exceptions by Feb. 21, keeping them below the tax.
This is a developing story. Stay tuned for updates.