Now that the All-Star Break has come and gone, the Toronto Raptors can get on with the second half of their season. The team has had many obstacles to overcome this season, some self-imposed and others through no fault of their own.
The COVID-19 flare-up that affected the team almost two weeks ago has not cleared up, and players like Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and Fred VanVleet have all missed large chunks of games.
Free-agent signing Aron Baynes has been a bust at the center position, and Alex Len was waived back in January. With exactly half a season to play and barely holding on to the eighth and final playoff spot, the Raptors need to address the hole they have at the center position with more substance than they have.
With this in mind, we examine the merits of the Raptors trading for Cleveland Cavaliers veteran Kevin Love, who could be on the move with the presence of Jarrett Allen.
How Kevin Love can help the Toronto Raptors
It has been quite some time since Love has seen the court this season. He has only played in two games. He is currently rehabbing a strained calf and has been cleared for individual basketball activities but has not been given a timetable to return to active game duties.
However, at six-foot-eight inches and 251 pounds, he would fit the bill as a center with size addressing the Raptors needs. Love is a career 18.2 points per game scorer who has also averaged 11.1 rebounds per game. He has been a double-double machine for most of his career in points and rebounds.
Given his 37 percent career average on three-point shots, Love seems like the ideal candidate to target to play center for the remainder of this season.
While his age at 32 years old puts him on a different timeline than the core group of players in the Raptors’ lineup, for the short term, Love could bridge the gap between now and the player who is eventually trusted to be the guy at the center position for the future.
Why Kevin Love is a bad option to play center for the Raptors
Kevin Love is a former NBA Champion and a former five-time NBA All-Star. However, chasing his services reeks of desperation. Back in 2001-02, Glen Grunwald viewed a then 39-year-old Hakeem Olajuwon as the central piece to making the Raptors’ roster becoming championship-caliber.
The Raptors’ general manager ignored the fact that the eventual hall-of-fame center hadn’t been his prime self for four seasons before signing him. Bobby Webster and Masai Ujiri would have to play a blind eye to Love’s health troubles to pursue his services. It’s been four seasons dating back to 2016/17 since Love has played 60 or more regular-season games.
He has to be on the floor for his vaunted skills to benefit the team. At age 32, he is already considered injury-prone. The power forward/center has suffered up to, and including 2017. He suffered a myriad of injuries in 2018, from a sore hip to a sore right knee and concussions. In 2019, it was back and shoulder problems.
Oddly enough in 2018, the Cavaliers re-signed him to a four-year $120 million deal with a fifth-year on a team option even though he is a constant absentee member of the roster. It’s a deal that lasts until 2023. Any transaction to acquire him via trade means a team is stuck for another two-plus season of paying Love over $59 million in salary.
Add this to the concern of his injuries, defensive flaws, and lack of speed or quickness on the court, and Love does not appear to be a good fit for anybody, much less the Raptors.
Are in-house options better for the Raptors?
In the category of self-inflicted wounds, management for the Raptors spent the off-season loading up the roster with guards and wing players-a plethora of developing players- in an exercise to replicate the Houston Rockets experiment with a brand of small-ball by employing shorter, sized challenged players who maybe versatile defensively but fail to secure rebounds or address the physical demands of the game.
Toronto is 30th in the league, or dead last, in rebounding, devoid of an interior game. Ten-day contract signings Donta Hall and Raptors 905 stalwart Henry Ellenson could help, except neither player is NBA proven.
In Ellenson’s case, he is not the quickest or most athletic big around and won’t intimidate opposing attacks at the rim or rebound well enough despite great offensive skills. For his part, Ellenson averaged 21.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game with the Raptors 905.
If the Cavaliers bought out Love, he might be worth taking a risk at the veteran minimum. Should a trade be made, Kevin Love and a first-round pick for Kyle Lowry could be considered as Lowry is an expiring contract. As it seems that Love is dealing with a recovering Achilles tendon (calf strains almost always are), giving up assets to acquire Love is extremely risky and inadvisable.