The Miami Heat have long been considered the favorites to sign Kevin Love once his contract was bought out by the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported on Saturday afternoon that the Philadelphia 76ers are in the mix to sign Love now that he is officially a free agent.
ESPN Sources: Kevin Love and the Cleveland Cavaliers have completed a contract buyout. The Miami Heat are a frontrunner to sign Love, but he plans to talk to the Philadelphia 76ers before making a decision. pic.twitter.com/9YKux1Svj2— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 18, 2023
ESPN Sources: Kevin Love and the Cleveland Cavaliers have completed a contract buyout. The Miami Heat are a frontrunner to sign Love, but he plans to talk to the Philadelphia 76ers before making a decision. pic.twitter.com/9YKux1Svj2
At 34 years old, Love’s role with the Cavaliers has diminished over the last two seasons. He is no longer in peak physical condition, and he has lost his spot in Cleveland’s rotation. He has not appeared in a game since Jan. 24. His shooting numbers are also down this season, connecting on 35.4% of his 3-point attempts. However, he can still be a capable outside shooter as evidenced by shooting 39.2% from deep last season. He remains a high-volume outside shooter (5.8 attempts per game from deep over the last two seasons), making him a good fit alongside both Joel Embiid and James Harden.
The biggest positive Love would provide to the Sixers comes on the glass. Even at the tail end of his career, Love remains an excellent rebounder. He averaged 7.1 rebounds in 21.6 minutes for the Cavaliers over the previous two seasons. For his career, he averages 12.4 rebounds per 36 minutes. The Sixers desperately need to improve their rebounding. At the All-Star break, they currently rank 28th in the league in rebounding (40.5).
While Love is not the same player he once was, he still brings enough things to warrant consideration. However, making him fit on the roster can prove to be tough. The team, after signing backup center Dewayne Dedmon earlier in the week, has no free roster spots. They can release Montrezl Harrell or Furkan Korkmaz to create the roster spot, but both of those players would come with complications. Harrell has a player option for next season and Korkmaz is under contract at $4.5 million next season. The easiest road to opening a spot would be to release Dedmon or fan favorite Paul Reed.
The question also becomes is Love that much of an upgrade over current backup power forward Georges Niang? Both are high-volume outside shooters, but Niang is far more efficient. The 29-year-old has been one of the best shooters in the league this season, connecting on 40.9% of his 3-point attempts. Over the last five seasons, Niang is shooting 40.9% from deep on four attempts per game. Niang also is a better scorer from inside the arc, shooting 57.5% on 2-point field goals this season compared to Love’s 46.7%. Love has the major edge in terms of rebounding, but Niang’s advantage in every other category nullifies it.
Making the fit work in Philadelphia would be easier if Love still had ability to play some solid minutes at center. However, those days are well in the past. His poor defense at this stage of his career would likely hurt the Sixers in those lineups more than his offense would help. He does not have the ability anymore to defend the rim or move with speed laterally.
Considering how Love would fit on the Sixers is an interesting thought experiment. However, he is likely going to sign with the Heat at some point over the next few days. Miami can likely give him more minutes and more money. It is extremely unlikely Love is going to choose to sign in Philly.