Kevin Love receives Cavaliers buyout, opening door to possible Heat signing
The path for the Miami Heat to sign Kevin Love was cleared Saturday, with the Cleveland Cavaliers agreeing to a buyout with a veteran big man.
The Heat, who have up to two available roster spots to bolster the team ahead of their resumption of the Eastern Conference playoff race, are considered the leading candidate to add the 34-year-old veteran.
Having fallen out of the Cavaliers’ rotation, the five-time NBA All-Star has been seeking a landing spot that would lead to a rotation role on a playoff contender.
The Heat, who stand No. 7 in the East, are positioned to potentially offer Love a starting spot at power forward, which has been manned this season by undersized Caleb Martin, or the rotation role as backup center to Bam Adebayo.
The day before representing the Heat in the All-Star Game in Salt Lake City, Adebayo said he is all for adding Love.
“I think he will be — I think he will be like another [Udonis Haslem], just from different experiences. He has won rings. He has been in that locker room where they’ve been down, what, 3-1 [in the NBA Finals]. He has been through adversity in his moments of life and in moments of truth."
The Heat’s depth in the power rotation was reduced when P.J. Tucker, last season’s starting power forward, left in free agency in the offseason to the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Heat opened a spot in their power rotation by trading veteran center Dewayne Dedmon to the San Antonio Spurs ahead of the Feb. 9 NBA trading deadline. Dedmon has since moved on to the 76ers on the buyout market.
The trade of Dedmon opened sufficient space below the punitive NBA luxury tax for the Heat to utilize one of their $4 million salary-cap exceptions on a player from the buyout market.
In Love, the Heat not only would add bulk to their power rotation, but also a 3-point-shooting big man to help space the floor. The Heat have struggled with their 3-point shooting this season.
“I think it would be huge,” Heat guard Tyler Herro said of possibly adding Love. “Anytime we can get somebody the caliber of Kevin Love, like you said, he’s played in so many big games, so many big playoff runs and he’s experienced. He’s been there before.
“Getting a guy like that, we’ve seen what we can do if we add veteran players like that midway through the season. Usually that leads to good runs and long playoff runs for us as a team. ... Hopefully he decides to bring his shooting down to the 305 and we can end the season on a very high note.”
Love, 6-foot-8, is a career .372 3-point shooter, a percentage that dipped to .354 this season as he has worked back from an early-season thumb injury.
According to ESPN, Love is also considering possibly joining the 76ers, with previous reports linking Love to interest from the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers.
Under NBA rules, a player must be released by his previous team by March 1 in order to be eligible for another team’s playoff roster. With the Saturday agreement with Cleveland, that element of the equation with Love already has been addressed.
Love was in the final year of a contract that paid $28.9 million this season. He will become a free agent in the offseason.
A move to another team would leave the team that signs Love without Bird Rights, having to otherwise utilize salary-cap exceptions or cap space to re-sign the 2016 NBA champion. The Heat, with the rookie-scale extension of Herro to kick in next season, already are projected to be well over the 2023-24 NBA salary cap.
In addition to starting 6-foot-5 Martin at power forward this season, the Heat have been utilizing two-way player Orlando Robinson, an undrafted rookie center, behind Adebayo. Robinson has only four NBA games remaining on his two-way deal. To remain with the Heat beyond that limit he would have to be converted to a standard contract, taking up one of the team’s two remaining roster spots.
Love previously has offered praise for Adebayo, with whom he worked alongside with for USA Basketball, and for Herro, who beat him out for last season’s NBA Sixth Man Award.
The Heat resume practice Thursday, before continuing their season after the eight-day All-Star break with a Friday night road game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Heat also have the roster spot available that is currently held by undrafted guard Jamaree Bouyea on a 10-day contract. Bouyea’s 10-day contract expires before the Heat resume play.