A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Should Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao for Dwight Howard and Trevor Ariza happen?

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There are rumours Houston is looking to trade Dwight Howard before the deadline. This makes sense. Howard is set to become the highest player in the league this summer as he is eligible for the max contract reserved for 10 year veterans. He is an athleticism driven, oft banged up 30 year old and the Rockets would be marrying a .500 team. Signing Howard brings a tough opportunity cost because without him the Rockets would have free agency options in 2016 and 2017. They have one of the most popular cities in the league for players, a star in James Harden and one of the top GMs in the league in Daryl Morey, which makes them a nice spot to get a free agent star to come there.

For all these reasons moving on from Dwight now may be best for Houston. The move I like is the blockbuster deal of Howard and Trevor Ariza for Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao.

Why for Cleveland?

Kevin Love has struggled to put up the dominant statistics he did in Minnesota. There haven’t been enough touches after Lebron and Kyrie and Love is a rhythm player. Unlike Chris Bosh in Miami he’s struggled to make up for it on the defensive end.

Not that Love is useless to the Cavaliers. By +/- statistics his floor spacing has been critical to their offensive success and at best in a playoff series against Golden State or San Antonio that extra 16 or 17 points per game option and post player would be valuable. Everyone talks about how Love can’t be used defensively against the Warriors, but Golden State is also a top 5 defensive team. Cleveland needs to score on them to survive and losing Love’s offensive contributions could be deathly to their chances to. Furthermore Love helps them excel at the one thing Golden State does not excel at, rebounding. Love and Tristan Thompson would be the two best rebounders in the series and could help the Cavaliers control the pace and “uglify” the series which is a key to challenging the Warriors.

With Ariza and Dwight much of this is covered. Ariza gives them a strong 3 point shooter, who can either play PF in the Cavaliers lineup or be the SF while Lebron shifts to PF like he did in Miami. This maintains much of the spacing Love provided. Dwight gives them an excellent rebounder who can be paired with Tristan Thompson for much of the game to bang the glass in a series against the Warriors. On the defensive end the Cavaliers inherit two good pieces and are able to play the fast style against the Warriors. At the same time if they meet the Spurs in the Finals they are able to match up with big lineups by putting Howard on Duncan or Aldridge. Although Howard is not as skilled as Kevin Love, his current average of 14.6 points per game makes him a serviceable 3rd option in the post. As can Ariza chip in as a scorer.

A straight trade of Howard and Love may not be worth it for the Cavaliers for how it hurts their spacing. Ariza to me is just as important a piece. He’s what makes the Cavaliers able to move to faster, smaller lineups offensively while still defending. It makes Cleveland one of the few teams in the league with enough wings to match up with the Warriors “lineup of death” with Draymond Green at C and Harrison Barnes at PF. The Cavaliers can put Lebron and Ariza in the frontcourt spots in this lineup while still having quality wing pieces like JR Smith and Iman Shumpert left to play the SG and SF.

The elephant in the room for most teams is Howard’s upcoming free agency. But Cleveland is in win now mode in Lebron’s prime and Dan Gilbert has been willing to pay astronomical luxury tax bills to do it. The future price of resigning Dwight Howard this summer could be less bothersome to them than anyone else in the league. If they feel it’s the best chance to win a title for Cleveland it’s worth it.

Why for Houston?

Other than the reasons to trade Howard previously listed, getting a player of Love’s talent is hard to ever turn down. This is someone who’s shown the ability to be just as productive as James Harden. The best way to win a title in the league is still having multiple stars. The immediate fit isn’t great because Harden and Love are known as weak defenders and the Rockets are losing two good ones in Ariza and Howard. But this would be about the future more than salvaging this season. The Rockets can use free agency, trades and current prices like Patrick Beverley, Clint Capela, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Sam Dekker to build a team around their stars that works. If everything goes well, a lineup of Harden, Love and lots of 3 point shooting and defense around them can contend. Love is locked up on a long term deal that will look better as the CBA goes down and leaves enough room to sign a 3rd star as well.

Even if Love doesn’t get it all back in Houston, Daryl Morey may still highly value the current version. His RPM is 13th in the league, showing strong on/off impact on the Cavaliers due to his floor spacing. Combined with his still near all-star caliber box-score stats, a 16-17 point per game version of Kevin Love is still a decent 2nd best player to have on the Rockets.

Considering Howard’s value is diminished by his free agency status, the upside of Kevin Love feels hard to turn down for the Rockets.

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Written by jr.

February 12, 2016 at 7:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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