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February 18, 2023

Report: Kevin Love will discuss joining Sixers after buyout in Cleveland

Love has been out of the rotation for Cleveland, and the Heat are frontrunners to sign him.

The buyout market has been relatively uneventful for the Sixers, who signed Dewayne Dedmon earlier this week to shore up their depth behind Joel Embiid. But a report from Adrian Wojnarowski on Saturday morning suggests they could be in the running for Kevin Love as the former All-Star forward assesses his options as a free agent.

Love, who completed a buyout with the Cavs on Saturday, has widely been expected to join the Miami Heat after the buyout process was complete in Cleveland. But Wojnarowski's report suggests that the Sixers are in the mix for Love, despite having a full roster and no clear-cut way to bring him in.

Anyone expecting All-Star-level Kevin Love in 2023 is going to be massively disappointed, with Love far removed from his physical peak and primarily serving as an off-the-bench weapon for Cleveland over the last two seasons. As the Cavs transition to a future built around the Jarrett Allen/Evan Mobley frontcourt, opportunities for Love to play have dwindled, with 26-year-old reserve forward Dean Wade essentially taking Love's spot in the rotation. He has not appeared in a game since January 24th, hence Love's desire to move on and land somewhere he can actually play.

It has been a down year for Love shooting the basketball, which has meant it has been a down year for Love overall, as his value has increasingly been tied to his ability to make three-point shots. There's certainly additional offensive utility to tap into — Love has always been a great connective passer, excelling at hit-ahead passes in transition and making quick reads in tight spaces as a halfcourt player. More importantly for Philadelphia, he remains an excellent rebounder, someone who could help with their issues on the defensive glass and likely create an extra possession or two per game on the offensive boards. And Love is plenty comfortable as a volume shooter, which is a trait the Sixers have struggled to find in players around Embiid.

The question here is pretty simple — is there a clean fit, and is it worth sacrificing somebody on the roster to bring Love in? Everyone who is a potential candidate to be outright cut comes with complications. Montrezl Harrell has a player option for next year on his contract. Furkan Korkmaz is owed another $5.4 million next season. You start looking at the roster, and the two cleanest paths to bring Love in are to cut the recently signed Dedmon or waive Paul Reed. 

Does Love have greater utility on this team than either of those two players? Love would frankly be an easier sell if Georges Niang wasn't on the roster. A sweet-shooting forward next to Embiid in bench-led lineups is a great asset to have, and it's an archetype we've seen thrive in an Embiid-centric offense. But since Niang is on the roster, and you probably wouldn't play Love over him at this point, the need isn't really there. 

(You could argue that Love over Niang for rebounding purposes alone might be worth it, and maybe that's possible, though Love would have to make a big jump in his shooting accuracy to justify that even being a conversation. Niang has been one of the league's best shooters this year, full-stop, and that shouldn't be taken for granted.)

Signing Dedmon wasn't all that exciting, but he at least has a specific and unique niche that he offers to the team as a big-bodied rim protector. Reed has his issues, but he also has a level of defensive utility and switchability that tends to be more valuable in the playoffs.

If I were confident Love could masquerade as a small five, I think there'd be more urgency to bring him in, and maybe you could argue Love could be protected in that style of lineup as a result of all the zone defense Philadelphia plays. But I think his defensive issues are too glaring to go that route, and those would be amplified playing with this team, given the inability to prevent penetration on the second unit. Love's inability to hold up in space or protect the rim would exacerbate whatever defensive issues they already have there.

This will likely be a moot point with Love presumably signing with Miami at some point in the near future, but it's the All-Star break and it's something to talk about, so chew on this one for a few hours.

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