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The Trail Blazers Should Ignore Kevin Love & Make This Genius Trade Instead

Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:25 PM
Bryan Toporek
Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:25 PM
  • The Trail Blazers are looking to shake off a slow start to the season.
  • They’re a rumored landing spot for Kevin Love, who grew up near Portland.
  • Oklahoma City Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari would be a far better fit for the Blazers.

The Portland Trail Blazers will be fixtures in trade rumors for the next month-and-a-half as they attempt to put a disappointing start to the 2019-20 season behind them.

Armed with the hefty expiring contracts of Hassan Whiteside ($27.1 million) and Kent Bazemore ($19.3 million), the Blazers are one of the few teams across the NBA with the salary-matching ammunition to pull off a blockbuster trade.

That makes them a logical landing spot for disgruntled Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, who grew up in Oregon and is in the first year of his four-year, $120.4 million extension.

While Love “would prefer” to get traded to Portland, according to Kevin O’Connor  of The Ringer, the Blazers would be far better off targeting a different stretch-4: Danilo Gallinari of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Why not Kevin Love?

kevin love trade rumors
Kevin Love seems like a natural fit for the Trail Blazers, but Portland has a better option. | Source: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images/AFP

Unlike Kevin Love, who will have three years and $91.5 million remaining on his contract after this season, Danilo Gallinari is currently on a $22.6 million expiring contract.

With both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum signed to massive contracts through 2023-24, the Blazers won’t have much financial flexibility over the next half-decade. If they decide to add a third co-star for Lillard and McCollum, that will be one of the final bullets left in their team-building chamber.

Love, a 31-year-old with a lengthy injury history in recent years, is not the right type of player on which to pull the trigger.

Although Love is a strong rebounder and three-point shooter—he’s averaging 16.1 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.2 triples while shooting 37.8 percent from deep this season—he has long been a subpar defender. He ranks 83rd out of 95 power forwards in ESPN.com’s real defensive plus-minus  this season, which would not help Portland improve its 20th-ranked defense .

If the Cavaliers were looking to dump Love’s long-term salary and would take only expiring contracts in return, he would be a more enticing trade target. But since Cleveland wants some combination of draft picks and young prospects, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski , Portland should instead turn its attention to Gallinari.

Why Danilo Gallinari makes more sense for the Blazers

By trading for Gallinari, the Blazers could weaken one of their challengers for a playoff spot while simultaneously bolstering their own chances.

The 31-year-old is averaging a career-high 2.8 three-pointers per game on 39.5 percent shooting, and he’s chipping in 18.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists in only 30.5 minutes per game. He could give Portland a reliable counterpunch against teams with strong backcourt defenders.

Gallinari will be among the top free agents  this summer, which could make the Blazers wary about giving up too much for a potential half-season rental. Only a handful of teams project to have significant salary-cap space, which means Gallinari could be forced to choose between taking a discount to sign with a contender or spending the rest of his prime on a rebuilding team.

Since the Blazers would acquire his Bird rights in a trade, they could exceed the salary cap to re-sign him and give him the best of both worlds. Given his limited options elsewhere on the free-agent market, a three-year, $90 million deal—right around what’s left on Love’s contract after this year—may be his best-case scenario.

In the meantime, Gallinari could help the Blazers surge up the Western Conference standings and salvage their season after a dismal 5-12 start. While another conference finals appearance doesn’t seem likely, a return to the playoffs would give them positive momentum moving forward.

If the Blazers only have to give up something like Bazemore and a protected first-round pick to land Gallinari, he would be far preferable to Love.

Unless otherwise noted, all stats via NBA.com  or Basketball Reference . All salary information via Early Bird Rights .