NBA trade season is upon us, which means that rumors are whirling. This year, none are juicier than the one surrounding the Cleveland Cavaliers and Carmelo Anthony. Reportedly, the Cavs are looking to trade for Carmelo, even if it means giving up Kevin Love. This is coming from Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.
LeBron James has in the past said that he wants to play with all of his friends: Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, and Anthony. James has already played alongside Wade in Miami where they won two titles together. LeBron has also publicly asked for a “playmaker” for the Cavaliers for the last few weeks. There have been many dots connected from that plea to Carmelo’s status as a Knick – Phil Jackson has been relatively coy with his feelings on Anthony, but it seems as though Melo’s time in the Big Apple has an expiration date.
LeBron James, for what it’s worth, is downplaying the rumors.
"It’s trash and the guy that wrote it is trash too." — LeBron James on the Kevin Love/Melo trade rumor. pic.twitter.com/8RfHqGFMzD
— SB Nation NBA (@SBNationNBA) February 7, 2017
Here’s the thing: other than the two players being friends, the rumor doesn’t make much sense. Why? Glad you asked.
The first thing that everyone has to understand is that LeBron is asking for a backup point guard. He wants someone to be able to run the second unit so that he or Kyrie Irving doesn’t have to. Sure, the whole “playmaker” wording is a bit dubious. LeBron has to know to word his sentences better so that the media doesn’t run away with it like they have.
Still, LeBron has been clear about the position he wants – backup point guard. To their credit, the Cavs have been looking at exactly what he’s been asking for. They have reported interest in Utah’s Shelvin Mack and Denver’s Jameer Nelson as trade targets. In addition, they worked out Kirk Hinrich, Lance Stephenson, and Mario Chalmers.
Clearly, LeBron isn’t talking about a big piece and the Cavaliers don’t see themselves adding one either. Even if they did, however, is Carmelo really the piece that they’d look to add?
Melo and Love
Let’s travel down this rabbit hole for a second and say that the Cavaliers were willing to trade Kevin Love in order to get Carmelo Anthony. Believe it or not, this would actually be a bad trade – for the Cavaliers. This has easily been Love’s best year with the Cavs, not only in terms of production but also in terms of fitting into his role. Kevin Love has become the third wheel that everyone imagined he would be when he was first traded to Cleveland.
On the other side, Carmelo Anthony hasn’t been all that this year. He’s regressing as a passer, going from 4.2 assists a game last season – a career high for him – to only 2.9 this season, his lowest since he came to New York. Melo has clearly been disgruntled about the constant trade rumors, as well as the offensive system. Anthony doesn’t play as much within the system as he does look to go isolation, which to his credit is how he became one of the more dangerous one-on-one scorers in NBA history.
As big of a name that Carmelo Anthony is, Kevin Love is simply outplaying him. And it really isn’t all that close. I’ll use stats per 100 possessions as my comparison tool for this. Stats per 100 possessions do the best job, in my opinion, of leveling the playing field. While it doesn’t guarantee equal playing time, it does give each player the same amount of touches.
Numbers Never Lie
Per 100 possessions, Anthony is barely outscoring Love, 33.7 points to 31.8. Theoretically, this would go down for Anthony, as he’d have to learn how to play next to LeBron, Kyrie and the rest of the team. Love, on the other hand, is in his third year with the Cavs and as previously mentioned is hitting his stride.
Additionally, Love has the better offensive rating, 116 to 110. Offensive rating is an estimate of the points produced per 100 possessions when said player is on the floor with their team. True Shooting Percentage is an efficiency rating that combines two point, three point, and free throw percentage. Once again, Love is the better and more efficient player here at 58.4% versus 53.7%.
Carmelo Anthony is only averaging 8.8 rebounds per 100 possessions. Kevin Love is doubling that output and more at 17.4 rebounds per 100 possessions. Finally, I’m comparing their defensive ratings, which is a measurement of how many points are given up per 100 possessions. Carmelo is giving up 112 per 100 possessions, while Kevin Love is sitting at a surprising 105 per 100 possessions.
No Love for Melo?
All in all, it doesn’t make much sense for the Cavaliers to turn Kevin Love into Carmelo Anthony. Kevin Love is fitting in well with the offensive system the Cavs are running. Carmelo isn’t playing better than him on the offensive end and certainly isn’t better than him on the defensive end of the floor. While LeBron asked for a playmaker, they simply don’t need Carmelo Anthony to beat the Golden State Warriors.