With the Houston Rockets constantly being one of the more active teams on the trade market, should they explore a trade for Kevin Love? Here are the pros and cons of such a move.
Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey is always looking to bolster the Rockets’ roster, as he’s never been one to shy away from making big trades or splash moves. Part of this is what makes Morey one of the better general managers in the league, as he has essentially built the Rockets into a contender without having any assets to part with prior to the James Harden trade in 2012. The Rockets’ early returns on the 2019-20 season have shown cause for concern, as they are 3-6 against contending teams with a winning record. This could be enough for Morey to look for additional talent to bring to Houston.
If the Rockets are looking to land another star player, they should look no further than five-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA big man Kevin Love. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Cleveland Cavaliers are now open to trading the 2016 NBA champion as they brace for a complete rebuild. If the Houston Rockets are going to pursue Love, it would seem like the Cavaliers would ask for Clint Capela, as the 25-year-old center would fit in well with a rebuilding group. On top of that, Capela would provide veteran leadership to a Cavaliers roster with an average age of 24.8 years old (excluding Love), which would be tied for the third-youngest in the league according to Real GM.
Granted, there would certainly be pros and cons of a Love and Capela swap. For starters, Love isn’t nearly the shot blocker Capela is, which is evident by how Capela has averaged nearly two blocks per game in each of the last three seasons. On the flip side, Love has not been anywhere close to that. Love has never averaged even one block per game, but let’s face it, if the Rockets are making the trade of Capela for Love, it’s certainly not for defensive reasons.
Love is a significant upgrade over Capela on the offensive end of the floor, as evident by how Love is currently averaging 16.7 points per game compared to Capela’s 14.5 points per game. It’s also worth pointing out that Love’s scoring outputs this season are his fewest since the 2015-16 season in which he was the third option behind LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.
In addition, Love’s 3-point shooting would be an added bonus as he’s currently shooting 37.6 percent from deep on 5.9 attempts per game. Of all the Rockets players shooting at least the same number of 3-pointers this season, only Danuel House has a better 3-point percentage than Love, who is a career 37 percent shooter from downtown.
Obviously the Rockets would have to play Love at center if they made this move but there would be perks of this from a spacing standpoint. Love being behind the 3-point arc would clear the paint for Harden and Westbrook to attack the basket and kick out to Love, who has had 89.5 percent of his 3-pointers assisted on this season. Not only that but Love would provide a great solution for the double teams Harden is facing, as he simply can’t be left open from downtown since he is a true stretch four.
Love also provides play-making abilities of his own, as evident by his 2.8 assists per game on a non-contending Cavs roster, which is certainly impressive. To put that in perspective, Love’s assist numbers this season are the second-best of his illustrious twelve-year career. Having him on the roster in place of Capela would allow the Rockets to utilize Westbrook on back-door cuts to the basket. This is simply not a skill of Capela’s, as his 1.1 assists per game this season are a career-high.
One big downside is the fact that Love isn’t nearly the rebounder that Capela is at this stage of their careers, as Capela is averaging 14.9 boards per game compared to Love’s 10.7. But having an elite rebounding guard like Westbrook on the roster could actually mitigate some of this. All in all, the Houston Rockets would be prioritizing offense over defense if they were to trade Capela for Love, which has to be tempting for a Rockets’ unit which is lacking shooters.
Another possibility, although this is certainly a far less likely possibility, would be for the Rockets to include Russell Westbrook in a trade. Obviously Harden wouldn’t sign off on such a move, as they are close friends, but it’s a possibility worth exploring for argument’s sake. As mentioned, Love is a spot-up shooter who can still get 16 points per game on 37 percent from deep on a down year. Love is also a much better fit for the Houston Rockets’ style of play than Westbrook has been thus far, although it’s still too early in the season to write off Russ.
If the Rockets had Love and Capela, it would provide a great inside/outside game and would move Harden back to the point guard position full-time, with Austin Rivers, Chris Clemons and Eric Gordon (when healthy) as the other guards on the roster. If P.J. Tucker would be kept out of this trade, the Rockets would have a starting lineup of Harden, Gordon, Tucker, Love and Capela. But even if the Rockets would be forced to include Tucker, they would still have Danuel House to start at the three.
We’ll have to see what happens, but it’s certainly worth looking into, as Kevin Love would be a significant offensive upgrade over Capela.