The start of the NBA season is just over one week away, with the Celtics and Hornets competing in the first preseason game Friday, Sept. 28. Odds once again favor the Warriors to win it all, while Boston has the second-best title odds.
Though Golden State is a heavy favorite, last season proved even the league’s best are vulnerable. With LeBron heading to L.A., the already-loaded West has become a verifiable murderer’s row.
Get excited – the race for the Larry O’Brien Trophy begins soon. Here are 10 players with a lot to prove in the 2018-19 season.
10. John Wall, Wizards
Last season was a rough one for John Wall. After signing a $170 million extension with the Wizards, he missed two months (from late January-March) with a hand injury. He never seemed to find a real rhythm. During the season, he was criticized for being out of shape, and tempers in Washington’s locker room boiled over. Wall said the team was “not having fun right now.” The dynamics with Wall and Bradley Beal seem to be unpredictable – good today, bad tomorrow. No one questions Wall’s talent, and he’s been electric in the postseason – but this season, he needs to prove he can lead a team for a full season and be the central figure (the leader!) on a roster that actually gets along.
Kevin Love has received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback since he opened up about his struggles with mental health in a piece he wrote for The Players’ Tribune back in March, and the reaction has inspired him to start a new foundation.
On Monday, Love announced the launch of the Kevin Love Fund, which will partner with several mental health organizations. He spoke about the new venture in an appearance on the “TODAY” show.
“We’re beating down the stigma as much as we can.”-@kevinlove dropped by to tell us about his new initiative to help people improve their physical and emotional well-being, the Kevin Love Fund pic.twitter.com/NRSH2CIccZ
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) September 18, 2018
“It’s going to empower people to really work on their physical, but also their mental well-being because we know that’s so huge,” Love said. “It’s really a special time. We’re beating down the stigma as much as we can.”
We have seen more and more star athletes opening up about their battles with mental health issues, so it’s no surprise Love has received so much support. The cause is obviously one that is very important to him, and starting a foundation will be a good way to help more people than he already has.
- Kevin Love
LeBron James may have paved the way for Kevin Love to sign a massive contract extension when he decided to leave Cleveland for a second time, and the new Los Angeles Lakers star is looking to get a little something out of it.
Love signed a four-year, $120 million extension with the Cavs on Tuesday, and LeBron took to Twitter to congratulate him. He also wants Love to buy him dinner next time the two get together.
Secure the !!! Congrats brother @kevinlove. Nobu Malibu or Wally’s on you!!!
— LeBron James (@KingJames) July 24, 2018
LeBron’s career earnings will obviously dwarf Love’s when you factor in endorsements and other revenue streams, so perhaps they can split the bill when the Cavs visit L.A. next season.
There were various reports of tension between Love and LeBron throughout their time as teammates in Cleveland, but a lot of them were overblown. Now that both star players have secured new long-term contracts this offseason, you can’t blame them for wanting to celebrate.
The Cleveland Cavaliers said goodbye to LeBron James this offseason for the second time in four years, and there has been some talk that Kevin Love could be the next to leave town. It does not seem like that is the team’s plan — at least for now.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst report that the Cavs have signed Love to a four-year, $120 million extension.
ESPN reporting with @WindhorstESPN: Cavaliers forward Kevin Love has signed a four-year, $120 million contract extension — topping out his overall deal at five-years, $145 million, league sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 24, 2018
The new contract is somewhat surprising, as many expected the Cavs to either trade Love or the star forward to aim for a big year statistically before heading into free agency next summer. Love has already won a championship, however, so it makes sense that he is opting for financial security.
Love still could be traded at some point, but that has seemed like a longshot all along. The four-year extension indicates the Cavs want him to become the face of their franchise rather than getting rid of everyone and starting over.
Kevin Love sounds pretty thrilled to be reunited with Channing Frye.
On Saturday, the veteran big man Frye agreed to a one-year, $2.4 million deal to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, per Shams Charania of Yahoo! Sports.
Free agent Channing Frye has agreed to a one-year, $2.4M deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers, league sources tell Yahoo.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 14, 2018
Love reacted to the news with a hilarious Instagram post. He posted a meme of LeBron James’ iconic Sports Illustrated “I’m Coming Home” letter with Frye’s head Photoshopped onto it instead. The meme also described Frye as “Kevin Love’s BFF and NBA champ.”
Love and Frye were teammates in Cleveland for three seasons and won the NBA title together in 2016. The latter was then shipped to the Los Angeles Lakers at the trade deadline last February as part of the Isaiah Thomas deal.
Now the two big men will be entering their fourth season as teammates on the Cavs, provided that the team does not decide to trade Love before then (which seems unlikely based on this most recent report).
The Cleveland Cavaliers are reportedly open to trading Kevin Love now that LeBron James is signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, but teams that are thinking about low-balling them with a trade offer probably shouldn’t waste their time.
Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer spoke with a well-known NBA executive who questioned how motivated the Cavs are to part ways with the player who is now their biggest star.
“Unless they get blown away by an offer, I think they’ll open the season with Love,” the executive said.
Love is entering the final year of his contract, and he’s set to make $24 million. He also has a player option worth $25.6 million for the following season, but he seems unlikely to exercise it. According to the exec Pluto spoke with, the Cavs know they should be able to get more for Love if they wait until the trade deadline next season.
“Because I think he’ll be more in demand during the season by the trading deadline,” the executive said. “Kevin could have a very good year for the Cavs being the focal point of the offense. He is a talented player.”
Love was an All-Star last season and averaged 17.6 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. His scoring in Cleveland has never been anywhere close to the 26.1 points he averaged in his final season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Love could boost his stock a ton if he puts up big numbers with LeBron gone. He’ll only turn 30 this offseason, so he should have an opportunity to sign one more max contract.
The Cavs are making an effort to convince teams they are not looking to deal Love, and that could be more about timing than anything. They don’t want to look like they’re blowing everything up and starting from scratch now that LeBron left, as that would weaken their stance in trade talks. Even if they don’t plan on keeping Love through next season, denying that he is for sale makes sense from a business standpoint.
Despite their insistence otherwise, the Cleveland Cavaliers are reportedly willing to trade Kevin Love if the right deal comes their way.
According to Jason Lloyd of the Athletic, league sources indicate that the Cavaliers are “open” to moving Love despite the organization’s public insistence that he will stay to be part of an effort to remain in contention.
It would make sense for the Cavaliers to try to move Love. With LeBron James gone, they’re no longer a title contender. Moreover, the Cavaliers’ first-round selection next season is top-ten protected and will go to the Atlanta Hawks otherwise. The Cavaliers have some incentive to be bad in order to keep that pick.
Team sources have repeatedly denied that Love would be shopped if James left. That may be just posturing, especially if they can get a good deal for him.