The NBA Finals, in many ways, are already over.
Maybe the Cleveland Cavaliers steal a game at home. Hell maybe, against all odds, they get Games 3 and 4. But they are absolutely not going to win this series. Not against the Golden State Warriors. Not against the best team in league history.
Once they do go out, there will be questions in Cleveland. All of those questions will lead to the same answer: The Cavaliers need to embrace change. They need to get better. They need to shake this core—a move that, ultimately could spell the end for Kevin Love’s time in Cleveland, as one executive told The Vertical’s Chris Mannix:
Two wins to go for Golden State, and perhaps two more games for Love in Cleveland. A humiliating defeat needs a scapegoat, and Love walks around these days with a wide target on his back. If changes are demanded this offseason, Love will be the asset pushed in trades needed to make them. As one league executive told The Vertical, “If they go out like this, I’m betting on a Kevin Love auction.”
It’s not quite clear if “go out like this” refers to the Cavaliers being swept. Truthfully, it doesn’t matter when they move, even if it’s a Game 7. The Warriors are too good, too superior. The Cavaliers, like the rest of the NBA, will see that. They will feel that.
And at that point, if you’re an NBA team, contender or not, what’s the rush? Why expedite your rebuild with the Warriors forever lording over you? Why not bide time and wait for their title window to close before investing everything you have in winning now?
Patience will be more difficult for ready-made contenders, like the Cavaliers, to exude. It demands they take a step back and start over. Or, in the Cavaliers’ case, it demands they do something, anything, to better position themselves to beat the Warriors.
That may not only entail shopping Love; it could include dangling Kyrie Irving in trade talks. Admittedly, we don’t really know. But if the Cavaliers lose to the Warriors without putting up much of a fight, if they “go out like this,” significant change, even to the Big Three, should be on the horizon.