With the news coming down on Tuesday morning that Kevin Love has signed an extension with the Cleveland Cavaliers, there are celebrations taking place within the Atlanta Hawks’ front office. Cleveland owes a top-ten protected first-round pick in the 2019 draft to the Hawks by way of the Kyle Korver trade in January 2017, and while the 3+ weeks of inactivity from the Cavaliers had many wondering whether they’d shift gears away from their veterans in favor of dropping in the standings, the Love extension should put much of that talk to bed – Cleveland will be competitive for the playoffs this year, which means that pick is almost certainly going to convey in next year’s draft.
The pick sent to Atlanta for Korver is top-ten protected in both 2019 and 2020 before it turns into two second-rounders in 2021 and 2022, but it looks like the Hawks won’t have to worry about it converting into those less valuable picks. While there are still some questions about the Cavaliers’ roster going into next season, all indications are that Cleveland is going to go for another playoff run this season, which will play right into the Hawks’ hands.
They won’t be as competitive at the top of the Eastern Conference, but along with the Detroit Pistons and Miami Heat, they’ll be right on the playoff bubble, which will likely be just good enough to push the pick Atlanta’s way, unless Cleveland strikes gold once again in the lottery. Love’s extension also makes it illegal to trade him for the next six months and while that period doesn’t cover the 2019 trade deadline, it makes it more likely that he’ll remain with the Cavaliers for at least the next season, lowering the variance of their potential outcomes.
Cleveland still has some other moves to make, as Rodney Hood is still floating in restricted free agency in addition to their mid-level and bi-annual exceptions burning a hole in their pocket. The Cavaliers will likely want to stay below the tax this season, but they have roster spots to fill and if they can make prudent signings to remain competitive, it will push them even further toward the playoffs in a relatively weak Eastern Conference.
Atlanta has their own first-round pick this season, which will likely fall in the top five, as well as a protected pick from the Dallas Mavericks that will also almost certainly convey given their offseason moves. Likely armed with three first-round picks for a second consecutive year, the Hawks are right on track with their rebuild.