Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love has opted out of the final year of his contract with the team and will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com. The unsurprising news means that Love will be available on the open market and free to choose his next team this summer.
By opting out, Love now has the chance to either negotiate a new deal with the Cavaliers or sign with a new team. Throughout the past year, the 26-year-old has repeatedly said he would return to the Cavaliers for the 2015-16 season despite speculation he would leave following a disappointing debut season with the franchise. Now it's possible he walks.
The Cavaliers can offer Love an extra year and more money than anyone else, which is why they are the frontrunners to give Love a five-year, $100 million maximum contract, per Wojnarowski. But Love can also pursue alternative options. Other teams, such as the Los Angeles Lakers, might offer Love a starring role he couldn't have next to LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in Cleveland, plus there's also the possibility that he prefers a short-term deal like the one James signed with the Cavs last summer. With big increases coming to the salary cap soon, Love may prefer to wait to receive his long-term, max-level contract.
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One other team reportedly targeting Love is the Boston Celtics. If Love goes forward with the decision to consider other teams next month, Boston will try to convince the star forward on "pursuing group of Love, Robin Lopez and ... Paul Pierce," reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. It's unclear how the Celtics would manage to pull all of that off. Phoenix will also be in the mix, reports Wojnarowski.
The Cavaliers would seem to remain the favorites to retain Love, however, given his various comments over the season and the chance to win a title. Walking away from a winning team after months of claiming to be committed to the franchise wouldn't be the best look for Love, even if his departure would be happening for understandable reasons.
Still, Love is now going to be a free agent, and that means the door is open for other teams. The Cavaliers will presumably be first in line to meet with Love once July arrives, but now we know he'll officially be open to outside pursuits this offseason.
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