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With Kevin Love extension, the Cleveland Cavaliers are no longer 'championship or bust'

On Tuesday, the Cleveland Cavaliers agreed to a four-year, $120 million extension with 5-time All-Star forward Kevin Love.
Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

CLEVELAND -- In what general manager Koby Altman deemed "a big moment in our franchise's history," the Cleveland Cavaliers signed Kevin Love to a four-year, $120 million extension on Tuesday.

But despite Altman's proclamation, neither he nor Love seem to be under any illusion regarding the state of their team. The Cavs may have just secured the new face of their franchise, but their days as Eastern Conference contenders are now over -- or have at least been put on hold -- following the departure of LeBron James earlier this summer.

"We got a little bit spoiled with four straight trips to the Finals," Love said. "But now we get to build this thing again.”

Credit: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Replacing Cleveland's former "championship or bust" mentality is a newfound youth movement, spurred by the addition of point guard Collin Sexton, who the Cavs selected with the No. 8 overall pick in last month's NBA Draft. In addition to the Alabama product, Cleveland will also bestow increased roles upon second-year players Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic after each showed varying degrees of promise in their rookie seasons, as well as 25-year-old Larry Nance Jr. and potentially Rodney Hood.

Yet as evidenced by Tuesday's re-signing, the Cavs clearly aren't aiming for a full teardown of their roster, as teams often do after losing a franchise player like James. In addition to Love, Cleveland still possesses no shortage of veteran players under contract, including Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver, George Hill and Channing Frye.

“To me, it’s not a rebuild," Love said. "Because we have talent and we have championship-caliber pieces."

That may be the case, but there's a big difference between championship-caliber pieces and a championship-caliber team and at this point, nobody is fooling themselves into thinking the Cavs currently have the latter. Even in the most optimistic scenario for Cleveland, the Cavs would fall well short of the top teams in the Eastern Conference like Boston, Philadelphia, Toronto and even Indiana.

Speaking of the Pacers, that may not be a bad model for what the Cavs are currently aiming for. After losing All-Star forward Paul George last offseason, Indiana opted to stay the course -- actually improving its win total by six games en route to earning the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

While the Cavs are unlikely to improve their own win total from a year ago (50), let alone their championship odds, the idea of Cleveland being a middle of the road playoff team in the Eastern Conference isn't far-fetched. Of course, plenty can change between now and the start of the season and the Cavs are going to have to make some moves in order to open up playing time for Sexton, Osman and Zizic.

At this point, the Cavs aren't good enough to win a championship, but they aren't bad enough to bottom out either.

So where does that leave them? Altman might not even be sure -- but he is optimistic.

"Kevin committing to our franchise long-term and being a part of this new chapter, this evolution of a team," he said. "I'm really excited about."

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