CLEVELAND — Editor's note: the video in the player above is from a previous story.
The biggest signing on the NBA's third day of free agency was a player who seemingly wasn't available when the offseason officially started earlier this week. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, four-time All-Star guard Kemba Walker has reached a buyout with the Oklahoma City Thunder and is expected to immediately sign with the New York Knicks.
Without even knowing the financial details of it, Walker's buyout makes sense for both himself and the team. For the 31-year-old Walker, he now has the ability to sign with his hometown team and play for a contender rather than a team in the midst of a rebuild. For the Thunder, they save money -- and cap space -- instead of paying Walker, who didn't fit in with the timeline of the team's rebuild.
Walker's buyout could also have implications elsewhere in the NBA, beyond Oklahoma City and New York. Most notably, in Cleveland, the Cavaliers and Kevin Love find themselves in a similar predicament at what appears to be a critical juncture for both sides.
Three years after Love signed a four-year, $120 million extension in Cleveland, it seems clear that both sides would benefit from moving on from each other. In his three seasons since re-signing with the Cavs, the five-time All-Star has appeared in just 103 games due to various injuries while also demonstrating clear frustration with the youth movement the franchise has embarked on following LeBron James' 2018 departure.
With two seasons and more than $60 million remaining on the 32-year-old Love's contract, trading him isn't a viable option -- at least not unless the Cavs are willing to give up other assets in the deal.
So how does Cleveland navigate a potentially messy breakup with Love, who withdrew from the Tokyo Olympics last month due to a lingering calf injury? A buyout could provide the answer.
For the unfamiliar, a buyout occurs when a team and player mutually agree to part ways. Oftentimes, the player will give up a portion of his salary -- or all of it -- providing financial and cap relief to the team. In return, the player becomes an unrestricted free agent, eligible to sign with any team.
In that sense, Walker's departure from Oklahoma City might not be the best comparison for Love. Whereas Walker was able to recoup some of the money he gave back to the Thunder by signing with the Knicks, Love's next contract, if he's bought out, will likely be a veteran's minimum.
In other words, Walker had less financial incentive to remain under his current deal than Love does with the Cavs. There is, however, a precedent that could apply to Cleveland's current situation.
Earlier this year, the Detroit Pistons agreed to a buyout with another former All-Star forward, Blake Griffin, who had two years left on his contract and no longer fit into the franchise's long-term future. After giving back $13.3 million of the $75 million remaining on his contract in order to become a free agent, the 32-year-old Griffin was able to join a contender in the Brooklyn Nets -- a team that Love has already been linked to.
While the financials between Love and Griffin aren't identical, the situations are certainly comparable. What's more is that Love and Griffin have the same agent, Jeff Schwartz of Excel Sports Management, making it hard to imagine that a potential buyout with the Cavs hasn't already been discussed.
As for whether or not one will come to fruition, that will likely be determined in the days and weeks ahead. But if Walker's surprise exit from Oklahoma City on Wednesday was any indication, don't be surprised if the 2021 free agent class soon adds another unexpected name.