The Cleveland Cavaliers were hellbent on making major splashes this offseason and saving their beleaguered franchise. After signing Kyrie Irving to a maximum contract extension, luring LeBron James back to his home state, and drafting Andrew Wiggins, the Cavs are not done. For months reports have swirled around an inevitable trade between the Cleveland Cavaliers involving, No. 1 draft pick, Andrew Wiggins to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love. Wiggins’ name has been prevalent on the NBA trade rumor mill since James re-signed with his former team. Despite initial claims from management that the 6’8″ swingman would not be moved in a trade, James’ interest in acquiring Love allowed for the Cavaliers to ship Wiggins to Minnesota. The not so secret trade is a three team deal with the Philadelphia 76ers now included into the blockbuster transaction. With 30 days having passed since Andrew Wiggins contract signing, the Cleveland Cavaliers dealt for Kevin Love on Saturday.
Wiggins has been highly touted since establishing himself as a star at Huntington Prep high school. In his lone year at Kansas, the freshmen averaged 17.1 ppg and 5.9 rpg. Wiggins did not quite consistently live up to his potential but the Ontario, Canada product still managed to make the All Big 12 first team and won Big 12 Freshmen of the year honors. The NBA summer league was somewhat of a mixed bag for Wiggins as well. The 19-year-old averaged 15 points per game on 40 percent shooting. His superb athleticism stood out with a number of highlight plays. While showing his signature talents, Wiggins’ flaws were also exposed as he posted just one assist and committed 11 turnovers during the tournament. However, the tremendous full court speed and athletic ability of Wiggins along with his defensive skills give him unlimited potential for growth.
Despite the Canadian’s high ceiling, the Cavaliers now have a trio of All Stars on hand with Love’s arrival. A core of James, Irving and Wiggins is probably nothing to balk at. However, replacing Wiggins with Love instantly improves the Cavaliers and puts them as front-runners for contention in the NBA Eastern Conference. The decision to trade for Love required Cleveland to weigh Wiggins’ upside vs the NBA All Star production of Love. The official deal has the Cleveland Cavaliers receiving Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, and a 2015 first round pick (Miami via Cleveland). The Cavaliers’ first round pick will go to the Philadelphia 76ers, who will be trading Thaddeus Young to the T’wolves in exchange for the expiring contracts of forward Luc Mbah a Moute and combo guard Alexey Shved.
Bennett was last season’s number one pick, but struggled to produce as rookie while recovering from an injury in Cleveland. The Timberwolves hope that the forward can produce a lot more like he did at UNLV than his efforts last season. The 21 year old averaged just 4.2 ppg and 3.0 rpg and shot a woeful 35 percent from the field in limited minutes.
Love, a three-time All Star averaged 26 ppg, 13.3 rpg, 4.4 apg and shot 37 percent from downtown. He is the first player since the NBA/ABA merger to post those point, rebound and assist per game averages in a season. The 6’10” 260 pound power forward is considered a lame duck for the Timberwolves. The forward is free agent next summer and has gone on record as being disappointed with the team and is reportedly unwilling to re-sign. After not being offered a five-year “designated player” extension by T’wolves ownership and enduring six years without a playoff appearance Love has become frustrated and made it clear he wanted out of Minnesota.
Initially many analysts pegged Love as a target for the Los Angeles Lakers, as they have not only sufficient cap space but also could have offered Love the chance to return to LA. The Santa Monica, California native stared at UCLA before being acquired by the Timberwolves on draft day. Love is a stretch four with a rare combination of three-point shooting ability, outstanding rebounding on both the offensive and defensive boards, passing skills and has a knack for finishing around the rim. Last season Love became the first player in NBA history to score 2,000 points, grab 900 rebounds and hit 100 three pointers in a season. Although Love does not possess incredible speed or athleticism, he is extremely consistent and highly productive. A walking double-double machine in the 2010-11 season, Love led the NBA in rebounding and posted a league record 53 straight games with a double-double. He also took home the most improved player award that season and later bounced back nicely after being injured nearly all of 2012.
Love was only reportedly interested in playing in a big market such as Chicago or New York, but only the Golden State Warriors and Timberwolves entered trade talks to acquire him. While many teams had the cap space necessary to sign him outright next summer, Love was almost certainly going to be traded at some point before the season was over. The Timberwolves would have been foolish to let their star walk when a reconciliation was not in the works. The Warriors offered David Lee and Harrison Barnes in potential trade scenarios for Love, but their front office was non-committal on the Minnesota’s additional asking price of Klay Thompson. The desperation to get equal market value back in exchange for their superstar led to speculation of low ball offers. However, the Timberwolves will wind up with ample compensation for Love when the deal is all said and done.
The 76ers moved Young, the 6’8 power forward, after he had the best season of his seven-year career. The lefty from New Orleans, LA averaged a career high 17.9 ppg and 6 rebounds. Minnesota Timberwolves coach/vp of basketball operations, Flip Saunders, quickly sought to acquire Young to replace Love, knowing his star power forward’s departure was inevitable. The move seems somewhat puzzling for the 76ers, who won just 19 games last season and appear to be headed in the direction of rebuilding next season. Young was one of the most consistent players on the team and shot over 50 percent from the field in four of his seasons with the franchise.
Despite the fact that this trade has been well-known for some time NBA commissioner, Adam Silver will not be happy to know the deal has been announced by several newspapers. Profiles of Love, Young, Wiggins and Bennett have been released in local newspapers for their new respective teams. Now that the deal has been made official, Cleveland Cavaliers fans can breathe easy in knowing they have Kevin Love at the mere price of unproven young players Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett.
Commentary by Brandon Wright