It’s finally official. Officially official. The frequently discussed deal to send Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers has finally been announced as an done deal.
Let’s look at the breakdown:
Minnesota receives: Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Thaddeus Young, trade exception
Cleveland receives: Kevin Love
Philadelphia receives: Alexey Shved, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Miami’s (top 10 protected) 2015 first round pick
The deal has been discussed off and on for a number of months now, but was amplified when LeBron James made the decision to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers back in early July. After the LeBron announcement, rumors and speculation took off, especially since LeBron left Wiggins and Bennett’s names off of his announcement of guys he was ‘excited to play with’.
Talks with Cleveland were temporarily put on hold after Cleveland signed Wiggins to his rookie deal, due to a rule that makes it illegal to trade a rookie for 30 days after their first contract is signed. Still, reports came out during the waiting period that a handshake deal was in place.
Most saw this deal as the best of potential scenarios for the Wolves, but any trade involving a player like Kevin Love is going to have good stuff and bad stuff.
We’ll start with a few of the trade’s potential downsides:
1. Kevin Love is no longer a Wolf. As Zach Harper mentioned earlier in the month, the only scenario better than what happened was Love changing his mind and sticking around.
Even with the potential that comes with a prospect like Andrew Wiggins, the rookie’s best-case scenario really can’t be much better than Love’s reality. Kevin Love is a top 5-10 player in the NBA; Wiggins getting anywhere in that territory is an absolute win for the Wolves, but far from a guarantee.
With Love’s departure, a lot more pressure will fall on Nikola Pekovic to rebound the basketball for the starting lineup, as Thaddeus Young’s rebounding has never been a strength.
It isn’t just that, either. Kevin Love stretched the floor. Thaddeus Young tried expanding his range last year (shot 30 percent from deep, took an average of nearly 4 3-pointers per game), but does the majority of his damage in the paint. He and Pek may have moments of awkward growing pains early in the season as they work to figure each other out as teammates.
There’s obviously more than just this. Brewer loses the other half of his beautiful outlet marriage. Kevin Martin will almost surely have to work harder to get open shots. Ricky Rubio will have to pay for long distance to keep Love Dial going as a thriving business. A lot will have to be worked out by new coach Flip Saunders.
2. Coming along with Wiggins is the 2013 (shocking) #1 pick Anthony Bennett. Bennett’s historically bad rookie season, especially early on, typically ranged from bad to worse. He only entered the scoring column in 3 of his first 10 games, didn’t hit double figures until late January, and only accomplished that feat 6 times all season.
The combination of his shaky play and some nagging injuries (shoulder surgery) kept him out of several games. It looks like he lost some weight and had tonsil surgery to free up his breathing. Obviously, there’s still hope, and his game can only get better from what we saw last year, but there hasn’t been a top pick in a long time that has had this steep of an upward climb ahead.
On a similar note, how wild are the Love outlets to LeBron going to be?
Anyway, onto some upsides:
1. We’ll start with the obvious: the acquisition of Andrew Wiggins. For those of you who aren’t completely familiar with his output in college, read this post over at Canis Hoopus for some really good, in-depth analysis. The Wolves received the guy that some were calling the best high school prospect since LeBron James, and a guy that plays very well on both sides of the ball. And, in case you were unaware, Mr. Wiggins can jump quite high. See: above.
The point has been brought up a lot, but his inability to “get mean” during games has been part of his downfall, even according to KU coach Bill Self. His jumper and ball handling still need some work as well, but overall, there is a lot to be excited about for the 19 year old.
He’s a freak athlete, but he isn’t just an athlete. He’s a smart player on both ends who knows how to properly use his athleticism to his advantage. Defensively, he’s typically very calculated on picking and choosing when to jump out for steals (he doesn’t do it often). Offensively, he makes up for his ball handling issues by getting to the free throw line. A lot. He got there over 10 times in 7 games this past season at Kansas, including 19 trips to the line in his 41-point outburst against West Virginia.
The Wolves are losing a star, but maybe they’ll get one back in Wiggins.
2. The trade bolsters the Wolves’ bench quite a bit. With the acquisition of Wiggins, it’s very likely that we’ll now see Corey Brewer move to the bench in 6th man-type of role. He thrived in that role as a member of the Denver Nuggets, and should see a similar role if Flip Saunders chooses to roll with Wiggins in the starting 5 right away.
Bringing in Young is also huge for the bench. Without him in the deal, the Wolves are scrambling to find a starting power forward. With him, not only is the starting 5 (mostly) set, but they may also be able to alternate Gorgui Dieng and (ideally) Anthony Bennett as the backup 4, depending on matchups.
While unrelated, the signing of Mo Williams helps a great deal. JJ Barea is still on the roster, but his role and his future are unclear at this point. Still, he thrived the most as the third guard off of Dallas’ bench during their 2011 championship run. Perhaps the same could be done here.
3. This team is going to be FUN. The departure of Love almost certainly means more chances for Ricky Rubio to facilitate (look for the pick and roll between Ricky and Pekovic to be used more often this season), which means he’ll spend less time as an off-ball jump shooter.
Most importantly, Rubio will have more combined vertical than ever to use at his disposal. Between Wiggins, Brewer, and Zach LaVine, there will be plenty of opportunities to see some good highlight basketball this year. Factor in Pek on the pick and roll, and Young’s and Martin’s ability to move without the ball, things could get interesting.
At times, it will be fast and exciting, other times, the offense might be fluid and calculated. It all depends on personnel, but it should be fun regardless.