By Matt Graber
The last major move of the NBA offseason has finally been made, as the Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves reportedly have a handshake agreement in place to swap Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a first round pick for Kevin Love. Here’s a look at how the blockbuster trade affects each team’s future, and how it’s a rare win-win situation.
What It Means For The Cavs: So it’s probably safe to say that the Cavs won this offseason, huh? Adding LeBron James and now Kevin Love has taken the team from perennial disappointment to title favorite. James, Love, and Kyrie Irving give the Cavs a legit Big Three and give LeBron the opportunity to compete for titles now instead of waiting for a young team to mature.
This was a great trade for the Cavs. When you have the opportunity to add a top-10 player to your team, you take it, especially when that team already includes the best player in the world and a 22-year old All-Star point guard. And for all the talk of Love being overrated, or stat-hungry, or a sub-par defender, he’s still one of the best players in the league.
Sure, stats can be overrated and they don’t necessarily tell the whole story, but 26 and 12 can’t be ignored. Love is an elite rebounder, a quality three-point bomber, and one of the best passing big men in the league; the mere thought of Love throwing his brilliant outlet passes to LeBron must have Cavs fans salivating.
The Cavs made the right call in taking Love’s proven production over potential. Wiggins could have developed into a perfect sidekick for LeBron. Anthony Bennett might make major strides this season. But ‘could’ and ‘might’ aren’t really what the Cavs are looking for after signing a 29-year-old Lebron to a two-year deal. Both parties know there is pressure to win now; the Love trade gives them the best chance to do that.
And that’s the new question on everyone’s mind; can the Cavs win it all this year? They seem to be mirroring the Heat’s blueprint for roster construction: flank LeBron with an All-Star on the perimeter (Irving, Wade) and in the frontcourt (Love, Bosh), then use the allure of playing with LeBron to attract battle-tested veterans looking for one last shot at a ring; guys like Mike Miller, James Jones, and possibly Ray Allen, Shawn Marion and Chauncey Billups. Add in youngsters like Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Matthew Dellevedova and veteran forward Anderson Varejao, and the Cavs should have the talent and depth to make a serious run.
They won’t be a defensive juggernaut, as both Love and Irving are lacking in that department. But James, Love, Irving and Waiters will give the team a scary offensive arsenal. They’ll be able to outscore anybody, and they’ll have experienced role players who can still thrive in the playoffs. Love takes them from title contenders to title favorites, making the trade a smart and necessary move.
What it Means for the Wolves: This was the best haul the Wolves could have gotten, even better than Golden State’s offer of Klay Thompson and David Lee. Thompson, while a skilled shooter and sound defender, doesn’t have the potential that Wiggins does, and his game wouldn’t look nearly as impressive without Steph Curry. He’s better off staying in Golden State with his fellow Splash Brother, and the Wolves are better off not paying for two years of Lee at $15 million a pop followed by paying Thompson the massive new contract he’ll likely command in 2016.
Wiggins has the potential to become a legitimate two-way superstar. Whether he’ll live up to that potential remains to be seen, but his floor seems to be quality perimeter defender and decent scorer. If he can improve his ball handling and his shooting, he can become much more than that – he can be a two-way menace. Either way, Minnesota will find out soon enough. Wiggins won’t be a third option on this team – he’ll be a focal point on both ends of the floor and the new face of the franchise. That has to be appealing to a kid who recently said he just wants to go to a team that wants him.
The Wolves won’t be a very good team next year, but they’ll be a hell of a lot of fun to watch. A crafty passer like Ricky Rubio surrounded by athletes like Wiggins, Zach Lavine and Corey Brewer will lead to some breathtaking dunks and entertaining fastbreaks. They’ll be League Pass darlings, not the worst label for a rebuilding team.
Wiggins will join Rubio, Lavine, Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, who came on strong last year, to form an intriguing young core. Add center Nikola Pekovic and forward Thad Young (Anthony Bennett to the Sixers for Young seems like a done deal), and the Wolves have a decent collection of talent. Couple that with two first round picks next year, and the Wolves rebuild is off to a quick and promising start.
Matt Graber is a writer for Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter @Matt14Graber