Kevin Love's months-, possibly years-long push to get out of Minnesota has finally been granted. A three-team trade has been established, whereby the Cleveland Cavaliers get Love; the Timberwolves get Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young (from the Philadelphia 76ers); and the Sixers get Alexey Shved, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and a 2015 first-round draft pick (from the Miami Heat).
The Cavs provided a statement on the trade:
The Cleveland Cavaliers have acquired forward Kevin Love in a three-team trade that sends guard Andrew Wiggins and forward Anthony Bennett to Minnesota and a projected 2015 first round pick (via Miami) to Philadelphia, General Manager David Griffin announced today from Cleveland Clinic Courts. As part of the three-team trade, Minnesota will also acquire forward Thaddeus Young from the 76ers, while Philadelphia receives forward Luc Mbah a Moute and guard Alexey Shved from the Timberwolves.
“Kevin joining the Cavaliers represents a very special and unique opportunity for our team. At only 25, Kevin has already firmly established himself as one the NBA’s elite players and his talent, versatility and fit are major parts of our team’s vision for success,” said Griffin. “We want to also wish Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett the best as they will continue the start of their careers in Minnesota. They are both outstanding young men that have great potential on the court and long, very successful careers ahead of them.”
ESPN's Brian Windhorst initially had the details on the trade:
Cavs, Wolves, 76ers have completed Kevin Love trade officially. As part of deal Wolves will receive 6.3M trade exception.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) August 23, 2014
In summary: Kevin Love to Cavs, Wiggins, Bennett, Young to Wolves; Barea, Shved, Heat 2015 1st to Philly.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) August 23, 2014
Correction: Luc Mbah a Moute to Sixers as part of three-way trade not JJ Barea. My mistake.— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) August 23, 2014
SportsCenter reveals Love will wear No. 0:
Kevin Love will wear No. 0 with the Cavs. pic.twitter.com/cneP07EU3L— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 23, 2014
The deal has been in the works for more than a month and became an inevitability in recent weeks. Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Aug. 6 that the two sides had come to a verbal agreement. The trade could not be finalized until Aug. 23, the 30-day mark since Wiggins signed his rookie contract.
Love, 25, is due to hit unrestricted free agency next summer. The NBA's collective bargaining agreement disincentivizes veterans signing extensions before their contract runs out, but the Cavs and Love have an understanding he will re-sign next summer. Cleveland can offer him a five-year deal worth $120 million.
The trade process was in large part expedited by Love's impending free agency. The Timberwolves could have held on to him until the February trade deadline in hopes of convincing him to stay, but his representation told Flip Saunders he would bolt next summer without a trade.
The Warriors, Bulls and Cavaliers were chief among Love's myriad suitors. Each carried an interesting collection of assets that could be sent back to Minnesota, though it became apparent that Cleveland was the preferred destination.
In Wiggins and Bennett, the Cavs had unprecedented assets they could throw on the table. The Canadian pair represents the only time in NBA history two No. 1 overall picks were sent away in the same trade before the start of their second season. Wiggins is the first player since Chris Webber in 1993 to be selected by a team No. 1 overall and not play a single game in that city.
The Wolves, while going from a borderline playoff team to a full-fledged rebuild, already have a nice young stable of talent. Point guard Ricky Rubio is only 23 years old, and Minnesota drafted UCLA's Zach LaVine with its first-round pick in June.
Matt Moore of CBS Sports and Hardwood Paroxysm talked about how valuable Wiggins could be to Minnesota:
Flip Saunders is the only one I can remember who traded a superstar for a player who has a reasonable chance of being better than that star— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) August 23, 2014
Rubio, Wiggins and LaVine combine to become perhaps the league's most exciting open-court team—albeit one that will be familiarly below average. Minnesota missed the playoffs in each of Love's first six seasons and is standing at a decade overall.
That's no longer Love's problem in Cleveland. The Cavs are making a concerted effort to push their chips to the middle of the table with LeBron James back in town, looking to bring home the championship the four-time league MVP mentioned in his return letter. With Love and Kyrie Irving, James has essentially rebooted with a newer, younger Big Three.
Last season, Love became the first player since the ABA-NBA merger to average at least 26 points, 12 rebounds and four assists per game. More importantly, he re-established himself as one of the league's 10 best players after a lost 2012-13 campaign in which he played just 18 games. It's worth noting that since becoming a full-time starter in 2010-11, Love has missed at least nine games in three of four seasons.
When Love is fully healthy, though, there is not a better power forward in the world. He is a career 36.2 percent three-point shooter and hit at a 37.6 percent clip in 2013-14 on a career high in attempts. He should only get better away from Minnesota, where the at-times cramped spacing of the offense allowed opponents to have easier closeouts.
The increased spacing will also help Love get clearer looks out of the post. Nearly 23 percent of his possessions ending in a shot attempt, foul or turnover came on post-ups last season, where he's among the league's best high-usage players, per Synergy Sports (subscription required). With Nikola Pekovic prowling near the paint, Love often found himself posting in smaller-than-desired windows.
Love does not turn 26 until September. If there is a peak beyond his gaudy counting stats he's already put up, he will likely find it. Though, as the Spurs and Heat (pre-LeBron departure) proved time and again, singular stars can see their numbers dip when paired together. Love unfortunately does not come with a second basketball.
The Cavs will hope Love puts a more concerted effort in defensively should his shots dwindle. According to SportVU data provided by the NBA, opponents shot 57.4 percent against him at the rim in 2013-14—the fourth-worst rate among players with a significant sample. Teams also take advantage of his inconsistent fundamentals and mediocre lateral quickness on pick-and-rolls.
Then there is the question of leadership and how much is necessary. Some have called Love's "franchise player" status into question, wondering how a player so talented can be continually held out of the playoffs. Even the likes of Rubio called out Love's leadership style in an interview with BasketAmericano.com's Enrique Garcia (translation by Bleacher Report staff). He notes that he thinks the team needs a different type of leader than what Love is and that Love isn't the kind of player who wants to be—or can be—the leader of a team.
Saunders, who holds dual roles as president of basketball operations and head coach, also publicly admonished Love for his frustration. He likened the situation to that of Kevin Garnett—an apt comparison given the situations.
"Just like I told (Kevin) Garnett, he didn't have a right to be frustrated," Saunders said during an interview with KFAN 100.3, via ESPN.com. "Why does any player have a right to be frustrated? You're either part of the problem or part of the solution."
These are somewhat fair but mostly biased lines of thought. Love and the Timberwolves would have been a playoff team at least once or twice had they not been stuck in the challenging Western Conference.
Rubio also might want to work on his shot instead of sending them through the media. His lack of development has at least partially contributed to Love's frustration. Had Rubio been able to develop into a reliable second banana, maybe this trade would have never gone down. Despite the warts in his game, Love is a ridiculously talented, unique athlete who has been a 10-win player each of his three last healthy seasons.
Love might not be the best player on a championship contender. But he's now the No. 2 in command next to the NBA's most elite. It's hard to envision a scenario in which they don't immediately challenge for a title.
Follow Tyler Conway on Twitter @tylerconway22