Andrew Wiggins' time with the Cleveland Cavaliers lasted all of two months. As expected, the Cavaliers agreed to a blockbuster trade with the Timberwolves on Saturday, sending Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, a first-round pick and a trade exception to Minnesota in exchange for All-Star forward Kevin Love. ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported the deal:
The Timberwolves confirm the transaction and provide Flip Saunders' comments on the new-look Timberwolves:
Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune has more from Saunders:
The deal had been the NBA's worst-kept secret for the last month. Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Aug. 6 that the two sides had agreed on the principals. The deal could not officially be agreed upon until Aug. 23, when 30 days would have passed since Wiggins signed his rookie contract.
Wiggins was the No. 1 overall selection in June's NBA draft. Expected to be the next cornerstone alongside Kyrie Irving in the post-LeBron era, the former Kansas star's fortunes flipped on a dime when LeBron James announced his surprise return to the Cavs.
While James talked openly about wanting to mentor young players in Cleveland, Wiggins' name was conspicuously left out and rumblings began to surface about the four-time MVP orchestrating a Love-for-Wiggins deal. Wojnarowski reported James personally reached out to Love in hopes of luring him to Cleveland.
Initially, the Cavaliers balked at including Wiggins in any trade talks. Head coach David Blatt told reporters at Las Vegas Summer League that Wiggins would not be traded, a refrain that was also told to Wiggins in private.
"There's no reason or cause for worry on his part because Andrew's not going anywhere, as far as I know and as far as the club has expressed," Blatt said.
Wiggins played through Summer League and was impressive for the most part, averaging 15.5 points and 3.5 rebounds on 40.5 percent shooting. He at once flashed his elite athleticism and promise as a defender while highlighting some of the reasoning behind this move. His jumper was inconsistent at best from long range, he occasionally drifted offensively and looked like player one or two years from making a difference.
With LeBron having re-upped for just two years—despite his protestations of long-term commitment—the Cavs were under the gun to make a move. Using Wiggins as a trade chip for Love is the type of win-now move that should make Cleveland the Eastern Conference favorite.
Love doesn't turn 26 until September and is coming off one of the best offensive seasons for a big man in recent history. He became the first player since the ABA-NBA merger to average 26 points, 12 rebounds and four assists per game while establishing himself as the league's premier stretch 4. He made 37.6 percent of his 505 three-pointers—a number that was nearly double his previous high for attempts in a season.
Synergy Sports Technology (subscription required) measured that Love ranked 93rd percentile in points per possession. He ranked in the 72nd percentile or better in all but one (isolations) of their 11 categories. Combining Love, James and Kyrie Irving gives Cleveland the best offensive trio in the league since the first season of Miami's Big Three.
That said, the deal also involves losing Wiggins—a move that might come back to haunt the Cavs a half-decade down the line. While his freshman season was a slight disappointment given his considerable hype, Wiggins has enough talent to be the NBA's best two-way player someday. He's a devastating on-ball defender, athletic enough to become a perennial dunk contest winner and has the tools to develop his three-pointer and dribble moves.
The Wolves are getting a player they can combine with Zach LaVine to create the league's most athletic wing pair. Alongside Ricky Rubio, still just 23 years old, Minnesota will be captivating to watch in the open court. Rubio is up for a contract extension and shooting is going to be a problem when the three play together, but Flip Saunders has a promising roster in place.
It's a risk the Cavs had to take. After Paul George's gruesome injury at the Team USA scrimmage, the Eastern Conference is a two-team race between Chicago and Cleveland. The Cavs instantly become the favorite and a team that can sleepwalk its way to a 5-win regular season.
These are the Cavs James apparently envisioned when he came back to Cleveland. Let's see what he does with his newer, younger Big Three.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.
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