Winners and Losers of Pending Kevin Love to Cleveland Cavaliers Trade
It's all over, folks.
Although nothing can be made official until August 23, Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reports the Minnesota Timberwolves will ship Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for rookie Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a protected 2015 first-round pick.
After signing his rookie deal, Wiggins could not be traded for a month, hence the holdup. As part of this trade, Wojnarowski says Love and the Cavs have a "firm agreement Love will opt out of his contract in 2015 and re-sign with the Cavaliers on a five-year, $120 million-plus contract extension."
So there you have it. The deal most of us—probably all of us—have been waiting to get done is finally done. Sort of. And now, the Cavaliers are that much scarier. And the Timberwolves are that much more Love-less.
What other parties were impacted by this trade? Who won? Who lost? What else are we waiting for?
If you find yourself looking for answers, you've come to the right place.
The Cavaliers just won the NBA offseason.
Winning the draft lottery apparently wasn't enough. Extending Kyrie Irving also wasn't enough. Selling LeBron James on a return to Cleveland wasn't enough. The Cavs wanted more, so they went out and got more.
Love immediately makes the Cavs a superteam—an instant title contender that can rival any club in the NBA, even the San Antonio Spurs. On paper, their new troika is peerless. James, Irving and Love combined to average for 74 points, 23 rebounds and 16.9 assists per game last season. All that firepower is now on one team.
This is the same Cavs team that won only 33 games and missed the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year last season, mind you. Now they're insta-contenders. And they became insta-contenders without gutting the roster.
Losing Wiggins stings a little, but Love is an established superstar who—assuming Wojnarowski's report is accurate—the Cavaliers have just locked down for the next six years (2014-15, plus his five-year contract in summer 2015).
And unless details of the reported deal change, the Cavaliers have done all of this without taking back one of Minny's less desirable pacts. They've also already signed Mike Miller and James Jones. And ESPN.com's Chris Broussard says that with Love in tow, Ray Allen may be en route, too.
Life is good in Cleveland.
There is no such thing as "winning" a trade for the party that forfeits a superstar. Case closed.
Look, the Timberwolves did well here. Wiggins projects as a perennial All-Star, and Bennett, while a disappointment last year, is a former No. 1 overall pick himself. Add another first-rounder to their stash, and the Wolves are in pretty good shape, all things considered.
But they haven't made the playoffs in 10 years. Ten years. They were, in more ways than one, still rebuilding before this trade, trying to re-establish themselves as a legitimate playoff threat. Now, they're back to square one.
Troubling still, Wojnarowski's report doesn't suggest the Wolves are unloading one of their unsavory contracts here, either. Wojnarowski does say they're still trying to part with J.J. Barea, Luc Mbah a Moute and Alexey Shved, but shedding salary should have been a top priority, especially given that Bennett isn't a lock to turn into anything.
If the structure of this deal remains the same and no third team enters to help facilitate it, failing to shed the salary of Chase Budinger, Kevin Martin or someone else is counterproductive.
Plus, you know, the Wolves just lost the first player in NBA history to average benchmarks of 26 points, 12 rebounds and four assists per game while hitting at least one three-pointer.
Winner: LeBron James
LeBron wanted what he wanted, and he got it.
All of it.
According to Wojnarowski, James reached out to Love weeks before this handshake agreement, which no doubt helped accelerate the process, making it so The Chosen One swapped out Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for Irving and Love.
That's not a bad individual offseason—especially for a guy who just left a Miami Heat team fresh off four straight NBA Finals appearances.
Partnering up with Love and Irving saves James the trouble of enduring a rebuild without tarnishing his chivalrous return to the team and city he abandoned four years ago. It also makes it easier for him to stick around in Cleveland beyond the two-year, escape-clause-laden deal he signed.
"We’re not ready right now. No way," James told Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins of his return to Cleveland. "Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested."
Slightly related observation: James' patience wouldn't hold up well under torture.
Loser: Dion Waiters
At least Dion Waiters has the whole actually-being-mentioned-in-James'-free-agency-love-letter thing going for him.
While Love's arrival doesn't spell the end for Waiters' time in Cleveland, it does portend a significantly diminished role. He's now the fourth scoring option at best, and he has to contend for minutes with the likes of Miller and Jones.
Oh, and perhaps Allen, since, again, Broussard says this trade vastly improves the Cavaliers' chances of convincing Mr. Shuttlesworth to delay retirement.
Signing Shawn Marion—who Wojnarowski posits is leaning toward joining Cleveland—would only further congest the Cavs' insanely crowded perimeter corps.
"I’m willing to do anything for the team at the end of the day," Waiters told SlamOnline.com's Brendan Bowers. "If that’s coming off the bench, I’ll come off the bench."
If that also means sitting late in games and perhaps seeing his shot totals cut in half, will he feel the same way?
Winner: Andrew Wiggins
Congratulations are in order for Wiggins. He's likely headed to a team that won't look to immediately dump him.
The worst part of this entire Love saga—aside from overlapping rumors and rampant speculation—was watching Wiggins give interviews and field questions about his future in Cleveland as it pertained to James and Love.
James and Love, meanwhile, have basically been out of sight (though not out of mind), never once addressing the destination-specific chatter they helped popularize.
Rumor-free living is just the beginning for Wiggins, too. Like Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal explains, the Timberwolves can offer him an opportunity he would never have in Cleveland:
Wiggins would immediately be a top contributor, better than anyone at the small forward position and capable of outperforming K-Mart [Kevin Martin] on nights that the 2-guard's shot wasn't falling. [Corey] Brewer's primary draws, for example, are his defensive prowess and his fast-break athleticism, and there's a good chance Wiggins is better in both those facets from day one.
Wiggins would find himself buried behind James, Love and Irving—and perhaps Waiters—in Cleveland, playing off the ball, ceding touches and status.
No such limitations exist in Minnesota. Wiggins is instantly the Timberwolves' No. 1 option alongside the pass-first, pass-second, pass-forever Ricky Rubio. He'll be asked to do more and expected to do more. His grit and resolve will be tested. His LeBron- and Love-shaped safety nets are gone.
It's baptism by fire for the 19-year-old, which, as a prospect with superstar upside, is just the kind of demanding, pressure-packing situation he needs to reach his full potential.
Loser: Flip Saunders
Flip Saunders picked the wrong time to start coaching again.
Minnesota's president and coach was brought in to salvage Love's future. He was expected to help turn this franchise around without a lasting, fatiguing rebuild. And though he secures a handful of promising prospects here, Love is still gone. His first task, his most important task, goes down as a failure.
He had no choice, of course. Love's impending free agency—and the leverage it gave him—forced Saunders' hand. He had to pull the trigger here.
But that doesn't make it any easier to stomach. Nor does it change the fact that he's now heading a team stuck in the early stages of another rebuild.
"I expect Kevin Love to be here next year," Saunders said in June, per Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press.
Here's to expectations and plans gone amiss.
Winner: Klay Thompson
Klay Thompson could have been thrown to the Wolves, but the Golden State Warriors wouldn't allow it.
That's an unfortunate point of comparison, but as long as Love dangles as an attainable piece and Thompson stands as a stone wall to the completion of a deal, Thompson cannot be evaluated in a vacuum. The two are bound: Thompson, the two-way player, and Love, the star with the skill, rebounding volume and raw firepower to render that two-way status inconsequential.
The Warriors' faith in Thompson appears to have won out in the end. Instead of being shipped to Minnesota, Thompson stays in Oakland—away from snow, free to sunbathe outside Oracle Arena and on his way to a hefty contract extension.
Sam Amick of USA Today says Thompson's camp is seeking a max extension, and after deeming him a deal breaker in Love negotiations, the Warriors have to give him one, or close to one. They just have to.
When they give it to him is irrelevant; Thompson is going to get paid.
And by a title contender rather than a bottom-feeding Wolves team gearing up for another lengthy transition period.
Loser: Chicago Bulls
After signing Pau Gasol, drafting Doug McDermott and bringing in Nikola Mirotic, the Chicago Bulls were sitting pretty. They still are sitting pretty if Derrick Rose remains healthy and returns to form.
Just not as pretty.
Cleveland's acquisition of Love changes things for the Bulls. It changes everything for any Eastern Conference team, really, but the Bulls are affected by this deal more than anyone.
Not only are the Cavaliers in the Bulls' division, but they're now the prohibitive favorites to win the East—territory Chicago laid claim to beforehand. Irving, James and Love don't make for the best defensive trio, but they're incredibly dangerous and have the ability to steamroll any team they face using offense alone.
Landing Love only adds to an embarrassment of offensive riches, giving the Cavaliers more star power than anyone in the league. The Bulls, Cleveland's only true conference rival at the moment, cannot feel good about that, no matter how good they're feeling about themselves.
Winner: Ricky Rubio
All hail Rubio's boyish charm, puerile smile and artful passes.
Soldiering on without Love isn't a great thing for Rubio, but there are benefits aplenty.
It was Rubio who questioned Love's leadership back in May, and it's him who is seeking a max contract extension, according to Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News. This is his chance to take the leap, to assume unimpeded control of the Wolves offense and validate his value to the franchise.
Above all else, Rubio will be playing alongside athletic fiends Wiggins and Zach LaVine.
In other words, he gets to pad his stat lines by throwing all the alley-oop passes.
Incomplete: Kevin Love
Let us not pretend Love relocating to Cleveland is already the best thing that ever happened to him. Wojnarowski has him relinquishing his rights to become a true free agent next summer with whatever under-the-table promise he's made with the Cavs.
What if this move ends badly? What if being the Bosh of Cleveland—as in third option—isn't what he wants? What then?
Love can still leave since his return cannot be made official until next summer if he won't sign an extension before then, but good luck recovering from that public relations hit. The "How daft do you have to be to desert James?" crowd will be out in full force.
Remaining in Cleveland doesn't guarantee him anything, either. This isn't Easy Street. This is Expectations Everywhere Boulevard. The pressure to win that Love now faces is real and unlike any other standard he was held to in Minnesota, as Bleacher Report's Jim Cavan underscores.
"Regardless of where he lands—be it with the Cavs, the Golden State Warriors, or some altogether different team—Love is about to enter a set of expectations so categorically different than those he’s thus far faced, it might as well be a different league," Cavan wrote.
Different team. Different city. Different expectations.