Kevin Love is currently employed by the Minnesota Timberwolves, and No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins is technically a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers organization.
That, however, doesn't figure to stay true for long. Shortly after LeBron James decided to take his talents back to Akron, the rumor mill previously covering his every step transferred its attention to Minnesota's star power forward. It's hardly new knowledge that he wants out, and Cleveland certainly has the assets to make something happen after luckily winning the lottery two straight times.
After countless weeks of playing the "will they or won't they" game, Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Love-Wiggins swap will indeed go down:
The Minnesota Timberwolves have reached an agreement in principle to send All-Star forward Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a protected 2015 first-round draft pick, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Cleveland is making the deal with Minnesota with 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, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Due to the rules of the NBA rookie contract, the Cavs can not jettison Wiggins until Aug. 23, exactly one month after signing his first deal. Although waiting appears to be nothing but a formality, we can't discuss anything in certainties until the movie is official.
Then again, we also can't sit around and waste the next two weeks ignoring a probable earth-shattering trade. There are plenty of juicy reactions and ramifications to bite into before the proposed deal is filed for approval.
Is It a Done Deal?
The two sides reportedly have a gentlemen's agreement in place to pull the trigger on Aug. 23. But hypothetically speaking, what if a desperate team makes an incredible offer for Love today?
Sports Illustrated's Matt Dollinger discussed that possibility in a video segment. The short answer? Not going to happen. According to Dollinger, Minnesota prefers Wiggins to Klay Thompson, whom the Golden State Warriors were hesitant to include in a package for Love anyway.
While the Golden State shooting guard is due for a massive raise soon, Wiggins just signed a four-year deal with a $5.5 million starting salary. For an organization that remains an unfinished product, the more affordable Wiggins makes much more sense.
The Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson also expressed why the Cavs shouldn't be scared of another team blocking them for Love. Once the Chicago Bulls found out the 19-year-old Kansas standout was in play, they walked away:
Bulls remained in contact with Minnesota but knew when Cavs included Wiggins they would've had to gut team to beat Cavs' offer.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) August 7, 2014
Considering the circumstances, the Timberwolves couldn't have asked for a better return. In exchange for a disgruntled star who almost certainly would sign elsewhere at the end of the 2014-15 season if not moved, they get a teenage prodigy with All-NBA upside. Just to sweeten the pot, they get to gamble on Anthony Bennett figuring things out as well.
They shouldn't be worried about the other teams but should perhaps be worried about the league. According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst, the NBA could veto the trade if it confirms the report of Love and Cleveland already agreeing to a contract extension.
"Under NBA rules, such an agreement would be illegal," they wrote, "and, if proven, it potentially could be grounds for the league to block this trade and dole out punishment to both teams."
One would think both sides have been smart enough to cover their tracks. Then again, look at all the information already available about a trade that can't legally occur yet.
It turns out most people have an opinion about two No. 1 picks getting swapped for an elite forward who will join the NBA's best player.
First, allow ESPN Stats & Info to explain the unorthodox nature of this transaction:
Wiggins will be only the second player since the merger to be drafted first overall and then traded before playing a single game. Chris Webber was traded to the Warriors after the Magic drafted him No. 1 overall in 1993.
Love will be the third player in NBA history to change teams in the offseason after averaging at least 26 PPG and 12 RPG the previous season (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Moses Malone). Abdul-Jabbar and Malone eventually went on to win NBA titles with their new teams.
Many people seem to take for granted just how good Love is. Last season, he ranked third in both Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and Estimated Wins Added (EWA), trailing only Kevin Durant and James on both fronts:
|Player Efficiency Rating (PER)||Estimated Wins Added (EWA)|
|1. Kevin Durant (29.90)||1. Durant (30.1)|
|2. LeBron James (29.40)||2. James (27.3)|
|3. Kevin Love (26.97)||3. Love (21.5)|
|4. Anthony Davis (26.54)||4. Carmelo Anthony (20.8)|
|5. DeMarcus Cousins (26.18)||5. Stephen Curry (18.6)|
While James, knowing the delicacy of the situation, contained his composure, he endorsed his potentially new teammate, per Stein and Windhorst:
If he comes aboard, I will be very excited to have him. I don't even really care about the 26 [points] and 12 [rebounds], I care about his basketball IQ. His basketball IQ is very, very high. I had the opportunity to spend 32 days with him in the 2012 Olympics. He was huge for us ... he's a great piece.
Now that Love will finally get to experience postseason basketball, Grantland's Bill Simmons tackled the daunting question of how to properly rate him. His conclusion: While Love's defensive limitations keep him out of the top tier of superstars, escaping Minnesota will allow everyone to realize that he's a special player.
"I see this trade reinventing Love’s NBA career much like Phoenix reinvented [Charles] Barkley," Simmons said. "Love won’t win the MVP, but he’ll win our respect. And he won’t be polarizing anymore. He’s going to kill it in Cleveland. I really believe that."
He also stated that Love is better now than Chris Bosh was when he departed the Toronto Raptors. He's right, but it's important to note the magnificent numbers Bosh posted before joining forces with James and Dwyane Wade in Miami.
|Stat||Love (13-14)||Bosh (09-10)|
Like Bosh, Love will sacrifice some touches in order to mesh with two other superstars. That sacrifice often made Bosh the center of Internet jokes, but the Heat would not have won two championships without his efficient contributions.
On the other side, one would think Wiggins would be crushed after being teased with the idea of playing alongside James on a championship contender, only to get the rug pulled out from under him. Rather than potentially playing in the NBA Finals at age 20, Wiggins will be branded as a new hope in Minnesota.
As his former coach Bill Self tells it, Wiggins isn't too shaken up about the deal. In fact, he's happy about it, according to The Associated Press, via Sporting News:
When all this trade stuff started, I talked to Andrew and Andrew told me, "I hope I get traded." And I'm like, "No you don't." And he said, "Coach, I do. It's better for me, knowing my personality and what I need to do, to go somewhere where I'm forced to be something as opposed to going in there where they're going to be patient with me and I'm going to be a piece."
Perhaps Wiggins truly wants the challenge of being the big man on campus rather than a role player, but maybe he's just looking on the bright side after learning his fate. Being a big fish in a small pond has its perks, but getting the chance to be James' Scottie Pippen would also be pretty cool.