A basketball team is made up of five players, but it turns out that LeBron James functions best when he’s part of a trio.
The trade rumour that started with a rumble at the beginning of the summer is now all but signed, sealed and delivered. Unless Kevin Love somehow contracts the Ebola virus between now and August 23rd, he’ll be shipped off to Cleveland to become one-third of the NBA’s newest ‘Big Three’ – Love, King James and Kyrie Irving.
Why the 23rd?
NBA rules dictate that a player may not be traded until a minimum of 30 days have passed since the signing of his rookie contract. As we already know, Andrew Wiggins, the No.1 pick overall out of Kansas is key to the pact, and August 23rd is when he becomes trade eligible.
The proposed deal had previously been hung up over Cleveland requiring assurance that they’d be able to secure Love to a long-term extension following the trade. League sources told Yahoo Sports that Love will opt out of his 2015 contract to re-sign with the Cavaliers on a five-year, $120 million-plus extension.
The teams and players involved are choosing to be mostly hush-hush about the details, but all sources informed of the particulars confirm that the Minnesota Timberwolves will receive Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a protected 2015 first-round draft pick in exchange for the perennial All-Star.
Let’s take a deeper look into how the trade will affect each of the players and teams involved.
A lot of pressure for Love & high expectations in Cleveland
When ‘The Decision Version 2.0’ went public, the Cavaliers instantly transformed from a struggling bottom dweller into a playoff team. At this stage of his career, LeBron James is simply so good that there’s no way any team he’s on will lose more games than it wins.
But now, with the addition of one more proven All-Star, fans aren’t talking post-season, they’re thinking title run.
From a 33-49 record to NBA champions? James is used to high expectations and extreme pressure, but that’s a pretty hefty load to pile onto the shoulders of Kevin Love.
Before they’ve even got together for an organized team shoot around, Love has been anointed as the “final piece” to the puzzle in Cleveland.
And he may very well be. But only time will tell how Love fits in on a team which features multiple All-Stars.
It’s fairly plain to see what Cleveland’s motivations are here. Now that their wunderkind has returned home, they’d like to sweep their losing ways into the trash immediately and compete straight away.
Without a doubt part of negotiating the King’s return was the promise to build a championship caliber team around him as soon as possible.
And while the blockbuster Love trade is the big news, role players are lining up to be part of the new Cleveland Cavaliers.
Earlier this week, the Cavs formally signed Mike Miller and James Jones (former teammates of James in Miami) and they have showed interest, as well, in adding Ray Allen. Free agent forward Shawn Marion is also rumored to be in favour of making Cleveland his new home.
What does Andrew Wiggins have to say about all this?
Not too much. At least, not directly to the media.
Wiggins is soft-spoken and a little bit microphone-shy. Ever since word broke that he might be traded, he made it clear that he’d take a “que será, será” approach and just keep working hard and practicing until any move was officially announced.
Recently, however, Wiggins reportedly spilled his honest feelings on the situation to his former college coach at Kansas, Bill Self.
Self reported that as soon as the rumours surfaced, Wiggins confided in him, admitting that he actually hoped to get traded. Originally confused as to why the young star wouldn’t want to win straight away playing alongside one of the league’s best players, Wiggins explained that he feels a move to Minnesota will be better for his career in the long-term.
He said, “Coach, 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.”
Minnesota must be thrilled to be getting a player who’d rather take on the pressure of being “the guy” than play second fiddle to LeBron.
And the other guy?
Andrew Bennett is an intriguing player and a former No.1 overall pick. While he struggled to meet lofty expectations during his rookie campaign, he did steadily improve and he does possess Top 10 talent, even if it was a surprise when he went off the board first in 2013.
Acquiring a young player with so much potential, essentially as an “extra”, gives Minnesota a solid core of young players moving forward, and a change of scenery is often all a player needs to shine.
Losing Love will certainly mean that other Wolves will need to step up. Nikola Pekovic will be expected to pick up some of the scoring slack down low and Spanish star Ricky Rubio will need to create more opportunities for his teammates from the point. The team also has high hopes for 2014 first round pick Zach LeVine out of UCLA.
Plus, having an additional first round pick in 2015 means that the team will have the opportunity to plug multiple roster gaps after seeing what a full season in the post-Love era looks like.
There are reports that Minnesota may sacrifice the 2014 season in an effort to offload Pekovic’s contract and rebuild a younger core around Andrew Wiggins, but until we hear otherwise we’ll presume that the Timberwolves hope to stay competitive throughout the upcoming season.
Once August 23rd has come and gone we’ll start to get a better idea of how the organisation plans to reshape the roster, but all up it appears that both teams are happy with the direction in which the blockbuster deal positions each franchise.
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