There have been reports for weeks that the Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves have a deal in place for Kevin Love. There’s a saying, though, that a deal isn’t a deal until Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reports it, or the league sends an official memo on it. Today, Wojnarowski confirmed that a deal is in place and set for completion later this month. Here are the five most important things that you need to know about the pending blockbuster:
The trade is not official and will not be until August 23 at the earliest
Although Andrew Wiggins played with the Cavaliers during summer league, he did not officially sign his rookie contract with the team until July 24. The Collective Bargaining Agreement states that draft picks cannot be traded until 30 days after that date, so right now the Cavaliers and Timberwolves only have an agreement done in principle.
Prior to signing his rookie contract, the inclusion of Wiggins’ draft rights would not have counted for anything in the trade. Now, he counts for $5.5 million, making the deal much easier to complete. Signing Wiggins was always a necessity to complete the trade. The fact that they signed him was never an indication that they weren’t willing to deal him.
The Cavaliers did tell Wiggins at the beginning of summer league that he wasn’t going to be traded, but even then they were open to moving him for Love. However, they had to tell him that he was safe for the moment in order to showcase him. Timberwolves president and head coach Flip Saunders watched intently during that period. Because they drafted 13th overall in the 2014 Draft, they weren’t able to get Wiggins to come in for a workout. So, the evaluation opportunity, especially against professionals, was important in sealing the deal.
This is just the second time that a number one overall pick will not play for the team that drafted him, with Chris Webber being the only other. His inclusion is not a knock on his talent or potential. In just about any other circumstance, the Cavaliers probably would have held onto Wiggins no matter what the cost. However, they’re in win-now mode with LeBron James on board. They want to make the most of his presence this time around and Kevin Love makes them a stronger contender in both the long- and short-term. At just 25 years of age, the Cavaliers are highly unlikely to ever regret making this move. Even if Wiggins fulfills his immense potential, there’s still a chance that he won’t make the same kind of impact Love does. He’s one of the league’s truly elite players and he also happens to be an ideal fit alongside Kyrie Irving and James. Having yet to experience the playoffs, joining an instant contender like the Cavaliers will be a welcomed change that likely brings out the best in Love.
The deal could expand, but will not fall apart
Initially there was some speculation that the Golden State Warriors could swoop in and derail this deal, but an agreement in principle is basically binding. If either team were to back out, they would have a hard time doing business with any other team in the league. Plus, the Timberwolves are not doing this deal because they couldn’t get Klay Thompson. Sources say they were always confident they could acquire Thompson, but preferred the Cavaliers’ package from the outset. Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a first-round pick is enough outgoing salary for the Cavaliers to acquire Love since both teams are non-tax payers. That deal is going to happen. It could expand, though.
The two teams have a minimum of 16 days to build on that transaction.
The Philadelphia 76ers have long been rumored to be interested in helping facilitate a deal. Various reports have them linked to coveting Dion Waiters or Bennett. Waiters looks to be safe and off of the table, but the Timberwolves would likely be willing to route Bennett to Philadelphia if that’s what it cost to get Thaddeus Young. The two teams are said to be talking about a separate deal as well. Even the most basic version of this trade, the one that is currently agreed to, has the magnitude to cause waves throughout the league afterwards as a result. So, look for more moves to follow no matter what.
Kevin Love is agreeing to re-sign with the Cavaliers, not sign an extension
When negotiating an extension with a veteran player, the most years that can be added to a contract are four, including the current season. So, the most Love could have gotten was an additional two years, as he has this year and one option year remaining on his current deal. By hitting free agency, he becomes eligible for a full five-year maximum extension by virtue of the Cavaliers holding his Bird rights. That deal would be worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $125 million for Love and is by far the most lucrative option, which is why he is choosing it.
This commitment was a key component in getting the deal done and it’s an indicator of how much more of an attractive destination James makes the Cavaliers. They were close to finalizing a deal with Love prior to the draft, but Love made it clear that he would not make any type of commitment to them, not even pick up his option. Now, he’s willing to sign on for five more years without even seeing what the open market has to offer. That’s a big loss for the 2015 Free Agency Class. Several teams, including the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics are disappointed by this development as they had aspirations of persuading Love to sign with them next offseason.
This is really just a small step back for the Timberwolves
This isn’t a day for celebration in Minnesota, but that day could be on the horizon, especially if Wiggins thrives with the expanded opportunity he’s going to have in Minnesota in comparison to what he would have had in Cleveland. Even in the case that they’re not able to flip Bennett to Philadelphia for Young, they’re getting another No. 1 overall pick who looked much improved during summer league than during his historically woeful rookie campaign.
As good as Love is, their best season with him was last year’s 40-42 campaign. Aside from that they won 24, 15, 17, 26 and 31 games the five seasons prior.
Getting out from under Love’s contract also gives them a lot more financial flexibility than they would have had if he stayed on for another five years at the maximum rate he was going to warrant. They’re four years away from having to give Wiggins any kind of substantial financial commitment and only have two big contracts on their books in Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin’s. Pekovic is owed $47.9 million through 2018 and Martin is owed $21.2 million through 2017, but he could opt out of the final year worth $7.3 million.
Speaking of Pekovic, it was during the 2012-13 season, played mostly without Love, that he earned that large contract. He should excel in his departure in similar fashion now that he will be the featured low-post option once again.
The Timberwolves may still have a hard time cracking the top eight in the deep and difficult Western Conference, but this is not the same kind of setback that the Lakers experienced when they lost Dwight Howard or the Cavaliers experienced when they lost James. With the right follow up moves and internal development, they could end their playoff drought sometime in the next couple of seasons and even in the worst-case scenario, it’s hard to imagine them being much worse than they were last year with Love.
The Cavaliers really did offer LeBron James the best opportunity to compete for a championship
Now that acquiring Love is a formality and not just a possibility, James’ decision to leave the Miami HEAT makes all the more sense. Put aside the public relations boost he’s received from his classy return to the franchise he helped build into a contender but saw crumble into a perennial lottery team after his departure. Getting to play alongside Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love is an upgrade to playing with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh – especially given the decline Wade has experienced due to injuries. The Cavaliers also managed to hold onto Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao and have signed James Jones and Mike Miller with Shawn Marion likely on his way as well. Not only does the star power beat what the HEAT offered, the supporting cast does as well. The Cavaliers offered the better opportunity to compete for a championship both in the near and distant future, and the HEAT’s offer didn’t really come close, especially from a long-term standpoint.
Up Close With Montrezl Harrell: Basketball Insiders caught up with Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell at this year’s adidas Nations. Check out the video interview:
PODCAST: Breaking Down The Western Conference Playoff Race
Basketball Insiders Deputy Editor Jesse Blancarte and Writer James Blancarte break down the Western Conference playoff race and check in on the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers.
NBA Daily: The Cleveland Cavaliers Need Tyronn Lue
The Cleveland Cavaliers have faced injury adversity and a roster shakeup, and now face uncertainty regarding coach Tyronn Lue’s health.
The most enduring image of Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue came moments after his team sealed the 2016 NBA Finals with a third consecutive win after trailing the Golden State Warriors 3-1. As the team celebrated its historic comeback and readied to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy, one camera focused on Lue, who sat on the bench with his face buried in his hands.
— Buddy Grizzard (@BuddyGrizzard) June 20, 2016
The image tells a thousand words about the pressure Lue was under as Cleveland teetered on the brink of elimination for three games. Rather than sharing the euphoria of his players, it seemed that Lue’s emotions centered around the massive weight that had been lifted from his shoulders. Almost two years later, it appears that burden has caught back up with Lue, whose leave of absence for health reasons complicates things for Cleveland with the playoffs just around the corner.
“It’s like losing one of your best players,” said Cavaliers forward LeBron James after Cleveland’s 124-117 win at home over the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday.
Kevin Love returned from a six-week injury absence to post 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists against the Bucks. James likened Lue’s absence to the burden of trying to replace Love’s output while he was unavailable.
“We’ve got to have guys step up, just like guys trying to step up in Kev’s absence,” said James. “We have to do the same as a collective group as long as Ty needs to get himself back healthy.”
There’s optimism that Lue could return before the playoffs, but there’s a great deal of uncertainty given the seriousness of his symptoms, which reportedly included coughing up blood. Lead assistant Larry Drew, a former head coach with the Bucks and Hawks, will handle head coaching responsibilities until Lue is ready to return.
Kyle Korver played under Drew in Atlanta and said he’s confident in his ability to fill in.
“We’d love to have Ty here and healthy,” said Korver after the Bucks win. “Coach Drew has done this for a long time as well. He coached me for a full year in Atlanta. We know he’s fully capable.”
Korver also doubted Drew would introduce any major stylistic changes.
“I think LD’s been Ty’s top assistant for a reason,” said Korver. “They really think a lot alike. They coach very similarly. We miss Ty, but I think the style of what we do is going to be very similar.”
While style and approach should remain unchanged, what could an extended absence for Lue mean for the Cavaliers? Lue cemented his legacy as a leader by keeping the Cavaliers together as they fought back from a 3-1 deficit to the Warriors, but Drew hasn’t had that kind of success as a head coach.
In 2012, the Hawks had a real opportunity to reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in Atlanta history. The Hawks faced an aging Boston Celtics squad in the first round. The eighth-seed Philadelphia 76ers awaited in the second round after defeating the top-seeded Chicago Bulls.
After splitting the first two games in Atlanta, the Hawks faced a pivotal Game 3 in Boston with the opportunity to retake home court advantage. Atlanta Journal-Constitution beat writer Michael Cunningham used Synergy Sports to break down every offensive possession for Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. His conclusion? For three quarters, Rondo did not score a single basket while guarded by Hawks combo guard Kirk Hinrich.
The Hawks traded a package that included a former and a future first-round pick to obtain Hinrich from the Wizards in 2011. But in Game 3, Hinrich failed to score a point despite his effective defense. Apparently feeling the need for an offensive spark, Drew left Hinrich on the bench in the fourth quarter and turned to career journeyman Jannero Pargo.
With Hinrich out of the game, Rondo’s offense came to life as he slashed to the basket at will. Boston opened the fourth with a 13-7 run before Pargo went to the bench and Atlanta closed on a 15-7 run to force overtime. The NBA did not publish net rating data at the time, but we can now see via historical data that the Hawks were outscored by nearly 52 points per 100 possessions in Pargo’s minutes in Game 3. Rather than entrust Atlanta’s season and his own legacy to a player the Hawks traded two first-round picks to obtain, Drew went with Pargo, a career end-of-bench player.
What does this mean for the Cavaliers? It means the team needs to get Lue back. Drew and Lue are both former NBA players who have received mixed reviews as head coaches. But when his legacy was on the line, Lue pushed the right buttons.
For Drew’s part, in his first postgame press conference since Lue’s absence was announced, he remained publicly deferential.
“Coach Lue is the one who makes that decision,” said Drew when asked about lineup combinations. “That’s not my call. We look at a lot of different combinations — whether guys are starting or whether they are coming off the bench — and we assess everything.”
On the critical question of how lineups will be fine-tuned as the Cavaliers prepare for the playoffs, Drew once again emphasized Lue’s active role even as he steps away from the bench.
“I’ll talk to Ty,” said Drew. “He’s got the final say-so. Whatever he wants, then that’s what we’re going to go with. But if he tells me to make a decision, then I’ll have to make the decision.”
With Lue suffering acute symptoms, there’s no way of knowing when he will be ready to step back into the pressure cooker of a leading role for a team with championship aspirations. But the Cavaliers need him and need his steadying influence and instincts. Cleveland is a team that has battled through injuries and a major roster overhaul at the trade deadline. It also faces the pressure of James’ impending free agency decision this summer.
Now, with the playoffs just around the corner, the Cavaliers must endure uncertainty about Lue’s ability to return and lead the team. James has emphasized that Lue’s health overshadows any basketball concerns, but gave his most terse remark when asked about learning that Lue would step away on the same day Cleveland finally got Love back.
“If it’s not one thing, it’s another,” said James. “That was my reaction.”
A Breakout Season for Joe Harris
Brooklyn Nets swingman Joe Harris talks to Basketball Insiders about his second chance with the Nets.
The NBA is all about second chances. Sometimes players need a change of scenery, or a coach who believes in them, or just something different to reach their full potential. They may be cast aside by several teams, but eventually, they often find that right situation that allows them to flourish.
Such was the case for Joe Harris. Originally drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 33rd overall pick in the 2014 draft, Harris rarely saw the court during his time in Cleveland. He averaged about 6.4 minutes per game over the course of about one and a half seasons with the Cavaliers.
During the 2015-16 season, his second in Cleveland, he underwent season-ending foot surgery. Almost immediately after, the Cavaliers traded him to the Orlando Magic in an attempt to cut payroll due to luxury tax penalties. He would never suit up for the Magic as they cut him as soon as they traded for him.
After using the rest of that season to recover from surgery, he would sign with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2016. He had a very strong first season in Brooklyn, but this season he’s truly broken out.
“I think a lot of it has to do with just the right situation in terms of circumstances. It’s a young team where you don’t really have anybody on the team that’s going out and getting 20 a night,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a collective effort most nights and it can be any given person depending on the situation. It’s one of those things where we’re real unselfish with the ball. A lot of guys get a lot of good looks, so your production is bound to go up just because of the system now that we’re playing.”
Known primarily as a sharpshooter in college at the University of Virginia as well as his first stop in Cleveland, Harris has started developing more of an all-around game. He’s improved his ability to put the ball on the floor and make plays as well as crashing the glass and playing strong defense.
In a relatively forgettable season record-wise for the Nets, Harris has been one of their bright spots. He’s putting up 10.1 points per game on 47.3 percent shooting from the field while playing 25.4 minutes per game. He’s up to 40.3 percent from the three-point line and he’s pulling down 3.3 rebounds. All of those numbers are career-highs.
“My role, I think, is very similar to the way I would be anywhere that I was playing. I’m a shooter, I help space the floor for guys to facilitate,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “I’m opportunistic offensively with drives and such. I’m out there to try and space the floor, knock down shots, and then play tough defensively and make sure I’m doing my part in getting defensive rebounds and that sort of stuff.”
Although Harris didn’t play much in Cleveland, he did show glimpses and flashes of the player he has blossomed into in Brooklyn. He saw action in 51 games his rookie year while knocking down 36.9 percent of his three-point attempts.
He also saw action in six playoff games during the Cavaliers’ run to the 2015 Finals. But more importantly, it was the off the court things that Harris kept with him after leaving Cleveland. The valuable guidance passed down to him from the Cavaliers veteran guys. It’s all helped mold him into the indispensable contributor he’s become for the Nets.
“Even though I wasn’t necessarily playing as much, the experience was invaluable just in terms of learning how to be a professional,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “The approach, the preparation, that sort of stuff. That’s why I learned a lot while I was there. All those good players that have had great, great, and long careers and just being able to kind of individually pick their brains and learn from them.”
When Harris came to Brooklyn two years ago, he initially signed a two-year deal with a team option after the first year. When he turned in a promising 2016-17 season, it was a no-brainer for the Nets to pick up his option. Set to make about $1.5 million this season, Harris’ contract is a steal.
However, he’s headed for unrestricted free agency this upcoming summer. Although he dealt with being a free agent before when he first signed with the Nets, it’s a different situation now. He’s likely going to be one of the most coveted wings on the market. While there’s still a bit more of the regular season left, and free agency still several months away, it’s something Harris has already thought about. If all goes well, Brooklyn is a place he can see himself staying long-term.
“Yeah, it’s one of those things that I’ll worry about that sort of decision when the time comes. But I have really enjoyed my time in Brooklyn,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a great organization with a lot of good people, and they try and do stuff the right way. I enjoy being a part of that and trying to kind of rebuild and set a good foundation for where the future of the Brooklyn Nets is.”