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:
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