Adrian Wojnarowski reported, because Adrian Wojnarowski reports everything related to the NBA, that Kevin Love will be on his way to Cleveland once the Cavs can trade Andrew Wiggins on August 23rd. Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, and a 2015 first round pick will be the final package for Love, and the Timberwolves will then trade Anthony Bennett to the 76ers for Thaddeus Young. I’m gonna break this down for al 3 teams, starting with the easiest to break down (and least important, frankly).
76ers: Smart trade for them, no reason not to make it. Thaddeus Young has a contract that looks a lot like Jeff Green’s. He will earn $9.1 this year and has a player option for $9.7 million next year. Green has both a 2015 salary and 2016 player option of $9.2 million, by comparison. The Sixers have no use for Thaddeus Young, because he is a guy in his prime when they don’t want players in their primes. The 26-year-old young will bring back a number 1 pick from last year, meaning that Philly will sport a young nucleus of Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, Anthony Bennett, Joel Embiid, and Elfrid Payton, drafted 11, 6, 1, 3, and 10 respectively. Combine that with who tknows how many 2nd round picks, and that’s a team that no one would mind building around — it’s just gonna be painful to watch them for another year or two.
Timberwolves: In the NBA you almost never get equal return for a superstar. It’s pretty much impossible to have the type of trade in football where all of the young, cheap assets that a team is willing to give up for a superstar add up to be more than the superstar (RG3 trade, probably), or in baseball, where 90% of a team’s success comes down to individual numbers that are added up to create the final product, and the young guys equal the superstars that way (Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez trade for the Marlins). But the TWolves might have a chance to do that here. There’s no guarantee that Wiggins will reach anything close to that potential, but I wouldn’t rule it out for the top pick in maybe the most loaded draft since 2003, either. As much as I was praying for the Celtics to get Love, of course, I gotta admit that Flip Saunders played it perfectly. He could’ve had a bunch of draft picks, and a collection of either Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, the 6th pick that was Marcus Smart, the 17th pick that was James Young, or whatever else, but none of those assets other than Smart are really that valuable. If Saunders had taken that kind of deal, he would have been betting that a bunch of small coins would add up to a dollar, and, again, that rarely works in the NBA.
Cavaliers: If you look at what Bill Simmons said awhile back, his thought process makes total sense on paper. Keep Wiggins for awhile, see how well he plays with LeBron, and take advantage of the fact that the Love trade will be there in February. Maybe see if you can get the trade done without Wiggins, especially if Bennett actually acts like the number 1 pick that he was.
The night of LeBron’s Decision 2.0, my friend exclaimed to me: “Wait, the Cavs can now stick any top wingman in the league with Andrew Wiggins for 3 quarters, let LeBron rest a little and dominate on offense, and then have him shut down that guy in the 4th. This team is gonna be insane defensively!” That’s 100% true. That would’ve been a scary defensive team, especially with however many games they’ll get our of Anderson Varejao. I get all that, and I get Simmons’ point, as well.
But ultimately, the trade was a smart one for the Cavs. Right now, you have the 29 year old best player since Jordan who just turned an up and coming team into a contender by himself. At some point, don’t you wanna be a full blown contender? I’m not buying that LeBron could start breaking down soon since he’s about to pass 40,000 minutes in his career, because the same people who mention that tend to mention how superhuman he is. But this isn’t 2006 LeBron, in which we knew he’d keep getting better for another 5 years. It’s much more valuable to the Cavs to use their asset that hasn’t fully appreciated (Wiggins) to turn him into an asset that is ready to go right now.
And while the thought process of waiting out the Wolves and just making the trade in February sound plausible, that brings so many What Ifs into the scenario. What if the Wolves get off to a great start, and Saunders decides to ride it out? What if the Warriors finally put Klay Thompson into the deal? What if Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson play so well for Chicago that Saunders feels that the Bulls can offer a better package? Or, more simply, what if Wiggins sucks out of the gate, or even gets injured? By trading Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love now, the Cavs take way less of a risk. Maybe the expected value isn’t quite as high, and maybe I should care about that kind of financial term considering I’ve used the word “asset” probably 47 times in this piece. But, in truth, this isn’t about expected value. This is about getting a Top 10 player to play alongside the 2nd best player ever. That’s the kind of stuff you don’t turn down in the NBA, and you don’t take a risk that it might not work out.