The Minnesota Timberwolves and the Cleveland Cavaliers have agreed to a deal in principle that will send Kevin Love to Cleveland. Minnesota will get Andrew Wiggins, a future first-round pick, and Anthony Bennett who they will swap for Thaddeus Young of the Philadelphia 76ers.
This deal is, of course, no small matter. Here are ten implications of the Kevin Love trade. In the comments section, let us know what else will arise from this blockbuster deal.
10. Cavaliers are the Team to Beat in the East
The first and most obvious implication of the Kevin Love trade is that the Cleveland Cavaliers will be the favourites to win the Eastern Conference next season. Despite the Bulls’ offseason acquisitions, the Miami Heat’s surprisingly commendable scramble to make up for Lebron’s absence, and the Washington Wizards’ continuing ascendance, the Cavaliers have the best player in the league and arguably the best power forward. What Lebron loses in Chris Bosh’s unmatched ability to guard the pick and roll, he gains in Kevin Love’s overall better play—offensively and defensively. Kyrie Irving also gives Lebron something he has never had before: a dynamic point guard. Whether Irving learns to hit the spot-up three or not, he will take a great deal of pressure off Lebron in that James will be able to play exclusively as a small-forward/power-forward hybrid.
One tangential aspect to all this is the injury to Paul George. With PG out for the foreseeable future, and Kevin Love on his way, the Cavaliers have no proven competition. Paul George’s absence will surely cripple the Indiana Pacers, a team that also lost Lance Stephenson this offseason. Unless Roy Hibbert becomes Shaquille O’Neal, it doesn’t look good for the Pacers. The Bulls sound like stiff competition in theory, but Derrick Rose still needs to prove he can play a season free of injuries; until then, the Cavaliers are the favourites.
9. Could Augur Well for the Future of the Eastern Conference
The Kevin Love trade means another superstar player is coming to the Eastern Conference, a league that has been beset by an overall lack of depth amongst the squads. Despite the undeniable reality that the Eastern Conference remains weak with or without Love, his entry into the East augurs well for the future of the Conference. He is coming to a small-market team and is ostensibly committed to playing there long term. His commitment means that the Cavaliers will be competitors for at least four to five years in the Conference that features some of the biggest markets in the league. Boston, Chicago, New York, Boston, and Philadelphia are all desperately trying to win championships and satisfy a hungry fan base, so it is not a stretch to assume that the East will be considerably better in a few years, given how weak Boston, New York, and Philadelphia are. With Love and Lebron keeping Cleveland strong, the big market teams will only get hungrier as the years go by.
8. Minnesota Could Be One of the Western Conference’s Best Teams
However, Minnesota, despite dealing away another superstar player, could be one of the brightest teams in a few years. The media has been, for the most part, unwaveringly laudatory towards Andrew Wiggins, so this move seems ideal for him with regard to his development. Free from Lebron’s imperious grasp, he will have more control of a team that will feature Ricky Rubio and Thaddeus Young, both of whom are young and talented. Minnesota came out of this deal with more first-round draft picks, as well. In a few years, then, Minnesota could be the team to beat in a Western Conference that is only getting older.
7. Cleveland: the Most Interesting Place in the World
Ok, perhaps “the Most Interesting Place in the World” is a gross over-exaggeration, but it cannot be denied that Cleveland is the most talked about sporting city in America. Johnny Manziel, known as “Johnny Football”, is new in town, and he has already stirred up a great deal of buzz and criticism. Lebron, being Lebron, has likewise attracted an enormous amount of attention to the city. But the Kevin Love trade almost feels like the piece de resistance, the sumptuous hot fudge on top of the deliciously topped sundae. Already analysts have predicted how Lebron’s homecoming will incite an economic upswing in the city, so Kevin Love is another reason to pay attention to Cleveland—not Columbus or Cincinnati—next season.
6. Potential Matchups: Wade vs Lebron and Bosh vs Love
With Love set to come to Cleveland, fans and analysts are already looking ahead to the Cavs-versus-Heat games. Lebron jilted the glitz and glamour of South Beach for his hometown team, so these matchups will be fiercely competitive for both players and fans. For third parties, however, the most interesting aspect of these games will be the on-court matchups between the teams’ respective stars. Chris Bosh will certainly guard Love, a matchup that will prove who is the best power forward in the game right now. Hopefully Dwyane Wade will guard LBJ, but Miami also has Luol Deng and Danny Granger. In any case, with Love headed to Cleveland, these games will be highlights for basketball fans next season.
5. The Lakers and Marc Gasol
One corollary of Kevin Love committing to Cleveland long term is that the Lakers, a team that pursued a trade to bring Kevin Love to town not long ago, will probably aggressively pursue Marc Gasol next offseason. This offseason went as horribly as it could have for the Lakers front office and the fans in L.A., but next year they will want to reload. With Kevin Love off the board, Marc Gasol becomes the top priority in Laker Land.
4. The Eastern Conference Playoffs will be Tightly Contested
Despite being the favourites to win the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers with Kevin Love will receive every team’s best, hardest performance. As a result, there will be much more parity in the East. Miami still has Bosh and Wade, and they added Luol Deng; Washington is only ascending, and Paul Pierce brings a great deal of experience and poise to the Wizards; Chicago with a healthy Derrick Rose and a hungry Joakim Noah will be a straight killer; and Toronto and Brooklyn are no jokes either. Indeed, the Eastern Conference Playoffs should be less of a cakewalk than in years past, which is good for a Conference overshadowed by the other half of the league.
3. The Cavaliers and the Bulls in the Paint
One thing that always hampered the Miami Heat’s effectiveness was the team’s lack of solid rebounders and rim protectors. However, Kevin Love is a considerable upgrade for Lebron with regard to rebounding. Whereas Bosh averaged around 7 rebounds per game last season, Kevin Love averaged over 12. In terms of rim protectors, Anderson Varejao is another upgrade for Lebron, and he will be able to thwart talented slashers, at least more than Bosh and Chris Anderson. With Kevin Love, the Cavaliers look to be much more competitive in the paint than the Miami Heat were.
The Cavs’ formidability in the paint means that the team will be able to compete down there with what looks to be their stiffest competition, the Chicago Bulls. Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol, and Taj Gibson are bona fide studs, and they will create problems for teams due to their sheer size and talent. Kevin Love will go a long way in counterpoising those three in the paint. He is also the league’s pre-eminent outlet passer, so a team that has a ton of low-post leviathans might be at a disadvantage when he starts to chuck those outlet passes to Lebron for easy layups.
2. Ray Allen and the Cavaliers
Since the end of the Playoffs, Ray Allen has been considering retiring from the league. He really has nothing left to prove, as he is the most prolific three-point shooter in NBA history. But Jesus Shuttlesworth can still ball, and he has made it clear that he wants to play for a contender and with Lebron James.
With Kevin Love on his way to Cleveland, Ray Allen might feel encouraged to sign with the Cavaliers, as another weapon means that Ray Ray can play fewer and more directed minutes. Also, with another assassin from long range on the team, Allen will undoubtedly get more good looks because teams will have to close out on both him and Love.
1. No More MVPs for Lebron
With the way the NBA operates, this last implication might be a bit presumptuous, but it seems unlikely that Lebron will win more MVPs in the next several years with guys like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love on his team. Lebron will surely put up stellar numbers, but a bad year for Kevin Love will be 20 points and 12 rebounds per game, numbers that are better than, for instance, Chris Bosh’s or Dwight Howard’s. Empirically, how can one say definitively that Lebron deserves the MVP when Kevin Love puts up those numbers in an off year? Of course, Lebron isn’t focused on MVPs, but it seems likely that Durant could rack up more; Carmelo might be in line for one if he pulls a rabbit out of a hat this year in New York.