The Cavaliers have officially acquired Kevin Love in a three-team deal that’s the blockbuster trade of the summer, the Wolves announced. The Wolves receive Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett from Cleveland and Thaddeus Young from the Sixers as part of the deal, while Philadelphia comes away with Luc Mbah a Moute and Alexey Shved from Minnesota and the Heat’s 2015 first-round pick from Cleveland. The agreement has reportedly been in place for weeks, but the inclusion of Wiggins kept it from becoming official until today. That’s because Wiggins, this year’s No. 1 overall draft pick, couldn’t be traded within 30 days after the Cavs signed him to his rookie scale contract on July 24th.
Love is the only asset going Cleveland’s way in the deal, but the Second-Team All-NBA power forward is the centerpiece of the trade. He joins LeBron James as the marquee additions for Cleveland in a landmark offseason, one that’s left them the favorites to win the Eastern Conference championship after four straight seasons outside the playoffs. Love is expected to opt out of his contract next summer after making more than $15.7MM this season, but the Cavs will have his Bird Rights and are heavy favorites to re-sign him, just as they are with James, who also possesses a player option for 2015/16. Love’s ability to hit free agency in 2015 helped precipitate the trade, as he’s made it clear that he had no intention of staying with Minnesota beyond the coming season.
The Warriors, Bulls, Celtics, Nuggets, Lakers, Kings, Knicks, Rockets, Wizards and Suns have all been linked to Love in various reports at one point or another since mid-May, when the Wolves ramped up their efforts to trade him. It appeared even before James decided to sign with Cleveland that Love would like to join the Cavs if it meant he could play with James, and James reportedly reached out to Love to reciprocate his interest in becoming teammates. The Warriors appeared to come closest to beating out Cleveland for Love, but Golden State’s unwillingness to include Klay Thompson left the sides at a stalemate, particularly once the Cavs relented to Minnesota’s insistence that Wiggins be part of any deal that would ship Love to Cleveland.
Still, others made strong pushes, including the Celtics, particularly in the wake of Love’s weekend visit to Boston around the beginning of June, but the Wolves showed disinterest in dealing with the C’s. The Suns reportedly made a call Friday to see if Minnesota would send Love their way in a sign-and-trade arrangement involving Eric Bledsoe, but the Wolves were unmoved.
Wiggins is the marquee attraction for Minnesota, and he joins Chris Webber as the only No. 1 overall picks since the merger to change teams before playing a single regular season game for the franchises that drafted them. Wiggins had a somewhat disappointing season at Kansas after having been the consensus favorite a year ago to become the top pick, creating doubt that lingered almost until the draft began about whether he, fellow Jayhawk Joel Embiid, or Jabari Parker would go No. 1 overall. Still, Wiggins possesses superstar potential, some of which he put on display in the summer league last month, when he showed off his athleticism as part of Cleveland’s squad.
There were conflicting reports about whether Bennett would join Wiggins in heading to Minnesota or be rerouted to Philadelphia, but it became clear on Thursday that Bennett would become a Timberwolf. Bennett’s performance as a rookie was thoroughly underwhelming and he’ll have a tough time living up to having been the No. 1 overall pick in 2013. Still, there’s hope that he can become a key component on a winning team after having been widely projected as a mid-lottery selection before the Cavs surprisingly took him with the top pick.
The Wolves have reportedly been enamored with Young for a while, and they’ll have a chance to plug him into the starting lineup as Love’s replacement at power forward for at least one season. Young, like Love, can opt out of his contract and become a free agent next summer, but he probably wouldn’t draw nearly as many suitors, and he’s never expressed unwillingness to play in Minnesota. Young will make more than $9.4MM this season, and if he opts in, he’ll receive almost $10MM in 2015/16.
The Sixers, having shed other well-paid veterans in an aggressive rebuilding effort over the past 15 months or so, had reportedly sought a future first-round pick for Young in advance of the trade deadline in February, so this deal facilitates that apparent desire. The Heat’s 2015 first-round pick that’s coming from the Cavs is protected for the top 10 picks the next two years, but it would become unprotected for 2017, according to RealGM. In a coincidental twist, the Heat originally traded that pick to Cleveland in the sign-and-trade that brought LeBron to Miami in 2010.
Philadelphia also reaps Mbah a Moute, who’s already close with Embiid, whom the Sixers drafted third overall in June. Mbah a Moute has mentored Embiid, a fellow native of Cameroon. Mbah a Moute is on the books at nearly $4.4MM for the upcoming season, but he, like Shved, who’ll make nearly $3.3MM, is on an expiring contract, ensuring the Sixers won’t be stuck with their salaries past next summer. That wouldn’t have been the case with Young, who might have opted in.
The Wolves had sought to unload Mbah a Moute, Shved, as well as J.J. Barea, all of whom are on fairly player-friendly deals. Minnesota can create a trade exception worth $4,644,503 as part of the transaction, with the figure equivalent to the difference between Love’s salary and the combined salaries of Wiggins and Bennett. The trade appears to leave the Wolves with a haul that’s about as impressive as possible for a team that’s surrendering the only established superstar in the deal, and most Hoops Rumors readers gave the team high marks for the package it’s receiving.
The move drops Cleveland’s roster count by one, to 17, while the Sixers net one more player to reach a total of 15. Still, Philadelphia is carrying only seven players on fully guaranteed contracts, fewer than every other team in the league. Minnesota remains at 15 players, all of whom have fully guaranteed deals, meaning the Wolves are no closer to creating an opening for second-round pick Glenn Robinson III, as they’ve hoped to do, or finding a spot for Dante Cunningham, with whom talks have picked up.
Photo courtesy USA Today Sports Images. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports originally reported that Cleveland and Minnesota had an agreement in principle. Mark Perner of the Philadelphia Daily News wrote of the Sixers’ involvement in the swap and Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune nailed down the final structure of the trade. Wojnarowski also noted Minnesota’s interest in unloading Mbah a Moute, Shved and Barea. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter links), Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun (Twitter links), Dan Barreiro of KFAN Sports Radio (Twitter link) and Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press (Twitter link) provided additional detail.