Kevin Love is a 25-year-old superstar who’s averaged over 19 PPG and 12 RPG through his six-year career. Love is one of eight players to have average those numbers, and the other seven are all in the Hall of Fame. A delightful blend of size, touch, and instinct has thrust Love into an elite tier of players, a year-after-year All-Star when he’s healthy.
In what is being called a “handshake agreement” the Minnesota Timberwolves have agreed on a package of Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, and a future first round pick from the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Love. How this affects the Chicago Bulls, is the only remaining storyline in the Eastern Conference aside from Derrick Rose’s health.
First and foremost, the deal is being labeled a handshake agreement (a nice euphemism for tampering) due to Cleveland signing their rookie Wiggins to his rookie contract, thus disabling them to trade him for 30 days. The reason this rule is in place is in order to assure teams don’t sign rookies specifically with the intention to make a trade work or go through. Similar to how free agents signed to new teams this summer can’t be traded until after December 15. The rule attempts to eliminate frivolous, shortsighted signings.
But the delay of the trade is a near formality in the larger picture, because this trade could end up being one of the largest most notable trades in NBA history. It’ll be a few years before we can judge how Minnesota fared, but we’ll be looking immediately at how Cleveland makes out. As it pertains to the Cavs: in Love they’re getting the best stretch four in the game today as evidenced by making 2.5 3s per game on 37 percent shooting last season, and an absolute machine on the glass as he pulled down nearly 30 percent (per, NBA.com) of Minnesota’s defensive rebounds when he was on the court last year.
Love does have a couple of chinks in his armor, one of which he’ll likely never change and that’s his inability to protect the rim. Opponents’ shot 57.4 percent (NBA.com) at the rim last season against Love, and rim protection has been a longstanding problem for the Cavs with Tristan Thompson (opponents shot 59 percent at the rim) and Anderson Varejao (durability issues).
The other criticism of Love is that his teams in Minnesota never won, and that he’s never made the playoffs. None of that will matter much now that he’s teamed with LeBron in Cleveland, but it’s long nagged Love as a deficiency although it’s not something that’s entirely within his control.
As it pertains to Chicago, they’re clearly the number two team in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland and significantly ahead of the rest of the field out East. If Rose stays healthy, we’ll have a dream Eastern Conference Finals matchup. The crazy thing is, even if Rose doesn’t stay injury free the Bulls might be good enough to still make the Conference Finals because the East is so bad.
On paper – Cleveland’s biggest strength is offense and Chicago’s is defense. Both units figure to be at near the top of the league in terms of efficiency. However, as for the two x-factors: where Love doesn’t help Cleveland on defense Rose elevates Chicago’s offense a considerable amount. Love will spread the floor and be deadly in pick-and-rolls with either LeBron or Kyrie Irving, but one-on-one Taj Gibson is as good of a defender there is guarding fours.
With that, Jimmy Butler would be on LeBron, Rose on Irving, and mix-and-match of Kirk Hinrich, Doug McDermott, and Mike Dunleavy on Dion Waiters. That leaves Joakim Noah free to roam and protect the rim, as his man (Thompson or Varejao) doesn’t pose any real threat to score.
It’s hard to pinpoint why Wiggins fell out of favor so quickly in Cleveland, or whether he ever stood a real chance at being able to play for the Cavs once LeBron came to town. LeBron wasn’t going to wait three-to-four seasons (plus, James can opt out of his contract after this season) to see if Wiggins could play. Regardless, the potential deal is a no-brainer for both Cleveland and Minnesota.
While it might be optimistic to think Chicago has enough defensive ability to contain Love-James-Irving lineups and think that the Bulls can muster up enough offense to outlast Cleveland in a seven-game series, it’s all far too early to determine anything. After all, Love hasn’t even been officially traded yet. But one thing’s for sure, Chicago isn’t the one with the pressure on them to win right now, and for once the magnifying glass is on Cleveland.
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Tags: Andrew Wiggins, Chicago, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA