The construction of the NBA’s newest Big Three is complete. Kevin Love is officially a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The much-anticipated three-team deal was completed Saturday, the Cavs announced, the first day Andrew Wiggins was eligible to be traded after signing his rookie contract. As expected, the Cavs shipped out Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a 2014 first-round pick (which previously belonged to the Miami Heat) in a three-team deal that also included the Philadelphia 76ers. The Cavs received Love, a three-time All-Star whose 26.1 points per game last season set a career high and ranked fourth in the league (directly behind LeBron James).
“Kevin joining the Cavaliers represents a very special and unique opportunity for our team,” Cavs General Manager David Griffin said in a release. “At only 25, Kevin has already firmly established himself as one of the NBA’s elite players and his talent, versatility and fit are major parts of our team’s vision for success.”
Love, who turns 26 in two weeks, is a fierce rebounder and arguably the best stretch 4 in the game. But he struggles defensively and was never able to carry the Timberwolves to the playoffs in the competitive Western Conference in any of his six seasons there. That isn’t an issue anymore. Not only is Love moving to the weaker Eastern Conference, now he’ll have fellow All-Stars James and Kyrie Irving as teammates.
Love’s arrival had been rumored for weeks. The Cavs and Timberwolves agreed to the framework of a deal weeks ago, but had to wait a month after signing Wiggins, a 19-year-old with star potential, but there are also plenty of executives across the league who question if he’ll ever reach superstar status. Team executives preferred Jabari Parker to Wiggins throughout the draft process, but were overruled on draft day by ownership.
Nevertheless, the Timberwolves were believed to prefer Wiggins over Parker, so everyone walks away today content.
The Cavaliers are ecstatic to get Love, who could be the final piece needed to end Cleveland’s 50-year drought without a championship. He completes a stunning offseason that began with Irving’s max contract extension and exploded when James announced he was coming home.
The addition of Love means the Cavs have soared from 10th place in the East last season to heavy favorites to win the conference and advance to the Finals for the first time in seven years.
In order to make today possible, the Cavs had to surrender the No. 1 pick in each of the last two drafts. That meant including Bennett, who stumbled through a disappointing rookie season marred by injuries and shattered confidence. Bennett arrived at summer league last month slimmed down and searching for the swagger that made him a top pick out of UNLV.
He was blocked in Cleveland by Tristan Thompson and now will be blocked in Minnesota, at least for one season, by Thaddeus Young. The Timberwolves sent Alexey Shved, Luc Mbah a Moute and the pick acquired from the Cavs to Philadelphia for Young, who will replace Love and step in immediately as the Timberwolves’ starting power forward.
Love’s arrival in Cleveland would seem to make a reserve out of Tristan Thompson, who is eligible for a contract extension this summer. Thompson and Shawn Marion, who previously agreed to play for the Cavs this season, appear to be the top two reserves now on a Cavs team loaded with shooting and depth.
Defense remains a concern, but for now, the Cavs can celebrate a stunning turnaround and one of the greatest summer makeovers in league history.
The trade of Wiggins and Bennett leaves the Cavs with just five players who were part of last season’s disappointing 33-49 finish.
The Cavs also announced the signing of second-round pick Dwight Powell on Saturday. Powell was acquired in a draft-night deal with the Charlotte Hornets.