Cleveland appears to be looming as the center of the basketball world and home to the front runner candidates to be the next champions of the NBA. After the last four years of writing about the transient glories in otherwise humbling and humiliating losing seasons, it’s almost inconceivable that the sentence prior to this could be written about this basketball team here and now, but this is the truth:
The Cavaliers about about to have the best roster in the NBA and the best chance of any team to win the 2015 championship. The Cavaliers are about to make sports history in Cleveland behind a a four time league MVP in Lebron James, last year’s All Star Game MVP in Kyrie Irving, and the best shooting big man in the NBA, 6′ 10″ All Star power forward and center, Kevin Love.
LOVE AND IRVING IN CHARACTER AS UNCLE DREW AND WES, 2012
Adrian Wojnarowski, of Yahoo! Sports, widely regarded as the most reliable national voice reporting NBA news, posted a report indicating that the long rumored trade by the Cavaliers for Minnesota Timberwolf forward Kevin Love is essentially complete, and has been for approximately three weeks. According to Wojnarowski, the trade has been agreed upon and includes a contract commitment from Love to the Cavaliers for five seasons beyond his 2015 opt-out, which he will exercise after next season:
“Cleveland is making the deal with Minnesota with a firm agreement Love will opt out of his contract in 2015 and re-sign with the Cavaliers on a five-year, $120 million-plus contract extension, league sources told Yahoo Sports.”
KEVIN LOVE, SOON WITH $120 MILLION?
League sources are also reported to have told Wojnarowski that, in exchange for Love, that the Cavaliers will be giving up 2o14’s first overall NBA draft pick Andrew Wiggins, 2013’s first overall NBA draft pick Anthony Bennett and the 2015 protected first round pick that the Cavaliers received from the Miami Heat in the 2010 sign and trade of Lebron James to the Heat. Further, that the trade will not be announced for another 16 days, which coincides with the 30 day period from the signing of his rookie contract that Andrew Wiggins could not, by league rules, be traded. So, August 23rd, 2014 appears to be the drop date.
Essentially, the Cavaliers, Cavs fans. and the city of Cleveland has been and currently is in a seemingly unnecessary waiting period to announce the formation of an NBA superteam, which is likely to be the greatest professional basketball team assembled in the history of the city and could possibly be the greatest team assembled in the history of any sports franchise in Cleveland.
Kevin Love stands out as an ideal compliment to James and Irving. His added shooting, passing and historically impressive rebounding ability will make the task of stopping the Cavaliers offense an extremely complicated and difficult task. Offensively, James, Irving and Love are perfectly well rounded players who excel at multiple skills at the highest levels.
RUMORS OF THE CAVS INTEREST IN LOVE ARE TWO SEASONS OLD
The price of obtaining Love’s services in a trade has been hotly debated in Cleveland since even before the NBA Draft Lottery yielded the first overall pick. In fact, it was reported that the Cavs former General Manager Chris Grant had previously attempted to obtain Love prior to the 2013 NBA Draft. According to Andy Katz of ESPN on June 25, 2013:
In fact, Grant had allegedly reached out to former Timberwolves General Manager David Khan, trying to bring Love to the Cavaliers in 2012 in an proposed exchange which would have sent Anderson Varejao to Minnesota. This report came from Minnesota’s ESPN Radio affiliate 1050AM on December 14, 2012, and cited a widely publicized Khan quote had given reporters at a breakfast in 2009 regarding Love that “On a championship-contending team… Kevin (Love) might be the fourth-best player.”
THAT’S A RICKY RUBIO ACTION FIGURE
This report, of course, followed Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving’s October 30, 2012 appearance together in a Pepsi Max commercial starring the forward and point guard as old men who appear on a street court as “Uncle Drew” and “Wes”, dunking and making absurd plays before young and befuddled playground basketballers. In the video, Irving travels to Los Angeles and finds Love in a hardware store before traveling with him to a nearby court to school “young bloods”.
The Los Angeles Lakers have been rumored to be a preferred free agent destination for Love for years as well. Not only is Love’s character “Wes” from a hardware store in L.A., Love himself was actually born in Santa Monica and attended U.C.L.A. for one season in 2007-08. Love’s uncle is the Mike Love of The Beach Boys. Love’s father Stan, himself a former Los Angeles Laker who was actually born in Inglewood, California, served as the body guard for Beach Boy Brian Wilson in the later stages of the band. Musical genius Brian Wilson who wrote some of the most influential California surf rock songs ever, is Stan Love’s cousin, and therefore he is Kevin Love’s cousin “once removed”.
Not to be confused with his Pepsi Max character “Wes”, Kevin Love is still young. 25 years old, and believe it or not, 3 months younger than The Beach Boys last hit, 1988’s “Kokomo”, which was nominated for a Grammy Award.
KEVIN LOVE AS “WES” WITH STAN LOVE
The assumption that Love would take the opportunity to opt-out of his current contract at the end of next season and return to his California roots was so widespread that ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported on January 30, 2014 that he was told it was 100% certain that Love would become a Laker:
THEY’LL HAVE TO SETTLE FOR THOSE MOMENTS IN LONDON
In light of these reports, despite that Love teaming up with James and Irving in Cleveland appears to give him the best chance to win and to be part of an immediate title front-runner, there was heavy skepticism about whether he would stay in Cleveland after a trade. Relative to other trades that have been made for unextended departing NBA superstars like Deron Williams, Dwight Howard and even Carmelo Anthony, a prospect like Wiggins seemed like a steep price to pay.
Wiggins of course, remains one of the best prospects to come out of the NBA Draft over the last decade, and is likely the best wing prospect to come out over that ten year period. Wiggins, who has been in the national and international spotlight as a basketball player for half a decade, has handled trade speculation with maturity and humility.
He will be exciting to watch play in the NBA, and on a rookie contract that would allow the Cavaliers to maintain control over him for eight to nine years and with no extension by Love, is too high a price to pay for a single season of Love. This was such that 7 of 12 NBA GMs polled during Vegas NBA Summer League said that they would not trade Wiggins for Love.
WIGGINS, STILL A CAVALIER, FOR NOW. BASICALLY UNTIL AUGUST 23.
If one were to compile a list of the worst trades in Cavalier franchise history, trading a prospect of Wiggins’ caliber for just one season of Kevin Love would rank in the top five all time worst, no small feat in a graveyard of terrible trades:
WHERE A TRADE OF ANDREW WIGGINS FOR A SINGLE SEASON OF KEVIN LOVE WOULD RANK IN THE ALL TIME WORST TRADES IN CAVALIERS HISTORY
1. WORST EVER: The pick which became the first in the 1982 draft (7 time All Star and Hall of Famer James Worthy) was traded by the Cavs for Don Ford and the 22nd pick in the 1980 draft. This is the trade that probably resulted in the Stepien Rules being created by the league to limit teams trading first round picks. This might be one of the worst trades in NBA history.
2. SECOND WORST: Draft day trade of Charles Oakley, a native Clevelander selected with the 9th pick overall in the Cavaliers 1985 NBA Draft was traded that day for Keith Lee and Ennis Whatley. This compounded former Cavaliers GM Harry Weltman’s decision to pass on Karl Malone and take Oakley, but nevertheless Oakley went on to become the most fearsome rebounder in the game.
WHAT “THE SHOT” LOOKED LIKE IF THE CAVS KEPT OAKLEY
As an aside here, things could have gone much worse for the Cavaliers in the 80s if two things had happened: A. If the Cavaliers second round pick of 1985, John “Hot Rod” Williams, had been found guilty in his 1986 trial for point shaving while playing for LSU AND B. If the Cavs followed up this horrible draft and trade in the 1985 Draft by taking Len Bias (who famously overdosed on cocaine on draft night) first overall in the 1986 Draft instead of Brad Daugherty.
As a second aside though, the one thing that the late 80s-early 90s Cavs were constantly criticized for, and largely unjustly, was being “soft”. Between 1982 and 1985, the Cavs traded away center Bill Laimbeer, Charles Oakley, and the pick that became Dennis Rodman. All basically for nothing that helped them.
3. THIRD WORST: I’m going to stick Ron Harper for Danny Ferry right here, even though I think trading for the sixth overall pick in the 1984 draft for the purposes of taking Mel Turpin with the pick maybe belongs on this list even though the truly offensive element of that trade had to do with drafting and not the trade itself, and I’m not taking this list past 4 or I’d have to re-address the Bill Laimbeer trade, which was horrible. So, part of what everyone should know about the horrible trade for Ferry is that it wasn’t just Harper that was given up. The Cavs traded Harper, first round picks in 1990 and 1992, plus a second round pick in 1991.
One of those picks turned out to be Loy Vaught, one of the most consistent scoring and rebounding power forwards in the NBA through the 1990s until 1997 when he started suffering back problems so severe that he eventually had a metal plate surgically implanted in his back. I could go on about the state of the team in 1990 and how the absence of the Harper trade would have resulted in an NBA Championship on the Cavaliers, but suffice it to say most people would agree that Vaught alone was too much to give up for Ferry.
MEL TURPIN, WHY NOT?
4. FOURTH WORST TRADE (SPECULATIVELY): This is where I would put trading Andrew Wiggins, plus whatever picks and players would have to be included, for a single year of Kevin Love. I’m not going to try and read Love’s mind and determine what he would or will do at the end of this season in a scenario where he is traded without a commitment that he will stay with the Cavaliers or any kind of contractual extension. I am saying that the trade for Love put the Cavaliers in a position where they could be making a historically bad trade if they give up a number one overall pick with superstar potential for one player to be on the team for one year.
I know the notion of “superstar potential” has been maligned by people who want this trade to happen no matter what. However, with a prospect the quality of Wiggins, barring an injury, it’s difficult to imagine anything less than Andre Iguodala-level play on offense and defense – in Wiggins four year rookie contract. So that’s the level of play I’m using as a baseline for making this evaluation.
Last word on this being #4 in a “What if” scenario… Perhaps there is a universe where the Cavs value Wiggins highly enough that they hold on to him for the entire season and then, at the end, attempt to orchestrate a complex sign and trade for Love, effectively moving salaries including Brendan Haywood’s $10 million non-guaranteed deal to match Love’s new contract, then bringing him in with Wiggins and risk free. I believe that a major part of the reason this isn’t a real option is probably because the Cavs want to team up Lebron James with Love as soon as possible. Because…
LOVE AND JAMES EAGER TO TEAM UP AGAIN?
Realistically, it takes time to build a champion. There’s nothing that would be more exciting for the Cavaliers and the city they play in to see a championship right now, but the reality is that it is extremely rare for a team to gel that quickly after being assembled and it is also extremely difficult to win an NBA Championship. The Miami Heat team assembled in 2010 took two years to get there and that team was combining three cornerstone players with substantial playoff experience. Bringing Love in now moves that progress ahead a full season faster.
It’s going to be incredible to follow Kevin Love and the new Cavaliers. The imagination of fans and the city will and deserves to be fixed on that parade down Euclid Avenue, but good teams are built on strategy and planning, not on leaps of faith. This is how critical the report of Kevin Love’s decision to commit to the Cavaliers for six years is and how it cements the imagination of fans into an actually feasible and maybe even probable path to that parade.
And honestly, just being a frontrunner to have that parade is pretty sweet. For now.
The trade for Kevin Love will reunite him with former Timberwolf teammate Mike Miller, who played with him for one season after they were traded together from the Memphis Grizzlies in June 2008, with Jason Collins, essentially in exchange for O.J. Mayo, Antoine Walker, Greg Buckner and Marko Jaric.
That’s a pretty bad trade too. Wouldn’t crack the Cavs top 3 though.
Picture of Wes and Drew is the Pepsi Max Commercial
Pic with the Rubio action figure is nba.com
Pic of Love and Bryant is Washington Post
Pic of Oakley shoving Jordan has a watermark on it with the credit, although I’m not sure if that’s who took it.
Pic of Mel Turpin is from “Find a grave” but I believe it is actually a Plain Dealer archives photo. Anyway, RIP Mel.
Pic of Love and James at the Olympics is from punchdrunksports.com, but I think it’s actually an AP photo
Pic close up of Kevin Love’s face is from Pioneer Press: Ben Garvin
Pic of Kevin and Stan Love was from a website Jocksandstellittojill.com, but I think it was taken from another source and not credited and I can’t find the original.