The writing has been on the wall for months and the news finally broke on Thursday morning. Kevin Love will be traded from the Wolves in exchange for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a protected 2015 first-round pick, according to Yahoo! Sports. Love is also expected to sign a five-year, $120 million deal after he opts out of his contract. Due to the NBA rules, the deal will not be finalized until Aug. 23 and the teams won't officially confirm it, but we can still break it down.
As far as the big-picture stuff goes, there was absolutely no way the Wolves were going to do better than this offer. Wiggins is one of the best prospects to be drafted in the past decade and offers a sky-high ceiling. Anthony Bennett was dead in the water last year, but he did show some promise. What's more, this deal makes the previous trades of Carmelo Anthony, James Harden, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard look absolutely horrible, so Wolves fans have nothing to complain about today.
The Cavs are obviously going for it and while Wiggins offers a better bang-for-your-buck contract, nobody can argue that Love is a much better fit and a terrific player for Cleveland right now. It’s hard to believe they have a new general manager, a new coach, arguably the two best players at their positions to go with one of the best offensive point guards. What a difference one summer could make.
On paper, the Cavs offense is almost perfect besides maybe a better 3-point shot from their shooting guard. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are both exceptional at breaking down defenses and getting into the paint, so having the ultimate stretch four is a marvelous fit. On the other hand, their defense could still have some problems. There has been a lot of talk about the LeBron as the best defensive player in the league, and we’ll really get to see how he can hold this defense together. In the past three years, the Heat had an average rank of 7.3 in defensive efficiency (fourth in 2011-12, seventh in 2012-13 and 11th in 2013-14), so LeBron would almost automatically get Defensive Player of the Year should Cleveland come even close to that. Kyrie has been torched by guards his entire career and Kevin Love’s post defense is one of the worst around. They’re obviously going to be the favorites out of the Eastern Conference and I’d say they’re a good bet for 60 wins.
We’ll talk about how this deal affects guys like Kyrie, LeBron, Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin in a bit, but let’s go through how this deal affects the players who were actually traded:
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Love has been a statistical monster in the past four seasons, posting top-six fantasy value in three of his last four campaigns. He was a 20-point, 12-board and one-triple guy for three of those four seasons with last season including career highs in points, assists, 3-pointers and effective field goal percentage. I think it’s pretty clear he’s not going to be able to come even close to his 2013-14 averages of 26.1 points, 4.4 assists and 18.5 shots.
He ranked ninth in the NBA for usage rate last season (minimum of 12 games) at 28.4 percent, and I think it’s more than obvious that number is going to take a dip. A great example to use to compare is Chris Bosh. In his last season with the Raptors, Bosh had a usage of 28.8, but then it dropped to 23.4 in his first year with the Heat and was at an average of 23.3 in his four years next to James. Bosh was able to score 18.7 points per game and I think both the usage rate and point total seem about right for Love. Not bad.
He’ll be more of a catch-and-shoot stretch four, which was an area of strength last season. His 7.1 points per game on catch and shoots ranked fifth in the NBA, and he was one of six players to average at least 5.0 catch-and-shoot 3-pointers last season. He’ll be doing a lot of that. LeBron’s Heat ranked ninth in the NBA for catch-and-shoot triples last season despite not having any Heat player in the top 45 for 3-point makes and ranking just 12th as a team in 3-point percentage. It’s probably not going to be easy for Love to top his impressive 2.5 makes from deep in 2013-14, and his shot selection has really drifted away from the basket.
His shots at the rim have really fallen off in his career. In his rookie season, he had 54 percent of his shots come at the rim, and then attempted between 36 and 44 percent of his shots come from at the rim in the following four seasons. That number dipped significantly to just 28 percent last season, which was almost exclusively due to the extra treys. This has also been a similar trend for Chris Bosh, so maybe Love is able to match his 2.5 treys per game after all.
The Wolves had very little help on offense, so I’d guess Love’s isolation plays will almost completely evaporate. He shot a woeful 33.6 percent on isolation last year and 33.3 percent as a pick-and-roll ball handler (Synergy), which were his lowest of any play. The loss of those shots will actually help his fantasy value. If we take those shots out of his shot total, his field goal percentage of 45.7 percent would vault to an impressive 47.1 percent. I’d say that’s a very respectable expectation for his field goal percentage next year.
His assists are going to drop, but I’d also expect his turnovers to fall as well. Taking all of this into account, I’d say Love is guy to take in the 12-16 range in fantasy leagues right now. Plus, don’t forget that Love is a bit of an injury risk. If we took the injury risk out, I'd say he's a No. 6-11 player.
Andrew Wiggins went from arguably one of the worst places to be for producing stats to one of the better ones. He would have been the third option at best in Cleveland, but now he’ll have a chance to be the first or second option. There's no doubt he's certainly capable of being a high-volume guy even as a rookie.
If you saw him at summer league, the story was more of how he can play than the numbers he posted. His stat line was uninspiring in four Las Vegas games, averaging 15.5 points, 3.5 boards, 1.2 steals, 1.5 blocks and 0.5 triples on 40.5 percent shooting. He was taking a lot of Brandon Jennings-like jumpers and wasn’t attacking the basket as much as he did at Kansas. Although, he did shoot just 49.3 percent on his two-pointers at Kansas to go with his 34.1 percent from deep. Also, you have to love how he went to the line 20 times in his Vegas finale. The Wolves were in the top six for free throw attempts in each of the last three seasons, but new coach Flip Saunders tends to have his teams in the lower half of the rankings in that department. Although, that’s due more to the personnel he had at Washington and Detroit. Wiggins is a a great free throw shooter at 77.5 percent at age 18 and that projects to be a huge asset for his game.
It’s also not just going to be about the offense and Wiggins was also able to clear the 1.0 per-game plateau at Kansas in blocks and steals with 1.0 and 1.2, respectively. He probably won’t be able to hit those marks in the NBA, but would be elite territory. It’s probably fair to expect him to get above 0.5 per game, and I'd say he has a great chance to match that steal total. That’s still pretty good.
OK, what about how many minutes and his role with the Wolves? You’d think coach Saunders is going to start him at small forward and bring Corey Brewer off the bench. As great as Brewer was last year, the Wolves desperately need a guy who can create his own shot. Brewer had just 6.9 percent of his shot totals come in post-up, isolation or in pick-and-roll, which is crazy (more on Brewer below). That would mean Wiggins starts next to Kevin Martin, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and (some power forward). Not exactly a potent offensive force.
Since Brewer can come off the bench at small forward or shooting guard, Wiggins has a chance to get into the high 20s for minutes. He had a 26.3 usage rate at Kansas last year and was running a lot of isolation at Las Vegas, so he’ll have to use his teammates a little better. It’s rare air for a rookie to post a usage rate above 25, but he has a real chance to do so, which would be put him in the high teens for shots per game.
I think we all can agree that the stats could be there, but the efficiency is the major question. If things click for him and he can get to 45 percent from the field, he’ll probably be looking at around fourth-round value. I don’t think he will though, so I’d look to target him around the seventh round right now.
While he was a part of this deal, Anthony Bennett is reportedly on the block in a potential deal for Thaddeus Young, which would make sense. The Wolves have been looking at Thad for a while, and obviously the 76ers would love to deal him because, you know, the 76ers. Regardless of his final landing spot, he’s absolutely in a great spot to produce. Let’s just talk about Minnesota for now.
He was terrific at Las Vegas Summer League. Sure, he went against inferior competition, he was playing on his college home turf and the Cavs were actually using him in halfcourt sets as a primary, but it was still enough to suggest he can still salvage his career. Even before the stats even come into play, Bennett was able to stay on the court, averaging 29.8 minutes per game.
We all know about the bad stuff. Bennett couldn’t stay on the court in his rookie season and his 35.6 percent from the field doesn’t even tell the story. He had just 32.5 percent of his shots come without an assist — about half of those off offensive rebounds — and he shot just 26.7 percent from outside of the restricted area. Plus, he was absolutely gassed on the floor. Last year was about as bad as it gets.
There is some hope, though. His stats at UNLV were impressive, averaging 16.1 points, 8.1 boards, 1.0 assists, 1.2 blocks, 0.7 steals and 1.0 triples on 53.3 percent from the field in 27.1 minutes. His Vegas summer-league line was also very eye-catching at 13.3 points, 7.8 boards, 0.8 steals and 1.0 triples. He didn’t look all that tired and he just physically looked like he was in much better shape instead of just being round.
The Wolves are gutted at power forward now. Gorgui Dieng was very good last year, but he didn’t play a single minute next to Nikola Pekovic. I think it’s clear he’s going to get most of his minutes at center. They also have Luc Mbah a Moute, so yeah.
Bennett couldn’t find himself in a better spot and he does have upside. In the last rounds of fantasy drafts it’s all about grabbing a guy who can be a game changer. I’m not ready to anoint him as a breakout guy, but I don’t have a problem gambling in the 110-140 range for a standard league. We’ll be watching him very closely in training camp.
As for the other players, I don’t think LeBron James is affected by this deal. He had an effective field goal percentage of at least 60.3 in each of the last two seasons and led all non-point guards in assists per game and assist percentage. You don’t take the ball away from that guy no matter who is around him. He’s still the No. 2 player on my board for fantasy leagues.
Kyrie is the interesting guy here. We saw this coming, so I covered it last week:
Only Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry played point guard and had a higher usage rate than Kyrie last year, and I think we all know that’s going to take a huge hit. LeBron James ranked fifth in the NBA for usage, and Kevin Love ranked ninth overall. Usage rate is an underrated stat, so let’s just take a look at the elite usage guys ahead of Kyrie: Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, LaMarcus Aldridge, Al Jefferson, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, DeMar DeRozan, Paul George and Stephen Curry.
Basically every one of those guys except DeRozan will be off the board in the first two rounds of your fantasy draft. Kyrie wasn’t even that great with his high usage rate last season, turning in third-round value on the season.
A common thing I’ve seen is that Kyrie’s assists are going to go up, but I’m not sure about that. His best month of his career is just 7.2 assists per game, so he’s never even really gone on a month-long assist fest like just about every elite point guard will do.
Unless he becomes a lights-out shooter from deep, I don’t think he’s worth a pick in the second round, especially considering his injury history.
I won’t be drafting him. However, I think we really will get to see what kind of player he can be now that he has some talent around him.
Dion Waiters is really going to have to work on his 3-point shooting. He’s never really had the type of game that translates to fantasy, but raising his 3-point percentage to 36.8 last season from 31.0 in his rookie season is a great sign. I’d put him as a high single-digit scorer at around 1.9 treys per game right now. I’d shoot for upside more in the later rounds.
Anderson Varejao will just be asked to rebound the ball and I don’t think the Cavs would even consider using Love as a center in a small lineup. His role shouldn’t change much and it’s all about injury risk.
Obviously, Tristan Thompson moves out of the starting lineup. It’s pretty clear he’s not a capable center and he played only about 80 of 2594 minutes at center last season. He’s Kevin Love’s backup.
Moving to the Minnesota side of things, Corey Brewer is almost certainly going to move to the bench. I mentioned his ineptitude as a scorer, but here’s an interesting look at his play types from Synergy:
Basically, he’s useless in halfcourt sets and did his his heavy lifting in transition. He’s off the radar in 16-team leagues for me.
Ricky Rubio is probably going to have to score more, which is scary. He shot just 38.1 percent from the field and not having Kevin Love to space the floor makes matters even worse for him. I’d say he’s like a fourth-round guy in eight-category leagues and a fifth rounder in nine-cat.
The Wolves may still try and deal Kevin Martin away, despite a report that Flip wants to keep him. He’d obviously be looking at an uptick in shots with the Wolves, so he’ll offer decent upside. Still, he’s hurt far too often to take in the first 75 picks. I’d consider gambling in the 76-100 range, though. Again, that’s assuming he stays put.
As mentioned, Gorgui Dieng was used exclusively at center and even the necessity at power forward probably doesn’t mean he’ll shift there. Although, it’s worth mentioning he shot 37.0 percent on his jumpers and has a decent offensive game away from the rim. I’m still more concerned about his defense, which is a big reason why he didn’t play at power forward. The Wolves would probably want to make him their backup center, which would cap his fantasy value while Pek is healthy. Plus, Dieng next to Pek on both ends sounds like a disaster. That said, if the Wolves don’t add another power forward — a big if — he has a chance to be an 8-8 guy with solid shooting and block totals.
Dieng was in a near-perfect situation from Mar. 16 to the end of the 2013-14 season averaging 12.0 points, 11.3 boards, 1.1 steals and 1.5 blocks in that span. The upside is there, but again, he’s not a power forward. Right now, you can take a chance on him in the late rounds until the Wolves add a power forward somehow.
Zach LaVine next to Andrew Wiggins sounds so awesome, but the addition of Mo Williams suggests the Wolves aren’t going to be too eager to make him a point guard of the bat if they can help it. Sadly, he's not worth drafting in most redraft leagues. He better be in the dunk contest, though.