When the Cleveland Cavaliers receive the paperwork on Andrew Wiggins’ signed contract, which is expected Thursday, the clock on a tedious 30-day waiting period that could drastically alter the future of the franchise will officially begin ticking.
Forget about fantasies here. If the Cavs are going to consummate a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love — which many industry sources still believe is likely — they will have to include Wiggins. But until Wiggins’ contract is official, he holds zero monetary value in a deal that involves complicated rules involving the salary cap.
If the Cavs tried to include Wiggins in a Love deal before signing him, they’d have to get to about $12.5 million in outgoing salary, then stack Wiggins on top of it. That simply isn’t possible without losing key pieces such as Dion Waiters or Anderson Varejao, and the Cavs aren’t going to give one of those guys away, plus Anthony Bennett and Wiggins.
Instead, they must sign Wiggins to his contract, which will pay him $5.5 million this season (and of equal importance, add valuable dollars to a trade for Love). But once Wiggins signs, he can’t be traded for 30 days under league rules. That’s a long time for a team to keep its word.
If, for example, the Cavs and Timberwolves agreed in principle to a trade for Love this weekend, the Cavs would essentially be showing their hand to the rest of the league, giving teams like the Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors plenty of time to go
through the rest of the deck to try to make a better hand.
Handshake agreements aren’t always bulletproof. Until the trade call with the league is complete and the league office signs off on the deal, teams can back out — particularly when one team is trading away its franchise player and trying to maximize the incoming assets.
If the Cavs and Timberwolves strike a deal that can’t be executed until Aug. 23, will the Warriors suddenly concede and make Klay Thompson available once and for all? It’s a risk the Cavs might be forced to take, which is why it might behoove them to prolong and extend what has already been a tedious ordeal.
The fact that Flip Saunders doubles as coach and general manager of the Timberwolves complicates matters as well. Of all the teams pursuing Love, Wiggins offers the most potential of any player available. But trading Love for a deal headlined by Wiggins and Bennett is Minnesota conceding another rebuilding project is underway.
Yahoo Sports reported the Timberwolves are contemplating dumping J.J. Barea and Kevin Martin in any deal that involves Love. It makes little sense to continue paying a total of $25 million to those two for a team going nowhere, so dumping those players would likely be a mandate from ownership, not the front office.
The Cavs don’t have the cap capacity to take on those players without dramatically altering the framework of the trade and very likely including a third team, so we’ll leave that discussion for another day.
The coach in Saunders, however, might prefer dealing with the Bulls, who can offer a package of Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott and perhaps Nikola Mirotic. None of those offer the upside of Wiggins, but it would prevent restarting another long, painful rebuilding process that has already proven unsuccessful once.
The Timberwolves, after all, haven’t reached the playoffs since trading Kevin Garnett seven years ago. Now they’re being forced to explore trading another franchise power forward.
The one saving grace for the Cavs is that the Bulls are in the same predicament. McDermott signed his contract Tuesday and therefore can’t be traded for 30 days. The Warriors, however, have no time constraints and are free to strike a deal whenever they’re willing to send Thompson on his way.
For now, the Cavs and Bulls will negotiate with one eye on Saunders and the other on the calendar. The Warriors are looming with Thompson while Love sits on his throne, the grand prize the rest of the league chases.
The clock is about to begin ticking. The landscape of the NBA is poised to change drastically. Again.