The impending trade of Kevin Love to the Cavaliers gained even more steam Thursday.
There wasn’t much fresh news, but Adrian Wojnarowski, a highly respected and well-connected writer for Yahoo Sports, reported the Cavs will send Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a 2015 first-round pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Love.
The deal has been in the news for the better part of a week — the earliest the Cavs can officially trade Wiggins is Aug. 23 — but Wojnarowski also reported Cleveland has a firm agreement that Love will opt out of his contract at the end of the 2014-15 season and sign a five-year, $120 million deal with the team.
It was previously believed the Cavs would have to involve a third team or add another player to the deal to make it work under salary cap guidelines, but that’s not the case. Wiggins ($5.5 million in 2013-14) and Bennett ($5.56 million) have high enough salaries that a deal for Love ($15.7 million) fits the criteria.
It is believed the 2015 first-round pick the Cavs will send to Minnesota will be one they previously acquired from Miami.
Because Wiggins, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, can’t be traded until 30 days after he signed his rookie contract, there’s always the possibility another team could enter the picture and sweep Minnesota off its feet.
However, with Love already on record as saying he will opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, that team would likely need strong assurance it would be able to re-sign the 6-foot-10, 260-pounder.
Love, a three-time All-Star who averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists last season, has made it clear he wants to be traded to Cleveland and will re-sign with the Cavs.
Neither the trade nor the re-signing of Love will be done deals until they’re totally finalized, but the deal for Wiggins, Bennett and a first-round pick appears set. Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said over the weekend he expected Love to be dealt Aug. 23 or 24, which coincides with when Wiggins can be traded.
When the deal is finalized, the Cavs will be a heavy favorite to win the Eastern Conference, with Chicago viewed as their stiffest competition. They’ll also be the favorite to win the NBA Finals, but San Antonio, Oklahoma City, the Los Angeles Clippers and several other teams in the West are very strong.
Team USA and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and former NBA coach George Karl are among those who have said trading for the 25-year-old Love is a no-brainer, even though the 19-year-old Wiggins could develop into a star.
Four-time league MVP LeBron James, two-time All-Star Kyrie Irving and Love combined to average 74 points, 23 rebounds and 16.9 assists last season, when all were their team’s No. 1 option on offense. Their combined scoring total is likely to drop with all three on the same team, but the rebounding and assist numbers could actually go up in Cleveland.
With Dion Waiters at shooting guard and Anderson Varejao at center, plus guys like Tristan Thompson, Mike Miller, Matthew Dellavedova, James Jones and perhaps Shawn Marion and Ray Allen coming off the bench, new coach David Blatt will inherit a team loaded with talent.
Marion met with the Cavs earlier this week and is close to signing for the veteran minimum of $1.4 million, though Indiana may attempt to lure him away with a bigger offer.
The 39-year-old Allen is considering retirement, but Cleveland is the favorite to sign him if he elects to play another season, with the Clippers also a possibility.