Cavaliers acquire Kevin Love ending Bulls reign as Eastern Conference favorites

Cavaliers acquire Kevin Love ending Bulls reign as Eastern Conference favorites

In a move that surprises virtually no one, the trade between the Cavaliers and Timberwolves was finally agreed upon in principle yesterday. The trade can't be made official until 30 days after Wiggins signed, but barring him Jay Williamsing himself before that point, the Cavaliers will acquire Kevin Love.

The deal itself was obviously orchestrated as part of LeBron signing in Cleveland. It was no accident that he didn't talk to Andrew Wiggins or mention his name in his letter.

Kudos to the Timberwolves for being patient and not taking a draft day offer from Chicago. I'll still smack them a bit for being so pumped up about Klay Thompson and smack the Golden State Warriors a bit for that too, but who knows what would have happened if Klay Thompson was on the table. This deal, to me, still trumps that one.

The Timberwolves land Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, and a 2015 1st rounder. I'm assuming that Bennett (despite his #1 pick status) actually brings negative value to the table and that the Cavs preferred to send him rather than sending Anderson Varejao. Still, the overall return is the best you're likely to get for an exiting star.

Especially one who's probably not a legit superstar despite superstar numbers. I think a legit superstar leads his team to the playoffs, and while I don't hold that against Kevin Love overall, I think it puts him in the star category and not the superstar category. The Timberwolves might not be loaded with awesome players, but they are hardly talentless either.

Either way, the move puts a Cleveland big three together of Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, and Kevin Love. They've signed Mike Miller, James Jones, and appear to be the favorites to land Ray Allen (if he doesn't retire) and Shawn Marion (though it hasn't happened yet, and he'd have to give up money so I am less certain about this one).

So when you take the big three and then look at the "next 5" which makes up your eight man rotation, the Cavs could potentially be putting out this:
LeBron, Love, Irving, Varejao, Waiters, Thompson, Marion, Miller with Jones/Allen still on the roster as well (or possibly moving up the food chain).

It wouldn't surprise me to see the Cavs look to move Waiters for a player with a bit more experience/stability as well, and they can probably find a pretty good match especially if they're willing to take on a little salary.

Talentwise? That roster is pretty stacked and isn't really lacking much in the depth department either. Unlike Miami, they have a couple young talented athletic guys to fill out the depth. Much like Miami, unless Thompson becomes an interior defensive force, they don't have much on the inside defensively.

Still, they're probably better than the Heat were on the glass and with interior defense for as long as Varejao can stay healthy. This really was a great move for LeBron in terms of finding a new talented team to land on. They'll have a Bulls like fear of injuries though as Varejao and Irving have both had difficulties staying healthy, and much of the rest of the roster is older guys.

So how will the Bulls match up against the Cavaliers now? Not particularly well I'm afraid. Pau Gasol is best suited to take advantage of where the Cavs are weak defensively, but I don't think at this point in his career he's a guy who's going to dominate them enough to make a difference, and the Cavs aren't nearly as weak inside as the Heat were.

Chicago will simply have to hope for better play through coaching/team effort which is a tall order, but it's always a tall order to beat the best player in the NBA. Ask anyone who went up against Jordan.

The Bulls will still have a shot, and not a bad shot, but their run as favorites? That ended yesterday.

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  • A couple random thoughts:

    1. Maybe Bennett plays better now without the pressure of being the #1 pick. Maybe that freaked him out. Of course, that means he would never be the type to lead his team to significant success but perhaps he can be a valuable starter who can eat up some serious minutes.

    2. Wiggins may turn out to be pedestrian but in the end this was a great trade for the Wolves. Of the non-contending teams I would say most would be willing to trade their best player in exchange for the number one pick in this draft. Making it better, of course, was that the T-wolves had very little leverage.

  • Last night on ESPN 1000, Jonathan Hood suggested LeBron and Love are guilty of collusion considering all the facts. I can't say I disagree with him. It isn't coincidental that LeBron's Sports Illustrated letter made no mention of Wiggins or Bennett. Then you consider Kevin Love opting out in able to resign with the Cavs for a five year max deal. It's all just too perfect. I'll say this; I hated it when David Stern blocked the Lakers trade for Chris Paul, but LeBron single handedly running the league isn't much better either--perhaps it's even worse. There's got to be a better way for the league and it's players to operate. I still believe the Bulls will compete very well against the Cavaliers next year.

  • In reply to Jmax:

    I agree that LeBron calling the shots is just bogus. But, what are you going to do when players collude? It's hard to police.

    LeBron probably should have not have mentioned his Cleveland teammates at all because it makes it look even worse.

  • With all due respect, I don't think the Cavs are the favorites and are better than the Heat was when they first got the big 3. All 3 guys from the Heat had an opportunity to play together before on US team. They were all considered superstars before they got together. Even Both had led his team to a playoffs with his garbage team. So, here we have LBJ with 2 star level guys who have filled the stats on bad teams and never led the teams to a playoff. On top of that, Love, LBJ and Irving never played a single minute together. And here we have the Bulls, with a better roster than 2011. So, I still consider the Bulls favorite this year to win the EC. I cannot say about 2015 though.

  • In reply to BullsDynasty:

    While I agree with you that the new big 3 is not better right now than the old big 3 was when they first got together, the could be better by the playoffs or certainly next season, and they are definitely better than the Miami big 3 would have been this season or over the next 5 years.

    However, they are still clearly the favorite in the East if not the entire league(slightly less so). Clevelands best player(Lebron) is better than ours(Rose), their second best player(Love) is better than ours(Noah), their third best player(Irving) is better than ours(Gasol/Gibson?) and at least right now their remaining roster is at least as good if not better than the rest of ours, at least until we find out about the M&M boys.

    This experience playing together argument seems more like an excuse looking for a reason. By the time the playoffs come around they'll have plenty of experience playing together. Sure this first season might be the leagues best chance at beating them, but they still have to be no less than 50/50 to win it all.

    Until Lebron starts to show serious signs of decline, they go into every season as the odds on favorite. When is that 3-4-5 years, Jordan was in his age 35 season when he won his last title with the Bulls. Could he have won another or perhaps 2, maybe, but he was definitely showing signs of not being the same player throughout the second 3 peat.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I don't agree that Irving is better than Gibson. Irving is inefficient on offense and bad on defense, and he also has a history of injuries.

    I also think the difference between Noah and Love is closer than you think. Certainly the Bulls would not trade Noah straight up for Love, nor would fans approve if they did.

    It's really about Rose vs. James, that's why the Cavs are favored.

  • In reply to TimS:

    Lets see one guy is already a multiple time all star and likely member of team USA. The other guy has never yet been a full time starter(non injury) in 5 years in the league. You are certainly entitled to your opinion, and I've always loved Taj(at least when he isn't too full of himself), but in a vacuum, given the choice between the 2 everybody takes Irving 99 times out of 100.

    Noah and Love may be closer than anyone thinks, and no one has been a bigger Noah fan from day one than I have, but again, in a vacuum, pretty much everybody takes Love 99 out of 100 times. Now that the Bulls have Gasol, or if they had kept Asik, they very likely would trade Noah straight up for Love, however, Minny would probably not do so.

    In any event, all that I am saying is that on paper the Cav's have to be the favorite and it isn't even that close. The Bulls still might have a better regular season record, just like they did over Miami in 2011, but we've already seen what that proves, absolutely squat.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Love shoots 3 of 15 from the 3's with the Bulls, all because of Noah. Rose is hands down better than Irving. Bulls bench is hands down better than Cavs bench. Bulls defense is top 3, Cavs defense is bottom 10. The only real advantage Cavs have is LBJ, but his team is not better than the Bulls this year. Hands down. Cavs have an unproved coach and it was very dysfunctional thus far. You are undermining the potential of Mirotic, who was Euro MVP, and plays and looks just like Kevin Love. I wouldn't bet on Cavs this year, considering both teams healthy.

  • I want to know if anyone expects LeBron to stick around for Loves entire contract? LeBron is on a 2 year deal with option to become a free agent next summer. There are plenty of teams looking at opening up cap space next summer any ways as Kevin Durant becomes a free agent. Who's to say LeBron doesn't bolt sometime in the next two years?

    I don't see the team in Cleveland this season being good enough to make it to the NBA Finals let alone win a Championship. I also don't know how they improve as they just traded away their young players with best chance to grow into stars.

    LeBron left Wade & Bosh in Miami after making it to the finals four years in a row... If he doesn't win a Championship in the next two years does anyone really think he will stick around Cleveland?

  • In reply to CPBuff22:

    Yes, he absolutely will, he went home, and he can get paid the most there, and eventually become the highest paid player in the game by 2016.

  • The East is now pretty stacked at the top with Chicago and Cleveland, assuming guys like Rose, Gasol, Irving and Verajao stay healthy. Man, it's gonna be awesome to watch!

    LeBron is the best player, but Chicago has depth and better defense. I do love that we have Butler to hound LeBron, plus Gibson and Noah. All 3 guys can be defensive players 1st team. If Rose steps up his D like he says he will, that could be nasty. (He should be needed less on O and have reduced minutes, so why not play high level D?)

    I'm excited to see Rose pick it up a notch for USA now that guys like Love, Goerge and Durant are not playing... Rose may be needed a bit more now.

  • In reply to Granby:

    It will likely come down to whose weakness is stronger. Cleveland will have great offense but struggle with defense. The Bulls have great defense, but struggle with offense. So will the Bulls offense be better than Clevelands defense. That will likely determine who comes out on top. If Cleveland ever gets the defense thing right, they likely can't be beat. Maybe that is where this Blatt guy comes in, I don't know.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    I think there is a vast underselling of the Cavs defensive ability. Cavs have the game's best defender in LBJ and a pretty stout guy in the middle in Varajao. While Waiters and Irving may not be premium defensively players, their athleticism will make up for any shortcoming and if they bring in Marion, he'll be a nice defensive lift.

    As someone else mentioned - wouldn't surprise me if Waiters gets dealt for a 3 and D guy to help shore up the defense while still providing floor spacing offense. What if Cavs offer Waiters to Grizz for Tony Allen. He's not much of a shooter but he's a pesk defensively, playoff experienced and has respectable offensive game.

  • There were too many questions about the Bulls' roster for me to ever peg them as a favorites. Aside from will Derrick Rose be able to stay healthy, who is/was going to create shots besides him? There were less questions about the Cavs in my mind even before Love. Having the best player in the league quiets a lot of questions. They were going to be fine regardless.

    Stars win in the NBA. Cleveland has three. The Bulls can't compete with that. You likened the Bulls to the championship Mavs team sometime, Doug. Dirk played like a German robot sent from the future to win a title and embarrass Miami that season. They had more shot creators and their role players shot absolutely out of their minds from three in the Finals. The Bulls aren't going to catch fire like that. I'm hoping for a long playoff run, but I know it will only end in heartbreak.

  • Well I officially get to hate LeBron again. I admit, going back to the Cavs made me hate him a little less. But the smug sense of entitlement - how he gets to pick the guys he wants to play with like the NBA is his personal playground and all the other unfortunate teams are the Washington Generals - is disgusting. The new Big 3 of LeBron, Love and Irving are probably not as good in terms of 2-way play as the original Heat trio, but the supporting cast appears as if it will be much better. - though still laden with over-the-hill former stars worshipping at the alter of the King.There is no question that Lebron left a sinking ship in Miami, weighted down by age and lack of flexiblity, for his new best super-friends opportunity - that coincidentally happed to be back "home". As more (and better) players in the future take less money to sign MLE's and BAE's to win championships w/King James, they will likely become invincible in time. But for this one year, the opportunity is there as it was in 2011. Hopefully Thibbs learned well, and the superior shooting talent this team appears to have can result in at least one year of wiping the self-satisfied smile off the King's face.

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    First things first...everything depends on Rose being healthy. So I'm going to run through this assuming that he'll be healthy. If he's not, there's no point in even discussing this. BUT I'm very optimistic that he'll remain healthy.

    Rose is better than Irving. On both sides of the ball, Rose is better. I can't remember a time when an opposing PG actually bested Rose over and over again in a matchup. Can you? He seems to relish the moments when he faces a top PG.

    And I know I'll get some flak for this...but I'd take Gasol/Noah over Love/Varejao any day of the week. Not only that, but the Bulls have Mirotic/Gibson off the bench. You can mix and match so much between these four guys that you can definitely find a combination that Cleveland's bigs won't be able to guard. I personally like Gibson/Gasol against that lineup, but if you want more offense, you can put Mirotic/Gasol. Maybe Mirotic forces Love to guard him out to the 3 point line where he can't impact the game as much with his rebounding. Also, Love and Thompson were 2 of the 5 worst interior defenders in the league last season.

    A huge thing being overlooked is Cleveland's complete lack of defense across the board. LeBron's defense isn't that great--despite what people think--he's vastly overrated. And now, in Cleveland, he'll be asked to do even more on that end. Who is guarding anybody at all on the perimeter? Cleveland is going to have use LeBron on the other team's best player every single game. For interior defense, I know they have Varejao, but what if the Bulls have two bigs out there who can score like Gibson and Gasol or Mirotic and Gasol? Cleveland isn't stopping anybody at the rim. Who on Cleveland's bench will be able to guard anyone?

    Regarding LeBron, the Bulls have the best LeBron defender in the league in Jimmy Butler. If Jimmy can improve his shooting and at least make LeBron work on defense, it's going to be really tough for Cleveland. Not only that, but the Bulls can even put Gibson on LeBron.

    In my opinion, the Bulls are not in a bad spot. It requires them to be healthy, of course, but let's not act like Cleveland's team isn't also littered with guys who get injured all the time. Even if everyone on both teams is healthy, I still like the Bulls' chances against them.

  • In reply to Colin Spence:

    You make the best point IMHO, that Cleveland is going to be very, very weak defensively.

    From Bill Simmons' latest on Love:

    Of anyone averaging 30-plus minutes per game at power forward or center last season, the NBA’s five worst interior defenders were Thaddeus Young (60.2% FG), Tristan Thompson (59.1%), Kevin Love (57.4%), Nikola Vucevic (56.4%) and Nikola Pekovic (55.2%).

    By that same criterion, the NBA’s worst shot-blockers were Zach Randolph at 0.3 blocks per game, David Lee, Thompson and Pekovic at 0.4 blocks, then Love, Young and Glen Davis at 0.5 blocks.

    http://grantland.com/features/kevin-love-lebron-james-trade-minnesota-timberwolves/

    Love and Thompson is the worst possible defensive front-court a team could have, and IMHO that will be the Cavs' downfall.

    Sideshow Bob is getting old and injury-prone, and he wasn't a shot-blocker and/or rim protecter even when young and healthy. He has missed 156 of 312 games over the last 4 years, and he and LeBron are the only possible starters with even one game of playoff experience.

    What made the Heat so special the last 4 seasons was their defense, and this Cavs team simply doesn't have it.

  • There's no question the Cavs are the favorites, but the Bulls are contenders, and it's quite plausible that they could defeat the Cavs. It will be a great contest, I'm looking forward to it.

  • I find this whole argument that Lebron(and Love) as well as Wade and Bosh before them, have done something wrong by agreeing ("conspiring") to play together to be nothing more than childish/petulant jealousy.

    Players in all sports used to be virtual slaves to the teams that drafted them. Even today, sports stars still have much less ability to chose where they work and who they work with than does the rest of society. So when they do get a chance to influence those things why shouldn't they do whatever they can within the system to create the most desirable team to play for. It would be idiotic not too.

    Most players don't have the star power to do this, Lebron as the best player in the world has the most power of any player, at this time. The only limiting factor is the salary cap and the timing of other star players contracts.

    Kevin Durant may be in the same position in the summer of 2016. Who knows, if Rose had never been injured maybe he would have been in a similar position. Whether he was savvy enough to to take advantage of it is another matter altogether.

    In fact it seems like the same people excoriating Rose for not recruiting are the same ones crying about Lebon "cheating".

    It's not fair, wa, wa, wa. Must be a gen-x or millennial thing. Its the real world people, not everyone gets a prize or a trophy.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Yeah it's funny how fans can be so hypocritical but as you said it comes down to jealousy. You can't blame Bulls fans all that much for their hate toward Lebron. The man has knocked us out 3 of the last 5 playoffs, could have been 4 of 5 if Rose never got injured.

  • Well, I for one am glad that the Bulls did not overpay for Love.

    There are some major unknowns for both Cleveland and Chicago. However some basics have been pointed out here already.

    1) We do not know about Cleveland's D, but it does not look great.

    2) We know Chicago's D was fabulous last year, and it got better with Gasol and Rose.

    3) Cleveland has two ot the top scorers in the league - their O will be great, but will it jell enough to overcome lax D?

    4) The O of the Bulls will be better, but how much? Enough to overtake the Cavs? It appears that will depend on three factors. McDermott and Mirotic and Thibs.

    M and M are deadly shooters, plus they can drive and score. If they click, this team will be unstoppaBull on O. Can Thibs scheme to keep the opposing D off guard? Can he keep everyone rested? Can he hand out enough minutes to keep everyone interested? This is a very deep squad, so that could be a challenge.

    5) If the team needs the SG near the deadline, the FO has enough to get that player for the playoff run.

    In short, the Bulls have enough potential to take the Cavs. I would say it's about 50/50.

  • I think the Cavs are a different version of the Heat and the Bulls are a different version of the Spurs. The Spurs showed that team basketball with size, solid defensive principles, players who can shoot and share the ball can dominate a team built around three stars. The Cavs pieces fit a little better on offense, but the Heat were an incredible defensive team with Bosh, James, Wade, Battier when they won their titles. This Cavs team will not be. The Cavs are a wonderful offensive team, but this Bulls team with Rose, Gibson, Noah and Butler will be a defensive juggernaut and very good offensively.

  • Many people are forgetting that the "New" Cavs have to get to use to each other on the floor..........this Bulls team gel pretty good together.......Cavs might be the favorites to many media people, but the Bulls will win the East.

  • I dont understand all the LBJ-Love collusion talk or the whole LBJ is ruining the league because he's picking his guys to come play with him.

    The only reason this deal is possible is because the Cavs got the #1 pick. If there is no Wiggins, then Cavs are NOT getting Love. Wolves would hold him or trade him for something else. Unless you're somehow saying the league colluded to give the Cavs the #1 pick, then everything else falls apart.

    Part of being the best player in basketball and a guy who is willing and not thretened to play with other superstars (I'm looking at you DRose) is that if the opportunity presents itself, guys will try and join you if you give them the best chance to win a championship.

  • This Cavs team MIGHT be better than this years Heat, but the first three years of Lebron and Wade? No chance in hell. Plus their perimeter D isn't going to come close to Lebron and pre-zombie Wade. As for the Heat bench, even if Allen returns, I don't see a strong bench, let alone one stronger than the Bulls. Miller is absolutely washed up, Jones isn't a prize, Waiters is good but I have a feeling he'll get moved, Thompson is mediocre. The Bulls have three tall, high percentage 3 guys. Dunleavy, Mirotic, and maybe even McDermott are all better than every single player on the Cavs bench besides maybe Ray Allen and Waiters. That doesn't mention Taj, who if he does come off the bench, is also better than all those players, even Ray Allen at this point. I have a question Doug, if you put Love on last years Cavs team, do you think they get a top 4 seed in the East? I honestly doubt it, next years Heat, will absolutely finish in the top 4 in the East, even in an improved East. I think this Cavs squad is setup for an unfortunately long period of elite play, but I absolutely do not see them dominating the league, or the Bulls, like the Heat of years 1-3. This Bulls team is better suited to play this years Cavs than the Bulls of 2011 were to play that years Heat.

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