We’ve been “officially” waiting for Wiggins for 29 days now, but it’s really been longer than that. The very moment that the Cavs won the draft lottery, they entered the Kevin Love Sweepstakes.
That was my instant reaction on Draft Lottery night, during the little commercial break between the 4th Pick and 3rd Pick announcements, when it first sunk in that Cleveland was moving up and landing yet another top draft choice; this time, in a stacked draft year. The thought was that the Cavs might prefer Love to their top draft choice, whether it be Wiggins or somebody else like Joel Embiid, so that they could pair franchise guard Kyrie Irving with another All-Star and start winning some playoff games.
It turned out that was not quite enough. No, Love was not going to Cleveland — well, he would not agree to re-sign there, next year — until they added LeBron James via free agency. Once that small step was completed, this thing became realistic.
What has been shocking from the Wolves-fan perspective is how Flip Saunders — by all accounts — has twisted his leverage-less position into one of immense power. His player made it known to all that he will not be a Minnesota Timberwolf beyond 2015, when he can exercise his option and become an unrestricted free agent. In this fact scenario, Flip is supposed to be more of a beggar than a chooser, let alone One Who Dictates The Terms.
For this reason, I thought there was a strong likelihood that the Wolves would have to send Gorgui Dieng — one of the best players from the 2013 Draft Class — back to the Cavs in order to land Wiggins.
Instead, the Wolves — by all accounts — will not be sending Gorgui anywhere. Instead, they will also be receiving Anthony Bennett, and a future first round pick from Miami that they will then turn around and send to Philadelphia with Alexey Shved and Luc Mbah a Moute for Thaddeus Young!
Here are the pertinent Woj Bombs from late last night, which provided rock-solid certainty to what our local beat guys have been saying for a while now:
So, for a player who has semi-publicly announced his intentions to leave in one year, the Timberwolves are going to acquire:
2014 1st Overall Pick Andrew Wiggins
2013 1st Overall Pick Anthony Bennett
Thaddeus Young, one of the league’s top ten power forwards
I don’t really understand how this happened. Or is going to happen tomorrow, I should say. I know that it obviously required a great deal of good fortune, including and probably not limited to the following:
* The Cavs having so much lottery luck to hoard young talent that a rebuilding team would desire;
* The Warriors refusing to a mega-deal involving Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and David Lee, for Kevin Love and Kevin Martin;
* The Cavs signing LeBron; and
* LeBron requesting, maybe outright demanding, that the Cavs immediately trade for Love, even if it means losing Andrew Wiggins.
Now, you can #WellActually all of this and point out that the best player in the deal is going to Cleveland so this is not as great as I’m making it sound. But the point is, given the circumstances, this is absolutely the greatest return imaginable and will go down as one of the biggest trades in NBA history. Maybe even THE biggest, if it leads to a Cavs title and a successful, sustainable rebuild in Minnesota that includes long-term success.
When Flip Saunders was hired as the Wolves President of Basketball Operations, there were mixed reactions, but few seemed legitimately excited about it. I know that I wasn’t. But the big-picture task for him to be judged on was his handling of Kevin Love. By the time Flip was hired, Love had already done his Woj interview and everybody understood his frustration with this organization. Bill Simmons had gone on record saying that Love would be traded. This seemed like a likely possibility and it was something that Flip had to be ready to handle as best as possible.
In matters of NBA front office moves, we talk about things like “process versus results,” and luck, and it is easy to define an executive’s legacy however you’d like. Even the San Antonio Spurs — the league’s Gold Standard for operations — required incredible luck in winning the David Robinson and Tim Duncan draft lotteries. And with Flip Saunders right now, you can certainly obsess over the fact that he would’ve pulled the trigger on a Klay Thompson deal had it been offered, or you can obsess over the fact that landing Andrew Wiggins required so many other huge dominos to fall first. That’s fine.
But the manner in which Flip has executed the details of this trade — not giving up any additional assets of note, waiting out the 30 days to allow Wiggins contract to be absorbed without others, and going out and acquiring Thaddeus Young without giving up Anthony Bennett in the process — unquestionably demand respect. The only tactical strategy that I can think of that might have given him undue leverage is that he and Glen Taylor have ALWAYS maintained that they would just as soon keep Kevin Love and try to make the playoffs next year. They were thought to be crazy, but it might have been just that perceived craziness that gave them an upper hand in negotiations.
In any event, it sounds like the formal deal goes down tomorrow and it’ll be a new day for Timberwolves fans.
In honor of Flip being ready when the proverbial “shit went down” with Kevin Love, here is some Cypress Hill for you on this Friday morning: