This is part two in my look at the trade market for Kevin Love, and how the Cavs stack up against the other potential suitors. In part one, I evaluated which teams had both the assets and desirable situation to entice Love to stay and came out with a lineup of Boston, Cleveland, Denver, Golden State, and Washington as potential trade destinations.
Part of the difficulty here is figuring out what Minnesota wants. Early reports indicate that Minnesota prefers to get NBA ready players over draft picks and prospects. On one hand, this is a counterintuitive strategy since most teams losing top-level stars chose to do a full teardown and rebuild through the draft. On the other hand, there is a compelling case to be made for Flip Saunders not wanting to rebuild because he is the poor sap that would have to coach that abomination of a squad.
I’m proceeding under the assumption that Flip will come his senses and choose the picks. Not only is it the time-honored way for small market teams to start over, you could make a case that it’s easier to get young talent than good veterans (without atrocious contracts) anyway. Contending teams are more willing to give up future picks and even promising rookies because unless you're the Spurs, championship windows are usually very narrow. That narrow window means that often top teams are willing to trade promising picks and players so they don't have to give up key elements of their rotations that could cost them a championship.
This all adds up to a really unfortunate situation for Minnesota. Despite people getting on him for it, Kevin Love did the T'Wolves a solid by letting them know that he wasn't resigning there. Now, they can get something of decent value for him, rather than the pittance of a sign and trade next offseason. Still, teams know that he's only got one year left on his contract, and few if any teams are going to give up much for a player with one year left, unless they get assurances that he is willing to commit to them by opting in, or signaling that he'll resign at the end of the year. All of this means that the market is still going to be pretty uncompetitive. The few teams with desirable assets and a desirable situation is very slim (five teams, by my count). The fact is, Minnesota isn't going to get an epic haul in all likelihood. Much more likely is a nice little package of good young players and draft picks. This trade is probably not going to give us the next great Timberwolf Timberwolve Minnesota basketball player, just some guys that can contribute when they finally (FINALLY!) turn things around.
Which brings me to the Cavs. The Cavs are the only team that has two realistic strategies they can use to pursue Kevin Love. First is to offer Andrew Wiggins. That offer wins. There is no combination of anything that any of the other teams can offer with more league-wide value than Wiggins. If they go that route (and it sounds like they will not) then it's game over.
The second path is to package picks and players not named Andrew Wiggins to see if they can entice Minnesota into a trade that way. They will likely hold out hope for Wiggins, but the Cavs have a real shot even if they don't. We've seen what the other suitors can offer. Let's take a look at what the Cavs have, shall we?
Andrew Wiggins- Probably the most hyped high school player since LeBron James. Incredible athleticism, but his game is still raw. Probably one of the ten most valuable trade assets in the league because of his upside and salary.
Dion Waiters- Cavs fans probably irrationally love the guy, and national fans and writers irrationally hate him. I mean, they have to hate him, because if they don't hate him (along with Bennett and Tristan Thompson), how can you justify "The Cavs are teh Dumbest Team Ever!" line of thinking? The reality is that Dion is volatile player to project, because his skill set and mindset are going to be either boom or bust. Someone on Twitter very smartly said of Waiters something to the extent of "he has to be one of your best two or three players to be successful, but if he's one of your best two or three players, you suck." I think if he dials himself in, I think he has the skills to be a fantastic complementary player, but I don't think he is willing to do that right now. It doesn't really matter how good he is in this scenario, nor how good he is going to be. What matters is how much other GMs (notably Flip Saunders) are going to value him. I am in no way plugged into the inner workings of front offices, but if I had to give him a value, it would be something in the late lotto. I think there are teams that would give a 10-15 pick for him, if for no other reason than his still untapped potential.
Tristan Thompson- Are the Cavs locked to TT because he and LeBron share an agent? Maybe, but let's assume here that he is fair game. In a sense, Thompson and Waiters are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Where Waiters has shown flashes of brilliance and rough edges, Thompson looks right now to be topping out as a near elite rebounder who can eventually be a good but not great defender and provide you with little more than putbacks and the occasional floater on offense. Twenty years ago, that would have some pretty strong value, but in today's game that favors passing and shooting from power forwards, he projects as little more than an energy rebounder who clogs the paint. He's got the athletic ceiling to be more than that, but I wouldn't bet on it at this point. I can't really see him having a huge value on the trade market either. While he has flaws, the law of NBA restricted free agency says that any player with a conceivable ceiling will receive at least one absurd offer, which means that I'd bet that next year he gets an offer sheet of at least 10-12 million from some lunatic GM and that would drive his value into the toilet if I was Flip.
Anthony Bennett- "Anthony Bennett is the worst #1 pick of all time!" say people who like hot sports takes and love to make LOUD NOISES! The truth is that he certainly had one of the worst first years ever, and if he doesn't get radically better quick, he will be the worst #1 overall pick of all time. If you trade him now, you will be selling super low, but I don't buy that he has no value. His conditioning and injuries and commitment were all concerns last year, but those are all more or less fixable things. On the other hand, you can't teach a combination of size, athleticism and ball skill that Bennett has. Even if he's a long shot to be a star, I think there is still a strong market for him among GMs that would love to see if they could turn him into a player.
Anderson Varajao- I'm not going to talk about Andy as a basketball player here, because if he is traded, it will be as a contract to buy out. I think the Cavs are probably reluctant to include him, since he's a LeBron guy, but if you have to do it to take on a contract, I think they will. If Minnesota is going to rebuild, they might value a nice, old fashioned salary dump in the process.
Brendan Haywood- I doubt Minnesota would care that they can use him like a trade exception next summer. They wouldn't probably be bringing in big salary guys, so they wouldn't really have much interest in his contract.
Matthew Delladova- He can play defense and chew bubblegum at the same time, makes nothing, and can fit into pretty much any deal. yes, there is plenty of value for Delly.
The rest- Felix, Powell, Harris and any other miscellaneous parts that I might be forgetting. None have great value, but their all on cheap deals and could be used as sweeteners or at least salary ballast to make a deal work.
Draft picks- The Cavs have all their own draft picks, besides a protected pick likely to go to Boston in two years, Miami's next year (top ten protected, probably in the range of 16-20) Memphis's (with protections that mean it's probably going to be a mid to late first whenever it finally gets conveyed and all their own second rounders.
So how do these picks stack up against the other contenders? Stay tuned for part III!