The Cleveland Cavaliers’ transformation from a rudderless franchise to a championship contender is close to completion after the team reached an agreement in principle Thursday to acquire three-time all-star Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The deal would send Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett — the top overall picks of the past two NBA drafts — and a protected 2015 first-round pick to Minnesota for Love, according to multiple news outlets.
After missing the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season after LeBron James bolted for Miami, the Cavaliers’ offseason has been full of good fortune. They won the right to select Wiggins after winning the NBA draft lottery for the third time in four years in May, were able to tie up two-time all-star Kyrie Irving with a five-year, $90 million agreement on the first day of free agency and scored the biggest coup of the offseason when James decided to return to the team with whom he spent his first seven seasons.
The arrival of James immediately turned Cleveland into a destination, something that couldn’t be said during his first run with the organization, when an inability to attract a talented sidekick eventually forced him to hook up with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in Miami. That trio made four consecutive NBA Finals trips and won two championships together.
Love has made his desire to leave Minnesota — a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2004 — and join a contending team known for months. He never would’ve considered Cleveland without James around and enjoyed the experience of winning a gold medal with the four-time MVP in the 2012 London Olympics.
The Cavaliers tried to trade for the 25-year-old Love before the NBA draft but couldn’t get him to make a long-term commitment to a team with unproven talent. According to Yahoo! Sports, which first reported the deal, Love and the Cavaliers have a “firm agreement” that he will re-sign with the team after opting out of his contract and becoming a free agent in July 2015. Such an arrangement, however, would violate the league’s collective bargaining agreement.
James, 29, also has the option to become a free agent next summer, but it would be difficult to leave a burgeoning Eastern Conference power in his home state. Cleveland has not won a major professional sports championship since 1964 and the Cavaliers only made it to the NBA Finals once, in James’s fourth season with the team in 2007 .
Love, a 6-foot-10 power forward, is coming off the best season of his career, averaging 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists, but it wasn’t good enough to lift the Timberwolves to the postseason in the stacked Western Conference. Love has yet to make the playoffs in six seasons in the NBA.
The trade cannot be completed until Aug. 23 because draft picks cannot be dealt until 30 days after signing a contract. Wiggins, 19, signed his rookie deal on July 24.