The details are what we have been hearing about for a few days now:
Kevin Love goes to the Cavaliers, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Alexey Shved go to the 76ers, who also get Miami's top 10 protected pick in 2015, while the Wolves receive Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, and Thaddeus Young.
First things first: let's pour one out for Kevin Love.
Six years as a Wolf, and Love is the 2nd best player in franchise history. He was a monster, and a truly unique player, regularly putting up numbers rarely or never seen before in NBA history. I'll miss his incredible displays of scoring and rebounding, and the stuff he adds to his game every season. It was a tremendous run, despite the lack of team success.
Love came into the league from UCLA as the 5th pick in the 2008 draft. The Wolves executed a draft night trade to acquire him for O.J. Mayo (the third pick) with other parts changing hands. It was one of the best trades in Wolves history, as Love showed his talent even as a rookie. Despite such incredible competition for playing time from legends like Ryan Hollins and Anthony Randolph, Love was not to be denied, and emerged as a star by his third year. He continually reshaped his game and his body, adding new facets each season and making the All-NBA 2nd team twice in his Wolves career. It was a great run, marred by the team's failures to reach the post-season due to terrible management.
I'm going to miss him, but it's going to be pretty amazing to see him play with LeBron James.
The other two outgoing players cause a less emotional response. Luc Mbah a Moute was acquired last season in exchange for Derrick Williams from the Sacramento Kings, but failed to make an impact. Always known for his defense, especially on bigger wing players, Mbah a Moute's struggles to make shots in a Wolves uniform saw him lose playing time quickly under coach Rick Adelman. I had always been a fan of his prior to his arrival, but he did not do much while he was here. He has one year left on his contract, and is coveted by Philly because he has been a mentor for rookie Joel Embiid, a fellow native of Cameroon.
I am a bit disappointed to say goodbye to Alexey Shved, for whom I have always had a soft spot. I really liked watching him in Europe, and thought he was going to be a good pro, so I was thrilled when the Wolves showed some creativity and initiative and signed him as a free agent. The truth is, he has struggled badly in the NBA, and at 26 is unlikely to get a whole lot better. While I still think there might be a worthwhile NBA player there, it simply hasn't happened with the Wolves. His poor shooting and inconsistent ball handling left him with only sporadic playing time last season after playing a lot due to injuries during his rookie year. I'll root for him, but I'm not expecting much anymore.
THE NEW GUYS
I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this here, because we have covered two of the three Wolves acquisitions pretty well in recent days.
Andrew Wiggins, who had a huge amount of hype coming out of high school from Toronto, had a good but not great freshman year at Kansas. He is a physical marvel who has his plusses and minuses on the basketball court, like almost all rookies.
Key Dae published an excellent article highlighting his strengths and weaknesses using video from his summer league performances yesterday to go along with vjl110's terrific piece finding optimism despite some red flags in the numbers from his season at Kansas. I refer you to those pieces for more on our shiny new rookie small forward.
Beyond that, I will just say: while many are hailing this as a terrific trade for the Wolves given the circumstances, there is significant risk here as well. While I really like Thad Young, and the Wolves are also getting Bennett, this trade is about Wiggins. All the eggs are in that basket, and if he doesn't pan out, this trade isn't looking so good two years from now. There is hope in youth, and I applaud Flip (modestly, like a golf clap) for getting this trade done, but it could go sideways. Let's hope it doesn't.
Still, this is better than some of the alternatives. Certainly Saunders showed patience waiting for this deal to become available, and obviously had some good fortune as well with LeBron deciding to return to Cleveland. He didn't pull the trigger on what would have been a bad Golden State trade, and it's unclear whether other good offers ever materialized. While there was a good argument for keeping Love around for one more year and forcing him to walk away from more guaranteed money from the Wolves, it was also clear that he pretty desperately wanted out. Ultimately, the Wolves put themselves in this situation, and have extricated themselves with at least a modicum of grace.
I am a big fan of Thad Young, and despite the fact that he has an ETO he can exercise next summer, I think it's a good thing to bring in a veteran who is both a quality player (yay good players!) and by all accounts a hard worker to play alongside so many young guys. For better or worse, Flip isn't punting this season, as the acquisition of Young demonstrates. That's a good thing. I wrote about Young and what he means last week, and refer you to that for more on our new starting power forward.
And then there is Anthony Bennett. We'll have more on him later, but you know the short story. Surprise #1 overall pick in 2013's weak draft, was injured and overweight at the start of last year, suffered from breathing ailments, and ultimately generated a historically bad season as a rookie, only modestly mitigated by his improvement late in the year. It's hard for me to get excited about him, especially because he isn't going to be particularly inexpensive for the next couple of seasons, but I suppose there remains some hope there. He wasn't a fantastic prospect coming out of college, according to most models, but he did show some agility and scoring talent at UNLV. He looked slimmer at summer league, and will have time to develop behind Thad Young.
The Wolves now have 15 players with guaranteed contracts for 2014-15. Here is something of a depth chart (feel free to quibble):
Of course, many of these players can slide between more than one position, but this list has some symmetry at least. No Love means a worse team, without question. How much worse remains to be seen. There is an argument that the depth will be better this season (the bench could hardly be worse) with Dieng ready to take on a backup role full time this year and hopefully Mo Williams at least looking less painful than J.J.
One thing to notice is that there will be no Glenn Robinson III if there aren't further moves. Teams are only permitted to control 15 players during the season, and right now, they are at the limit. The obvious change is finding a new home (or buying out) J.J. Barea, who has little place on the squad as of now. The Wolves signed Mo Williams to take the backup point guard job, and J.J. isn't a guy you probably want around if he isn't playing. The local reporters suggest that nobody is interested at the moment, so for now, he's still around. It wouldn't surprise me to see him bought out, as much as that would pain Glen Taylor.
Another interesting question is: assuming this roster, who doesn't play? It's difficult to regularly run more than 10 guys out there, and even 10 is pushing it. Of course there will be injuries, there always are, but with the entire roster healthy, who do you bench? From a pure winning standpoint, it's likely Bennett, LaVine, Muhammad and Hummel that are the obvious guys to bench, but it seems unlikely that Flip will go that route. Something to watch.
THE SALARY CAP
Now that the trade is done, it's time to take a look at the Wolves cap situation over the next couple of seasons:
The italics for Rubio's salaries in future years are of course just place holder estimates as his extension is yet to be determined. The bold figures are player options. I have assumed that the Wolves will pick up all team options on rookie contracts going forward, which I think is highly likely though not set in stone.
We can see that if all three players with options for 2015-16 stay, the team will not see any cap room next summer. The only way they will have any significant room is if those players choose to become free agents. As usual, the Wolves have too many players making between $5 and $10M a year, which is poor cap management, but there you have it. The outline of the team is set for the next couple of seasons, as there will be very little flexibility. Those contracts Flip handed out last summer in the hopes for the playoffs aren't looking so great at the moment, especially if Budinger and Brewer opt in for their final years.
Well, for better or worse it's done. The Kevin Love era has ended in Minnesota. It was a frustrating time made better by getting to watch one of the league's best players night in and night out.
Now the Wolves begin again with the hope that Ricky Rubio takes the reins of the team this season and that Andrew Wiggins shows flashes of stardom that will be desperately needed if this team is going to move forward.
The team will hold a press conference to introduce their new players sometime this week; we'll keep you updated.
Meanwhile, now that's all over, how are you feeling?