Now that we've heard from Woj, it's time to start looking ahead at what's next for the Wolves.
The trade as reported is more or less what we've been expecting a two-team trade would look like: Kevin Love for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, and a protected first rounder in 2015. We don't have details on the pick as yet; the Cavs hold the Heat and Grizzlies picks with various protections for 2015, as well as their own pick. However, Woj just tweeted this:
In Kevin Love deal, Cavs likely to send Wolves the 2015 protected first-rounder it owns via Miami, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) August 7, 2014
That pick is top 10 protected in 2015 and 2016, then unprotected. It seems likely that the Wolves will get that pick in 2015, and it will fall around #20. Not a huge asset, but nice to have.
Let's start here:
Andrew Wiggins is going to play. If I had to bet, I'd bet on him being the starting small forward for the Wolves on opening night. I don't think he's going to be very good as a rookie, but he's the prize of this deal, and the Wolves will give him every chance to play and get better.
There are reasons for hope and reasons for doubt concerning his future, but we'll have plenty of time to discuss his game and development in the coming weeks, months, and years.
Anthony Bennett...that's where things get sticky. He was the surprise first pick in the 2013 draft, and had a historically dreadful rookie year. There were reasons--health issues led to conditioning issues, and things got started badly and simply got worse. He looked in better shape at Summer League last month, but didn't play particularly well. There is little reason to have confidence that he will ever emerge as a useful player, and he is getting paid like a #1 pick. If he remains with the Wolves, they will have to decide whether to pick up his 2015-16 option before this season starts. They will almost certainly do so.
Which raises the question: will he be on the Wolves? There has been chatter that the Wolves will re-route him to Philadelphia in exchange for Thad Young. Woj's reporting today has this as only a 2 team deal, but given that it cannot be executed until August 23rd, there is still time for that to change. There are various conflicting reports about this possibility, that range from the Wolves not wanting to give up Bennett (and likely a pick) for a guy who can opt out after a year, to the Sixers not being interested in Bennett for Young.
Regardless, the Wolves will need to do something about the roster and the power forward position. Assuming the trade as reported, the Wolves will have 16 guaranteed contracts, but are allowed only 15 roster players in season. They need to move at least one player, even if that just means cutting someone or buying them out.
It's hard to imagine J.J. Barea being on the squad next season, given that the Wolves signed Mo Williams to take on the back up point guard role, but moving him in a trade might not be simple. Alexey Shved is another player the Wolves would probably like to move, along with perhaps Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Chase Budinger. Rumors suggest that Corey Brewer and Kevin Martin are players Flip Saunders would like to keep.
The impression is that the Wolves are going to try to walk a line of rebuilding without tearing down completely. This is difficult, but a reasonable choice. Given that, I would not expect guys like Martin or Nikola Pekovic to go anywhere while the Wolves do their best to win games this season, but they will also likely try to get playing time for Wiggins, Zach LaVine, and Gorgui Dieng as they try to develop their next core.
But the roster as it stands (with this trade) needs to be balanced. Anthony Bennett and Luc Mbah a Moute doesn't work as a power forward tandem, and I don't think Flip wants to approach the season without making further changes at this position. Whether it's Thad Young or someone else, I expect further movement one way or another. In attempting to balance trying to win with retaining and developing young players, Flip needs to decide what he's willing to part with in order to stabilize the roster.
I would be willing to move Bennett and the Miami first for an upgrade at the four, but it's tough to pull the trigger on what might be a one year player. Still, I would take the gamble on Thad Young, I think, who I like quite a bit. Of course, that deal might not be available.
There are plenty of other players, from pipe dreams like Paul Millsap or Ryan Anderson, to more modest possible acquisitions like Jonas Jerebko. Whether Flip is able to engineer a good deal for a power forward will be something we'll be looking forward to over the next month or so.
It's a huge disappointment that the Wolves are trading Kevin Love. Teams don't win trades when they move a superstar, and the Wolves aren't going to win this one.
Under the circumstances, the Wolves likely did OK for themselves. There remains work to do in order to reshape the roster to get the most out of it in this year and in years to come.
A decade without playoffs looks almost certain to continue. I can't say I'm happy about where things are. I can only hope that Andrew Wiggins is everything good he's supposed to be.