Kevin Love to Cleveland: The Rare NBA Trade That Works for Both Sides

Players with the talent level of Kevin Love don't get traded in their primes. But he did, and it makes sense for both teams.

Historically, when you trade a superstar, you’re not going to get back anything close to it in return. But how does the two most recent number-one picks sound?

It was just announced that Kevin Love is heading to the Cavs, as we all expected, for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, and a protected first-round pick. If I were a fan of either the Cavs or Timberwolves, I'd be happy. Here's why.

Cleveland Gets a Superstar

Let’s start with why this is great for the Cavs.

By advanced statistics, Kevin Love was the third-best player in the NBA last year. His 14.3 total win shares was only behind Kevin Durant and LeBron James. And this is an important point that people seem to miss – win shares is a cumulative statistic. Players gather both offensive and defensive win shares and their total win shares is the sum.

Thus, all people who scream that Kevin Love is somehow less than a superstar because of his defense should remember that it was still good enough to have the third-highest win shares in the league. In fact, his 3.7 defensive win shares was 27th in the league, ahead of LeBron James, Andre Drummond, and the guy who he is going to be compared to ad nauseam for the next several years, Chris Bosh.

But why would the Cavs trade their two most recent number-one picks for Kevin Love? Well, it certainly helps that he’s agreeing to sign a long-term deal. (The opt-out thing is expected; there’s no reason any superstar in the current CBA would ever opt into their last year. It makes zero financial sense.) And when you have the best player in the world in his prime, you maximize it.

Andrew Wiggins may or may not be a superstar in this league. For the Cavs, I’d argue that it doesn’t matter. Historical data shows that young players have a learning curve and it takes a couple years before they’re elite. If you’re Cleveland, you can't afford to wait for Wiggins to blossom – as Paul George has shown us, you never know when your championship window is going to shut.

Timberwolves Get Rare Value

For the Timberwolves, you get two young potential stars on rookie contracts for a guy who was going to walk away at the end of the year anyway. And they played this well – the Cavs had to trade for Kevin Love (they don’t have the cap space to sign him outright next year), and they flirted enough with other teams like the Bulls to make the Cavs worry.

They will certainly not be a playoff team next year, but letting Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett develop along with freak athlete Zach LaVine isn’t a bad deal at all. They all have tremendous upside, and if just one of them turns into a star, then this deal is great for Minnesota.

The Wolves aren’t known for making savvy business decisions, but waiting until now to trade Kevin Love was a fantastic decision. Just think of what they would have gotten if they had bitten the bullet and traded him during last season – they wouldn't have gotten anything close to the upside that Wiggins and Bennett gives you. Not to mention, now they will probably be a lottery team and get another high-upside guy. The future isn’t so bleak in Minnesota.

Both Teams Win

The Cavaliers probably jump to being the Vegas favorites to take home the title next year. I still don’t know if they beat the Spurs or Clippers in the NBA Finals, but at least it’s a question now, whereas before I thought it would be a five-game series in the Finals, no matter the Western or Eastern opponent.

There will be some growing pains as all of these players learn to play together. However, it was just four years ago that we were all claiming that LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh would never learn to play together because of their super high usage rates. LeBron is a leader – they’ll figure it out.

This is one of the biggest trades in NBA history. We never have a guy like Kevin Love traded during his prime, and we never have a number-one pick traded before he even plays a game. The courses of the future have been etched, now we all get to watch it unfold.