Well, it finally happened. Actually, it hasn’t happened yet, but if Woj reports it, it’s as good as done. Although it can’t be finalised until August 23rd, Kevin Love will be the newest member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, traded in exchange for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, and a 2015 first-round draft pick. The word from the Yahoo! guru is that Love will opt out of his deal after this season and then sign a five-year, $120 million max contract.
While this deal makes tidal waves throughout the NBA world, it’s impact in fantasy basketball circles cannot be underestimated either. In the expert mock draft I wrote about yesterday, I chose Love with the seventh overall pick, knowing full well this deal was a 99 percent chance of going down very soon. I will stand by Love at pick seven, although what we get out of him in Cleveland may differ slightly to what we are used to seeing from the former UCLA standout.
Along with Love, Wiggins, Bennett, and Kyrie Irving will all be impacted, as will LeBron James, but to a lesser extent. I’ve already written pieces on Wiggins and Irving earlier this offseason, but they were written before even LeBron made his intentions clear.
So, obviously, things have changed for all four of these guys.
First of all Love. Surrounded by his first ever All-Star teammates in James and Irving, Love is no longer the focal point of the offense. Naturally, his scoring will probably take a hit, but it’s a fair assumption that he will still be able to hit triples at agreat clip for a power forward and I’d expect an increase in efficiency, as defenses now have to account for Irving and James’ presence on the court at all times. As for his prolific rebounding — I don’t see much of a drop off. Love will probably play centre at times with James at the four and it’ll likely be LeBron’s rebounding that drops off if anything.
Even though I took Love at pick seven in the mock draft, you could easily see him drop to pick 10 or even as late as pick 12. If you are sitting in one of those slots, you absolutely must snap him up as he is an elite talent and will still be a double-double machine, even in his new uniform. Below are my projections for Love for next season.
As a fantasy owner, you would be far from displeased with that output.
What about the Cavs’ young star, Kyrie Irving. I had Irving ranked at 15 in the early Red Rock 150, which now seems a little early. With both James and Love in town, Irving is no longer the only show in town on offense. Shots will be going to the big men and both LeBron and Love are exceptional passers, cutting into the amount of dimes Irving will be distributing. He probably slides to the third round, behind Damian Lillard, John Wall, and possibly Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic, but still has the upside to be a really, really good fantasy talent.
Here’s how I see Irving’s 2014-15 season panning out.
From those numbers, I predict Irving will drop his scoring and assist numbers, but will see an increase in percentages as well as his three-point shooting and steal numbers. He’ll likely be available in the mid-twenties and is still going to be a fantasy stud as he hopefully makes his first playoff appearance.
Now, onto the Timberwolves’ side.
For a guy who was leaving at the end of the season for nothing, the Wolves did incredibly well to acquire the last two number one overall draft picks, in Wiggins and Bennett. When I first wrote up Wiggins after the draft, I had him ranked outside the top 100. With the move to Minnesota, he’ll get a bump, but I feel like most drafters will assume too much of a bump. In the mock draft I did, he went at pick 70 and that was before the trade. He’ll probably go closer to 50 or 60 now and I don’t think his production is going to live up to that lofty status. In a dynasty league, it’s a different story, and spending a top 30 pick isn’t out of the question. While Minnesota doesn’t have the talent levels that Cleveland does, Wiggins will still have competition from Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer, as well as fellow rookie Zach LaVine on the wing. He’ll likely start over all of those guys, but he likely won’t exceed the 33 minutes I initially projected for him.
In his new surrounds, I’ve altered my projections for Wiggins, as you’ll see below.
So, Wiggins should see his scoring increase, at the expense of some efficiency, as well as some solid defensive numbers on a team that struggled on that end last season. Still, even with that boost, I wouldn’t take him before pick 80.
The other player in this trade is the much-maligned number one draft pick from 2013, Anthony Bennett. In fact, Bennett is likely the big winner from this deal. The way things sit now, he’ll be the Wolves’ starter at the four as they really don’t have another option aside from Luc Mbah a Moute. Gorgui Dieng, as impressive as he was, is not a power forward and neither is Nikola Pekovic so minute will be Bennett’s to lose.
If this was last season, Bennett would have lost those minutes in a heartbeat. He was horrendous, but there were reasons. He battled numerous injuries in the preseason, missed Summer League and some of training camp and just didn’t look comfortable. This year in Las Vegas, he looked a different player, both in his play on the court and his body shape. He still has a way to go, but Bennett really impressed me. In fact, he had him at 150 on the initial Red Rock 150 before Summer League and this deal.
As the starting power forward in Minnesota, Bennett should be a different player this season and put the memories of a nightmare season behind him. Here are my projections for the big man from UNLV.
It’s far from spectacular, but it’s a hell of a lot better than last season. I’d be taking a flyer on Bennett at around pick 110. As I mentioned on episode 72 of the Red Rock Fantasy Basketball Podcast, in nearly every case, the last three to four draft picks end up off your team during the season anyway. Take a risk and if it pans out, you’ve done well — if not, oh well, just use that waiver wire.
Phew! Such a big move, changing the NBA’s landscape and there are so many angles to consider from a fantasy perspective. Overall, Wiggins and Bennett up, Love and Irving down, but it’s all very relative.