The Minnesota Timberwolves winning the 2015 NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday wasn’t an accident. Instead, it was the icing on the cake in a trade that is getting sweeter by the day for Minnesota. That deal is the Kevin Love trade, which despite seeming even at the time, has all of a sudden become a highway robbery for the Wolves.
For those who don’t remember the details of the trade, Love was dealt from Minnesota to Cleveland for Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins (part of a larger three-team deal), the No. 1 overall picks of the 2013 and 2014 draft, respectively. These deal-your-frustrated-star trades have had an erratic history of who comes out on top in the end.
The winner of the Carmelo Anthony trade in 2011 is really a matter of opinion. The Knicks are fortunate that Melo stayed in New York, but the Nuggets still got quite a haul. Danilo Gallinari, the centerpiece of the deal for Denver, is also starting to look like himself again. I’d say in hindsight both teams are probably content with the deal. Deron Williams was also traded at the 2011 deadline in a move that was shocking at the time. The Jazz have to be happy with Derrick Favors instead of the dead weight that has become D-Will.
Later in 2011, Chris Paul was first traded to the Lakers, then to the Clippers in what has turned into an utter steal for Los Angeles. Eric Gordon hasn’t been the same player in New Orleans due to his injuries and that 2012 first-round pick turned into Austin Rivers. Yikes.
In 2012, Dwight Howard was traded to the Lakers. We all know how this ended. Orlando got its future centerpiece Nikola Vucevic in the deal, making them the unanimous winners. Love, like these other star players, wanted out. Minnesota had to deal him, and my oh my do they look like geniuses right about now.
Love is still a really good player, but he took a major step back in his first season in Cleveland. Miscast as a spot-up shooter, Love’s points per game declined by nearly 10 from 26.1 to 16.4, while his rebounds per game dipped under 10 (9.7) for the first time since his rookie season. Overall, his PER dropped from a career-best 26.9 to an almost career-low 18.8.
David Blatt just never used Love the right way with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving taking over all the ball handling duties. Love got what he asked for in coming to Cleveland to compete, but he also took on a much lesser role in the process. His season became even more problematic when it ended abruptly thanks to a Kelly Olynyk armbar which dislocated his left shoulder.
Meanwhile, the Timberwolves are sitting pretty with Wiggins, Bennett AND the first overall pick of this year’s draft, which will likely be Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor. If Love stayed in Minny that lottery win ain’t happening. Even without that pick, Wiggins alone makes Minnesota the winner of the Love trade by a longshot.
Three teenagers put up at least 16 points, 4.5 rebounds and two assists per game over the course of a season in NBA history. The first two were LeBron and Carmelo. The third is Wiggins. The 36.2 minutes per game helped, but Wiggins was better than anyone expected him to be during his rookie season. Jabari Parker was the sexy pick for Rookie of the Year, but Wiggins ended up winning by a landslide. However, Wiggins’s slow start had people jumping to conclusions.
Wiggins averaged just 13.1 points on 40.6 percent shooting from the floor in his first 30 games played through December, per NBA.com. NBA fans might have started freaking out, but luckily Wiggins didn’t. He went on to average 19.1 points on 45.1 percent shooting the rest of the way. Wiggins became a capable-two way player after breaking through the rookie wall. People will pin his success on his natural athleticism and increased role in Minnesota, but Wiggins’s in-season improvement was because of his advanced skills. His one-on-one abilities, whether it was in iso or post-up situations, were excellent for anyone, let alone a player his age:
Andrew Wiggins's sudden one-on-one scoring surge late in the year put him in rare company this season. pic.twitter.com/nXyIALpyK6
— Synergy Sports Tech (@SynergySST) April 30, 2015
Wiggins is rail-thin, but he’s adept at using his athleticism to rise over defenders in the post. He has a ton of lift on his jumper, which is helpful in faceup situations. He showed a willingness to get physical when necessary, something that’s uncommon for a skinny rookie. He’s also great in off-ball situations as he’s already a nightmarish cutter for opponents, ranking in the 77.7th percentile in the league, according to Synergy:
Wiggins is a freak athlete who has also shown a ton of skill development. He has a long way to go with his shot, but no one expected Wiggins to be this polished by the age of 20. Once his frame fills out and he develops even further, his future projections both on offense and defense are that of a superstar.
Although Bennett still isn’t close to a worthy No. 1 pick, his inclusion in the trade is a nice added sweetener for the Wolves. Bennett already improved his PER from a putrid 6.9 to a salavagable 11.4 in his first season in Minnesota. Plus he’s just 22 years old.
Kevin Love is still a very good player, but Andrew Wiggins has the chance to be great. Wiggins is also six years younger than Love and will cost a fraction of the price for the foreseeable future. Love has a player option for $16.7 million this summer, which means his days in Cleveland could be over after just one up and down season. If he does leave, the Cavs will have to remember they traded the Next Big Thing for a one-year rental who never fit well with the team. Cavs GM David Griffin will have nightmares about this trade for a long time, even if LeBron is back home. Happy days are ahead in Minnesota.