Apr 14, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love (42) loses the ball against Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Cavaliers Bidding Against Themselves For Kevin Love

To almost no one’s surprise, it’s almost over for Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves.  If anything, the surprise is that the two sides have not separated much sooner.

After all, the writing has been on the wall for some time, at least since David Kahn refused to give Love the five-year extension that he desired, choosing instead to save it for Ricky Rubio, who Kahn saw as a true franchise star.

The divorce has seemed imminent for so long, yet the Timberwolves have increasingly rejected any attempts by other teams to trade for Love … until recently.  Over the past month in particular, Kevin Love trade scenarios have been floated about through every available media source, with the Denver Nuggets, Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers all having been tied to potential trades for Love.

But until this past week, no one has had any clear indication of when a trade might happen.  That is, until Glen Taylor (Timberwolves’ owner) shared almost exactly when the teams plans could be completed.

Aug. 23 or 24.  Taylor didn’t go as far as to guarantee that a Kevin Love trade would take place on one of these two dates, but seemed to stop just shy of doing so.

These dates weren’t picked flippantly by Taylor.  They have meaning, and were said with a purpose in mind.

Aug. 23 and 24 are the first dates that rookies Andrew Wiggins and Doug McDermott/Nikola Mirotic can each be traded by their respective teams, as no player can be traded until 30 days after a contract has been signed.

Having Taylor admit that a trade could take place around August 23 and 24 just furthers the speculation that it is only a matter of time before Kevin Love joins LeBron James in Cleveland.  Especially when reports surfaced through ESPN that Minnesota has limited their trade conversations to the Cavaliers and no one else.  In fact, just yesterday Brian Windhorst said on ESPN radio that the two sides have a handshake agreement in place.

Granted, this news came after weeks of reports saying that the Cavaliers may have finally agreed to include Andrew Wiggins, but could it still be possible to bring Love to Cleveland without trading the talented rookie?  Or in other words, could Cleveland put together a competitive offer for Love without having to sacrifice the potential of having LeBron James mentor Andrew Wiggins on the wing?

Outside of Cleveland, the top offer that is rumored to have been made in exchange for Love comes from Chicago.  According to Chris Sheridan, the Bulls have offered up Taj Gibson, along with aforementioned rookies Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic.

This type of offer from Chicago would (ideally) help the Timberwolves to entertain dreams of remaining somewhat competitive in the short term with Gibson replacing Love in the frontcourt, while also adding two young players to develop for the future, both who are just entering into their rookie contracts.

On the surface, this offer from Chicago (assuming it was legitimately offered) seems to superior to anything that Cleveland could put together outside of including Wiggins … but is this true?  Looking at these two stat lines (per 36 minutes) from last year, which player would you prefer to have on your team?

Rk G MP FGA FG% FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
1 82 2351 13.7 .479 4.3 .751 8.5 1.4 0.6 1.7 2.3 3.2 16.4
2 82 2594 10.6 .477 4.7 .693 10.5 1.0 0.6 0.5 1.5 2.6 13.3
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/4/2014.

Player 1 is Taj Gibson, who at 28 years old still has three years and $25,450,000 remaining on his contract.  While player 2 is Tristan Thompson, who at 22 years old has one year remaining at $5,138,430 on his contract which will be followed by restricted free agency.

Reputation would tell us that Gibson has far greater value to a team than Thompson, but the stats seem to show us that they are simply just exceptionally different players.  Even their advance stats throw some confusion into their individual values:

Player PER TS% eFG% FTr TRB% AST% BLK% TOV% USG% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS
Taj Gibson 16.0 .524 .479 .314 13.5 7.3 3.7 12.8 23.0 102 100 1.4 4.4 5.7
Tristan Thompson 14.9 .528 .477 .445 16.3 4.5 1.1 10.6 17.5 110 108 3.4 2.3 5.7
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/4/2014.

With Thompson being the cheaper option, and having more cost controllable years left (if counting restricted free agency), one could easily make the argument that he should carry equal, if not more, value than Gibson.

So where does the value lie in regards to Mirotic/McDermott versus a package along the lines of Anthony Bennett, Dion Waiters, and draft picks (which could include the 2015, top ten protected Miami Heat first round pick)?

In a lot of ways, it feels as if Cleveland is bidding against themselves in their pursuit of Kevin Love.  If that’s the case, hopefully Wiggins won’t be sacrificed in the process.

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Tags: Andrew Wiggins Cleveland Cavaliers Kevin Love Nikola Mirotic Taj Gibson Tristan Thompson

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