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A Whole New World after Kevin Love for the Minnesota Timberwolves

 

Nov 10, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio (9), power forward Kevin Love (42) and small forward Shabazz Muhammad (15) on the bench in the first half of the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Minnesota Timberwolves have agreed on a trade that will send veteran power forward Kevin Love to Cleveland in exchange for Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins, and future draft considerations. 

The Kevin Love trade has been inevitable rumored since the day LeBron decided to return home to the Cleveland-Akron moonscape region and bring hopes of a championship to the sport franchises once again. Kevin Love’s impending free agency was also a major factor in the trade, a result of the 4-year contract he signed two years ago.

While the Timberwolves lose one of the premier young talents in the game in Love, the trade doesn’t necessarily cast a death toll over the twin cities. Here are some rays of sunshine to cling to on a day when it may seem like winter came early.

RICKY RUBIO

Okay, so he may not be the best perimeter shooter in the league, but the Timberwolves and the rest of the league are fully aware of the passing, ballhandling, and defensive capabilities of one of the league’s best human beings. Like it or not, this team now belongs to Rubio, and their success rests on his shoulders and rehabilitated knee.

Rubio has had a full season to recover his panache after his knee injury, and the time back on the court playing competitive basketball should help him improve during the 2014-15 season in all areas of the game. He should have more trust in his legs, which can help him navigate the lane on offense, play more minutes in the game, and help provide a solid foundation for his jump shot (when necessary). Good jump shots start at the feet and work their way up – now Rubio will at least have more strength in his lower limbs to help later push shots later in games.

RIDICULOUS UPSIDE

While Rubio may have more scoring opportunities, he may not need to take advantage of them. The Timberwolves may benefit long-term from him continuing to be unselfish with the ball and get his teammates involved with open looks. Pekovic is already a destroyer of worlds on the pick and roll, with his footwork and size combining into a potent force with Rubio.

I believe the pre-draft, pre-tournament hype on Wiggins. Forget the talk of a lack of a “killer instinct” or “inability to close games.” Wiggins is a 19-year-old franchise-caliber talent, and the sky is the limit. As fun as it was for T’Wolves fans to watch Love get his daily double-double, watching Wiggins jump over the Northwest Division over the next seven years is going to be a treat. I also believe that Wiggins will also be playing home games in Minnesota in May, something that Kevin Love never got a chance to do. It will not be this year, and likely not the next, but by year three, the stars should align for a playoff berth.

In Zach LaVine, Flip Saunders took a chance on a player who didn’t get the playing time he deserved and jumped to the NBA from UCLA. LaVine has played this summer like a fiddle (assuming he is a master fiddler) with impressive appearances at pro-am games and in Summer League. While LaVine may not get the benefit of being inserted into the starting lineup, he’s only a Kevin Martin injury/trade away from getting big minutes and beginning his development.

As for Anthony Bennett, the hope springs from his pedigree. The 2013 draft deserves the reputation it has, and it’s a stinky one. However, Bennett wasn’t the first rookie to struggle out of the gate relative to the remainder of his career, and he won’t be the last. Bennett is not Derrick Williams (expert analysis right here) and his story has yet to be written. A fresh start in a new city, playing alongside a fellow Canuck in Wiggins, with a new coach may just be the right environment for Bennett to reclaim the crowd-shushing, abusing swagger he showed while playing at UNLV.

We’ve gone this far without even seeing mention of Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammed – one of those players should at least be replacement level. Dieng had a strong post-All Star break, averaging 9.9 points, 9.2 rebounds and had 29 blocks over the last two months of the season.

FUTURE MOVES? 

Flip Saunders moved Kevin Love, congratulations. He needs to make some more roster moves now however, because they had 15 players, sent out one, received two, which makes … 16 …. which is one too many for the roster maximum.

It comes to no surprise that Mbah a Moute, Barea and Shved are rumored to be on the trade market. It makes sense that the Timberwolves would try to target a player like Thaddeus Young with those assets, as they need a veteran player to help fill the void at power forward. Any trade needs to be a three for two or two for one deal, which limits the teams that can participate in a two-team deal, or requires creativity with another team taking a player.

It is rumored that Anthony Bennett is on the move to Philadelphia in exchange for Thaddeus Young. The deal hasn’t been finalized, but such a trade would be beneficial for the Timberwolves, because Young is better than Bennett right now, and will help fill a gap.

But for now, it’s not an understatement to say losing a franchise player hurts. I wouldn’t blame Timberwolves fans if they wanted to burn Love’s jersey in rage. Luckily, Andrew Wiggins will look good in black and blue throughout this decade, and there is enough spice there to keep fans happy while they are rebuilding.

Daniel Lewis