With the trade now completed the Cleveland Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Philadelphia 76ers have made the best out of their respective situation. While the Timberwolves and 76ers did not improve in the short term, both teams long term future have improved. The Cavaliers have improved greatly short term, but not as much as many people think and will have issue improving the team going forward. Click on the link below to read my evaluation on how this trade affects each team.
Adding LeBron James is enough to make a team contender in the Eastern Conference and with Kevin Love joining I believe most people would consider them one of the two top teams in the East. The problem comes from a lack of depth with the rest of the team. While I will be honest and admit that I did not see the Cavaliers play much last season, their overall roster was bad considering the Atlanta Hawks made the last playoff spot in the East at 38-44 and the Cavaliers were five games back at 33-49. While that team had Kyrie Irving that scored 20.8 points a game and Dion Walters scored 15.9, neither can be consider a good defender or even an above average one. With Anderson Varejao being their best shot blocker at 0.6 per game, the Cavaliers have no rim protection. Kevin Love is not going to help their defensive problem, even though he more than makes up for it on the offensive end, and James is one of the best defenders in the league and is capable of defending all five positions on court, but he can only defend one person at a time. The Chicago Bulls have Joakim Noah that averaged 1.5 and Taj Gibson’s 1.4 blocks per game gives them a huge defensive advantage on the Cavaliers. If Derrick Rose can stay healthy and Paul Gasol can continue to score close to his 17.4 points a game last season, a Bulls team that made the playoffs with 48-34 record with Rose only playing ten games is a better overall team than the Cavaliers. While the combination of James, Love, and Irving is the best collection of three players in the league it will be very hard for them to add depth to that roster for the foreseeable future. The biggest problem with having a team with three of the best players in the league is that they have to be three of the highest paid payers in the league and in a league with a salary cap, even one in the NBA that allows to go over it as much as you want as long as your willing to pay a steep tax, they are basically stuck with these three players, young players that are yet to live up to their potential, and well past their prime veteran chasing rings. Luckily in the NBA, unlike the other major sports, having the best player can be enough to win championships, but right now I would put the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, Chicago Bulls, and Oklahoma City Thunder ahead of the Cavaliers.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have long been a prime example as a counter argument to the proven theory that having a great player can be enough to win a championship, or at least compete for one. In 2007 the Timberwolves traded a player that is a lock to someday be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics for Al Jefferson, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff, and two first round picks. Only Al Jefferson is an above average player among this list and his best years were spent outside of Minnesota playing for the Jazz and now Bobcats. The two first round picks were for the 2009 draft where the Timberwolves made the odd decision to select two point guards in within the top ten. If the Timberwolves philosophy was that they needed a point guard and were unsure who to draft and thought one of them might be a bust and the other might be a star, they were at least half right. Jonny Flynn is undoubtedly a bust and few people outside of Minnesota remember him ,and those who do repress those memories, and Ricky Rubio has not been the great point guard coming from Spain many thought he would be, but he is at least an average player. The bright side for Flip Saunders in having to trade his star player in Kevin Love is that the bar was set so low for trading a star from his predecessor that it would be easy for him to do better. And looking at a return of Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Thaddeus Young, and over six million in a trade exception, the return for Love already looks like it can be better than the Garnett trade. Bennett had one of the worst rookie seasons in NBA history for a number one overall pick, but still has potential after one season and Thaddeus Young is a player that should be coming off the bench as a sixth man for a championship caliber team, but is a positive locker room presence for a young team and will put up good numbers for the Timberwolves. While Young and Bennett are nice pieces, Andrew Wiggins is the man that had fan bases of every bottom feeder NBA team cheering winless for Wiggins every time their team acquired a new loss last season. In Wiggins’ one season in college he averaged 17. 1 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.5 assist per game. These are all great stats for a small forward, but it is his amazing athleticism that made him the number one overall pick. His weaknesses is an inconstant shot, limited dribble moves, and at times seem passive and willing to wait for the game to come to him instead of acting like the best player on the team and taking over the game on the offensive end. How great of a player Wiggins will be changes a lot based on who you talk to, but most people believe he will be a great defensive player and he has the athleticism to be a star player if the rest of his skills improve. Personally I like Wiggins, but do not think he is the next LeBron James. I have seen him play a few times in college, but I usually saw games when he was mostly standing around on offensive rarely touching the ball. So like most NBA fans that needed to know everything about the prospects before the draft, I went to draftexpress.com and watch their around 10-15 minute video on Wiggins and became an expert. At the end of the day receiving a player with star potential for a star that was going to leave at the end of the season, the team had a 40-42 record last season with recently shipped star player, and they were never going to be championship contenders this season with love, but would have lose their first round pick to the Phoenix Suns if they made the playoffs, the Timberwolves made out great in this trade.
With the NBA considering ways to change the NBA lottery to keep teams like the 76ers from intentionally getting worse to their chances of getting a high lottery pick, the 76ers basically showed the NBA their middle finger and traded their last good veteran player in Thaddeus Young for two below average players in Alexey Shved and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute plus Miami Heat’s first round pick that the 76ers will not receive this year if it falls within the top ten in the 2015 draft. While most of the national media will tell you that the 76ers made this trade to make their team worse and get a first round draft, only the draft pick part is correct. Shved and Moute are not expected to improve this team any this season, but trading Young will actually shorten the rebuild not lengthen it. Full disclosure I’m a 76er fan that believes that tanking is the right thing to do. I personally look at every lost game last season and next season with players nobody have ever heard of making a great 30 for 30 ESPN film called The Tank That Saved Philadelphia that chronicles these two pathetic seasons and end with the first ever dynasty in 76ers history that wins around three championships. Realistically I truly believe this is the last season of tanking and every move should be viewed as putting this team in the best position possible for the 2015-16 season. The first reason I believe this is that the 76ers lose their first round pick if they make the playoffs this season. When Sam Hinkie was hired as 76ers general manager in 2013 he took over a team that missed the playoffs last season and owed first round picks to the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic. Thanks to a 2014 draft day trade with the Magic where the 76ers dropped from 10 to 12 and received their first round pick back from the Magic, the picks they owed were cut in half. The pick they traded to Miami has been traded to the Boston Celtics and is lottery protected for the 2013-2014 season and 2014-2015 season. So as long as the 76ers miss the playoffs this season after missing the playoffs last season with a record 19-63, they keep their first round pick and have to give the Celtics two second round picks. Most likely going into the 2014 free agency the 76ers were never going to spend money to improve the team short term even if they drafted players that could play the upcoming season in the first round unlike the players they did draft in Joel Embiid, who will miss one season due to injury, and Dario Saric, who will miss at least two seasons due to contract commit overseas. With Joel Embiid being the player they drafted it made trading Young now instead of latter more important. The 76ers drafted Nerlens Noel in the 2013 draft and both Noel and Embiid played center in college. In order to make it possible for Noel and Embiid to play together at the same time one of them has to play power forward and with Noel being health it might as well be him. The only problem was that Young also played power forward. If Young had stayed with the team, the 76ers would have spent a year with Noel playing center only to have him change position next year for a player that most people believe will option out of his contract and leave the team at the end of the year. The last reason to do this trade is that Noel is naturally a power forward. Before watching him play in summer league basketball I thought Noel was a center and would have issues playing next to Embiid. Watching Noel I realized that he really does have the potential to be one of the best defense players in the league with his ability to block shots, get steals, and have unusual quickness for someone his size. Size is also his biggest weakness with his skinny frame centers could back him down easily, push him out of position for rebounds, and keep him from moving them in the post. As a power forward these weakness would be lessoned, and with Noel’s quickness he should have no problem moving around as a help defender and as an off-ball pick and roll player.