The Cleveland Cavaliers took a major step to keeping a title contender together when star forward Kevin Love announced on the Player’s Tribune that he was coming back to Cleveland.
ESPN is reporting that the deal is for $110 million over five years.
The main win for Cleveland though is the potential public relations disaster that’s been avoided now that the man they gave up an arm and leg for—former first-overall picks Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, and a 2015 first-round pick—in a three-team deal, isn’t just going to be a one-year rental.
While Bennett is looking like a bust, Wiggins looks like the NBA’s next superstar. The 2014-15 Rookie of the Year averaged 16.9 points per game for the season and just got better as the year went along, improving his scoring average each of the final three months.
By the time April came around, Wiggins was in full form averaging 23.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game—this from a player who’s already stellar defense is still ahead of his much-improved offense.
Of course, if Wiggins continues down his stardom path and the Timberwolves are declared the narrow winner of the trade, it’s only because Cleveland was low on leverage with four-time MVP and local hero LeBron James reportedly wanting the Cavs to trade for the three-time All-Star.
Trades of the sort—a top-five pick for an All-Star—are nearly unprecedented. The Celtics did give up the fifth overall pick—Jeff Green—in the 2007 NBA Draft to Seattle in a draft-night trade for Ray Allen. The Sonics used the pick to take Jeff Green, while Allen helped lead the Celtics to an NBA title.
Cleveland’s trade had a similar effect, though it took time. The team got out to a 19–20 start before hitting their stride, finishing with a 34–9 mark the rest of the way. But in the playoffs Love suffered a separated shoulder in the opening round against Boston and was out the rest of the way.
With the Cavs then advancing all the way to the finals, with many thanks to Love’s backup Tristan Thompson, there was plenty of doubt whether the All-Star would return.
Had Love left, the Cavs would have been left to scramble to convince one of the remaining free agents power forward or centers to join them. But he didn’t. Now he just needs to deliver a title to Cleveland, so that everyone forgets about Wiggins.