The “Big Three” have been one-upped.
The Cavs’ LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, three stars all younger than age 30, will soon eclipse the Miami Heat’s vaunted trio of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, now reduced to something less than a dynamic duo.
Soon will come on Aug. 23, the first day the Minnesota Timberwolves’ trade with the Cavs for Love can be officially completed.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported Thursday that the Timberwolves have agreed in principle to send three-time All-Star forward Love to the Cavs for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a protected 2015 first-round pick. According to the Yahoo report, part of the deal includes a “firm agreement” that Love will opt-out of his contract next summer and sign with the Cavs.
Cleveland already seemed like the center of the sports universe after James’ July 11 decision to return home, coupled with the Browns’ drafting of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. But the Love trade will take that attention to a new level because of the Cavs’ collection of young talent.
James, the best player on the planet, turns 30 on Dec. 30. Love will be 26 on Sept. 7. Irving is 22 and locked up until 2020, thanks to the five-year, $90 million max contract extension announced last month.
When James arrived in Miami in the summer of 2010, Wade was 28, Bosh 26. Bosh was “big” only by association. Wade’s creaky knees and the Heat’s disappointing showing in this year’s NBA Finals’ loss to the San Antonio Spurs ended that pairing after two championships and four consecutive Finals appearances.
James’ championship potential seems even greater with Love and Irving. Irving sometimes looked demoralized by the Cavs’ mounting losses. James’ arrival should change that, if Irving’s MVP performance in last season’s All-Star Game is any indication. With James and Love at his side, Irving should be eager to dazzle on a nightly basis.
If new coach David Blatt finds a way to maximize the skills of Dion Waters, 22, the Cavs will have a deeper arsenal than the Heat could muster during James’ tenure. There have been games when Waiters, not Irving, looked like the player the Cavs should invest in.
The Cavs will be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference, especially after the Indians Pacers lost Paul George to a gruesome leg fracture. The Chicago Bulls’ size up front could be a tough matchup, but that’s presuming Derrick Rose stays healthy after being limited to 49 games the past two seasons due to knee surgery.
Fans might bemoan the loss of Wiggins because of his athleticism, captivated by a 360-degree, behind-the-back dunk in warm-ups for a Summer League game. But some NBA executives are not convinced Wiggins will develop into an elite player. The Cavs were not sold on Wiggins, with the front office preferring Jabari Parker before owner Dan Gilbert made his preference for Wiggins known.
The Cavs had been trying to trade for Love for three years, but the Timberwolves were in no hurry, preferring to wait until the time remaining on his contract ticked down.
The deal for Love is a no-brainer and all the more urgent because of James’ age. While he’s nowhere near retirement, even Duke and USA Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said last month James is in the “second half” of his career.
That doesn’t mean James’ skills will erode, as hard as he works each offseason to improve. But the Cavs couldn’t afford to waste a year with James. They had to get the pieces for a championship this season.
Now with an all-in Irving, a versatile double-double man in Love and the Homecoming King, Gilbert can turn off the flaming swords above the Quicken Loans Arena scoreboard. Every night, there will be an inferno down below.