So, it finally happened.
As expected and widely reported for what seemed like an eternity, Kevin Love was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a three-team trade between Minnesota, Cleveland, and Philadelphia.
The interesting part of the trade was what the Timberwolves received in return for Love. The trade talks always centered around Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, but up until the week before the trade happened, it seemed like Bennett was heading to Philadelphia for Thaddeus Young. Instead, somehow, Wiggins, Bennett, and Young ended up in Minnesota together. Love went to Cleveland, but Philadelphia didn’t really get anything. I mean, they got a couple a auxiliary players, Alexey Shved and Luc Mbah a Moute, and a 2015 first-round pick from the Miami Heat (Thanks, LeBron!).
While it’s beside the point that Philly is less than subtly continuing their tanking initiative, Minnesota comes away like kings (not the Sacramento kind) with a really bright future. I do not like this, Sam I am, I do not like this as a Trail Blazers’ fan.
Seriously, this was the worst case scenario for Portland, other than Love staying in Minnesota with LeBron James joining him. Minnesota just got two No. 1 picks and an energized veteran who could be really good.
I don’t anticipate that this trade is going to have major rewards for the Wolves right away. It is going to take a few years for Wiggins, Bennett, and rookie Zach LaVine to find their footing, but Minnesota has a really good core for the future. Since Portland plays Minnesota four times every season as division opponents, I don’t like this at all.
I mean, it is great that the Wolves have a chance to be good again. The franchise and its fans have had a rough go the last, I don’t know, seven years since Kevin Garnett was traded. Most of it was caused by the infamous David Kahn and other self-inflcited wounds, but it is good to see Wolves’ fans have hope once again. Remember Portland fans, the Blazers haven’t exactly had MUCH more success when looking at the grand scheme of things.
Still, when an division opponent makes a big move like this, it is sure to cause some anxiety at first. The Wolves are super-athletic and heading for a solid four season minimum of Wiggins and LaVine. That’s crazy, but Portland shouldn’t be too worried. But don’t not be worried… Find that common, even ground of worrying, and stay there.
It is probably going to take at least two or three seasons before either Wiggins or LaVine have star-level impact, if they do at all. Young will contribute, but as he hasn’t played on a competitive team in the last three seasons, who knows if he can turn that switch on again? The Wolves are still a few years away.
By that time, the Blazers will have either made a move to vault themselves significantly into title contention, or they’ll have fallen back into mediocrity of the West. There is no way I envision the Blazers sticking with this roster without it improving dramatically over the next two seasons.
In those two seasons, the Blazers and General Manager Neil Olshey will have to make decisions to re-sign players, like LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, Nic Batum, and Damian Lillard. While Lillard and Aldridge are pretty much guaranteed re-signings, who knows about Matthews and Lopez this offseason and then Batum in the next offseason? Each could potentially be let go if Portland goes after a bigger star with the extra cap space.
If that is the path Olshey wants to travel, the Blazers could be like the Houston Rockets this offseason and strike out on every big-name free agent, leaving them with a bunch of middle-of-the-road role players. That is where Minnesota scares me.
In two seasons, who knows how good the Wolves will actually be? Maybe, my worry is all for naught. It still scares me, though.
On the bright side, these fears I have are the common fears (I think) of a fan of a good NBA team. Fans of bad teams just want their teams to have a chance. I just don’t want the Blazers to regress, since the Wolves poses a threat in the near future.