Screen Shot 2014-09-12 at 10.00.32 AM My proposed design for a complete overhaul of Wolves' court design for upcoming season

A New Home Court Advantage

The Timberwolves have always been a little different. Perhaps that’s why I’ve always been drawn to their quirks, like the rare three-syllable nickname, the original, albeit unique blue-green color palette as well as the variations of the logo, from the green-eyed Timberwolf to the modified silver-backed, yellow-eyed current wolf logo. They’ve always killed the font of the nickname, standing out among the rest of the league with something that looks both terrifying yet ‘Up North-y’. The jerseys have had their ups-and-downs — from the basic inaugural jerseys to the tree-lined unis and now to the sleeved, Zebra blacks — but they’ve all stood out to me as, at the very least, different.

Yesterday, Zach Lowe published his Definitive NBA Court Design Rankings on Grantland. Although I don’t agree with every slot, his 26th position for the Minnesota Timberwolves is commendable on so many levels. In fact, you could go so far as to say that they didn’t even deserve to be there. He points out that the Target Center floor dons some of the most “extreme” two-tone wood work in the league. And there’s no real problem with two-tone itself, except the Wolves’ hard floor doesn’t even match itself. The carmel-based mid-section looks terrible on television and clashes with the birch-colored section inside the three-point lines.

Like Lowe, I do actually like the black-blue key section, although I can safely say I’ve never been much of a fan of the dissolving green and emphasis on the blue over the years. Just a side note, do you know how many teams in the NBA have a variation of the color blue in their logo? 17! 17 teams use a shade of blue in their color palette, and some teams use multiple shades of blue even. And I understand how popular the color may be but can’t we see a little bit of originality? That is why I praise the Charlotte Hornets on their new and old brand. The color the Wolves should be stepping away from is the blue, not the green, but I digress.

The more I read into Lowe’s piece, the more I thought about how the Wolves could improve their court for both television and live viewing. I thought, ‘What makes places like Los Angeles and New York so iconic besides all the glitz, glam and stars?’

The answer: darkness.

The idea of turning the court into the center stage is unique to these arenas because of how they darken the crowd and amp up the lighting on the court for emphasis, you know, to set the stage. Well, since the Wolves don’t have any reason mess with the lighting and copy either L.A. or N.Y., how could they bring that dark, mysteriousness into the Target Center? By making the actual court darker and more mysterious.

With that, I toyed around with some ideas and came up with this proposed court layout.

Wolves Court

There are a couple reasons I changed things up. One was to get that special appeal that L.A. and N.Y. have without actually replicating their style. The dark hardwood brings a mysterious aspect to the game and the team. Two, can you imagine how cool the Wolves home, white unis would pop off of a darker, greyed-out hardwood? That and the visitors unis would come in looking awkward and clumsy.

Finally, the real reason I believe this change fits the Wolves is because it falls into what I explained earlier. The Wolves have always been a little different. Why not embrace it to the max by changing something so basic like a basketball court into a phenomenon that people would want to come and pay money to see?

This is simply just my proposal, and I have another one in the works, but that one has to do with an entire rebranding, similar to what the Atlanta Hawks are going through right now. Put some spice into the old logo, embrace the original colors and twist it so that it has the feeling of 1989 but will appeal to the 2014 Wolves, who want to fly high and run all over you. Hopefully that will be coming very soon.

A New Era at HTW

Sometimes I like to look at HTW as my own personal organization, and I am its owner. With it I can do what I please, and that includes hiring new talent where I see fit. Sadly, with a blog, I don’t really get the chance to pay my new hirees but it doesn’t matter because they do it for the pleasure.

The other sad part is that, with every new guy, there’s likely an old one. So today I regretfully announce that Tom Westerholm and Derek James will be stepping away from HTW. The change hopefully isn’t permanent but as full-time writers, they will be pursuing other platforms on the giant publisher that is the Internet.

I want to start by saying thanks to both Tom and Derek, from the bottom of my heart. When I took over HTW in 2010, I knew I was in over my head and couldn’t do it all alone, so their work deserves endless praise.

Shortly after I took over and left ESPN’s Truehoop Network, a young writer, Tom, emailed me looking for a shot to start his basketball portfolio. Even as a Boston Celtics fan, I gladly gave him the opportunity and he never looked back. Tom helped out with detailed game recaps and some of the best player/play breakdowns I’ve ever read. He brought an emphasis on statistics to help breakdown his recaps and more, something I never even considered until he began writing for me. Although he never claimed to be an expert on draft coverage, I always appreciated his work on that front, as well as his admiration and man-crush on one Kemba Walker. Tom’s current and future work can be seen at Celtics Hub as well as MassLive.com.

Just as Tom did, Derek brought something special to the site as well. He wrote from the heart and a lot of pieces could be felt that way. Derek did the dirty duties of writing game previews (Really not that much fun) and still found a way to turn them into pure entertainment, if nothing else. I also really enjoyed the way he incorporated pop culture and other societal views into some of his musings, which is a main reason he’s so popular over at Hardwood Paroxysm already. In addition to his spot on the HP staff, Derek’s work can be seen on At The Hive, where he covers the Hornets.

Honestly, I wish nothing but success in these guys’ future endeavors, and hope they continue to have a place in their hearts for HTW and the Timberwolves.

It’s always difficult change but I’m sure that the transition will be smooth with a new crop of writers. With that, I’d like to introduce the newest trio of writers onto the staff: Aaron Groshong, Carter Schimke and Zach Toedter. I had them briefly introduce themselves below:

Groshong: (Click to follow on Twitter)

Aaron M. Groshong is a lifelong basketball fan. There is not a day he can remember when basketball wasn’t in his life. Growing up in northern Minnesota he played as a youth and through high school. Since moving to the twin cities he continued to play in amateur summer league’s like the Brother’s Keeper and Lifetime Fitness; at 31-years old he still actively plays basketball. After recently becoming a new father and with a full-time professional career at Kraus-Anderson and GCS Title his passion for hoops has not slowed down . Being a full-time dad, husband, worker bee, and basketball fan keeps him busy. Luckily, technology and connectivity to sports is at an all time high. Aaron’s expertise is on NBA draft combine coverage, NBA summer league basketball, and the Timberwolves. You can find him each season watching a local high school game, Gophers, and Timberwolves. Very active on Twitter you can follow him @AaronGroshong.
I’ve always felt very connected to those who play and are active in the basketball community. I believe that basketball and sports in general offer the chance to break down barriers and bring people together who would likely not otherwise meet. Over my years of playing basketball and surrounding myself in the sport I’ve made a lot of friends. I now see familiar faces when I step on the court or arrive at a venue. Lakeville is where I currently live and call home. I’m a born and raised Minnesota guy and luckily know already where I’ll spend the rest of my time. It is my pleasure to have the opportunity to bring Timberwolves fan’s articles which will embody my unique insight onto the game I love. Thank you for reading and please comment as that is what keeps things moving.

Schimke: (Click to follow on Twitter)

I’ve always found the best way to break the ice is to buy her a drink. Just kidding, I’m only 17. But anyways, consider this you drink, good-lookin’. My name is Carter Schimke, and as I said I’m 17 years old. I reside in Argusville, North Dakota, and am currently a senior at Northern Cass High School. My hobbies include playing varsity football and basketball, Student Council, fishing, hunting, popping zits, and napping. You know, just your basic North Dakota teen stuff. I’m your typical teenager/fool-hearted Minnesota sports fan, which is why I’m now writing for HTW. I’m very excited for the upcoming season and can’t wait to read, write and watch everything Wolves. But enough about me. It looks like your drink is almost empty anyway.

Toedter: (Click to follow on Twitter)

My name is Zach Toedter and I am a lifelong Wolves fan. In eighth grade I had the opportunity to meet LeBron James courtside after one of my very first Wolves games, but I was actually just as excited to meet Mark Madsen that night. I even named my dog Kevin Love (Currently working on getting him to respond to ‘Maple Jordan’).

I was born and raised in Wadena, Minnesota, and graduated from Minnesota State University-Moorhead with a degree in Mass Communications in 2012. I am currently working as a marketing consultant in the television industry. You could call me a basketball junkie; I play old-man ball every day at the YMCA and even coach youth basketball on the weekends. I would love to coach high school ball some day. I am very excited to take my passion for the Wolves and apply it to writing for HTW.

Aaron, Carter and Zach will be joining myself and Nick Allen as full-time contributors on the site. We hope to create some fresh, new content for you every day we can, as we move into a new age.

Timberwolves in Spain; FIBA Ball, Baby

After today, the pool play round of FIBA’s World Cup in Spain will come to a close. There were plenty of surprises throughout pool play, including some scares for the USA, but I’ve been keeping my eye on how the international Timberwolves prospects have been doing. Within that group are Ricky Rubio, Gorgui Dieng and (still a Wolves) J.J. Barea.

One of those surprises that I’ve seen watching the worldwide tournament is the play of the three Wolves’ players. For instance, many might think Rubio would be tearing it up in his home country with his ‘mates. Instead, he doesn’t even start for a loaded Spain national roster.

So let’s run through these guys’ performances to date.

Ricky Rubio

With the Kevin Love trade over, Rubio emerges as the Wolves’ most polarizing figure. Although his production hasn’t quite lived up to the hype in the States quite yet, the pressure will be on Rubio’s shoulders to handle the duty of leading a cast of young guns while still developing in his own right. The best he can do that is by becoming the leader that Love never was, by taking charge when things get rough and encourage in the right moment.

Sadly, Rubio doesn’t get much of a chance to practice those characteristics in Spain, and never really has. With such a stacked roster of mainstays like the Gasol brothers, Rubio hasn’t started for Spain once. A backcourt with a rotation that includes Jose Calderon, Sergio Llull, Sergio Rodriguez and Juan Navarro can be a tough one to crack, and that’s the problem Rubio’s run in to.

It’s not like Rubio isn’t playing though. In fact, he’s averaging the third-most minutes in that backcourt stable and doing exactly what he does best when he’s out there: Creating shots for others and pestering ball-handlers on defense. Rubio’s only averaging 3.8 points per game, but that’s to be expected. He’s also posting 5.8 assists and five rebounds per game, as well as 2.5 steals per game.

Rubio isn’t struggling statistically other than his shooting and scoring numbers, and that’s always been the case. To be honest, this far into his career, it’s actually hard to believe it’s going to get much better. But as long as he can create a belief that he can score is all that matters. Against France, Rubio was really attacking the rim, which is exactly what he needs to do. He settled for way too many mid-range jumpers out of the pick and roll last season because the defense sagged off him on purpose. But if he can consistently attack the paint, it’s going to create more opportunities and free throw attempts.

In that regard, Rubio has been doing very well for himself and also gives Spain something unique in the backcourt coming off the bench. But his inability to score when needed will remain a hinderance to himself, Spain and the Wolves when he’s back here playing for Minnesota.

Gorgui Dieng

No one was more surprising on the Wolves roster than Dieng himself. Stepping in for an injured Nikola Pekovic towards the end of last season, Dieng made a spectacle, headlined by scoring outputs that no one could imagine and continuing what he knew best, rebounding and affecting inside shots.

Here’s the thing: It wasn’t a fluke, and Dieng seems to be the real deal. Playing with his native Senegal, Dieng has become the best center statistically during pool play. He’s averaging 18 points per game on 46-percent shooting. He’s at least taking a few threes, which is a good sign for his NBA mid-range game, and, my favorite part, is getting to the free throw line and knocking them down consistently (6.8 FTM – 8.8 FTA for 77.3-percent).

He’s become one of the most active big men in the paint, especially on defense, which is why he’s second in rebounds per game (11.4), tied for fifth in blocks (1.8) and two steals and assists per game.

Dieng has proven that he’s ready to make another step forward this year, which is a good problem for the Wolves to have. With two starting-caliber centers with very different skill sets, Flip will have the flexibility to throw out some very diverse lineups, potentially including one that has both Dieng and Pekovic on the floor together.

Dieng has become so much more than just a late-first round defensive stopper. He’s now developing an offensive game that’s more about grinding than the flash in the post. And that’s what has his stock soaring north.

J.J. Barea

The Timberwolves signed veteran Mo Williams less than a month ago to become a mentor to these young players, leaving Barea’s future in Minnesota in a flurry of snow drifts. It’s not like he should care much; he’s got an NBA Championship ring, a Victoria Secret model wife, and hails from the gorgeous vacation paradise of Puerto Rico. In fact, he might be the most enviable player off the entire Wolves roster.

The Wolves signing Williams wasn’t a surprise given Barea’s rough-go last year. It was his worst shooting year of his career, and he never seemed to be in control of his game all season long. Not to mention, he’s battled nagging injuries throughout his three years in Minnesota. The fit never worked, nor probably will it ever.

But I don’t think it’ll be easy to say goodbye to Barea — if that day even comes. Barea is leading Puerto Rico in nearly every offensive category, and is even second in points per game behind just Luis Scola with 22.5. He’s shooting an improbable 51.7-percent from three-point land on 7.3 attempts per game. No one would’ve guessed that he could average four rebounds and 3.8 assists per game either, even in international ball.

Barea’s always been a streaky guy. That was shown in yesterday’s match up with the Phillipines, where Barea went off for 10 points in the final four minutes to win the game. He finished with 30, leading all players. Barea can ball but he needs the ball to be successful. If you’re not willing to accept that or even have someone who you’d rather have in the game, you’re never going to see it. With the Wolves, playing Barea over Rubio in the fourth quarter seems ludicrous, but Rick Adelman had an idea of what he was doing because he knew the potential spark plug Barea could be down the stretch of games.

With this 2014-2015 team, though, Flip won’t be putting in Barea in the game during the final minutes of the fourth because he knows this team is looking to develop its young talent and not just win a couple close games. I’d prefer to see Barea on another team with a real chance at contending next year. Dallas knew what he had to offer, and I think another team will see that as well, especially after a strong FIBA World Cup. Hopefully he can become tradeable now because this “buy out” talk is just insane.

Glen Taylor spews sour grapes, bashes Kevin Love

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 10.24.09 AMGlen Taylor has a thing against former Wolves stars named ‘Kevin,’ and he’s made that public information. For the second time after trading the team’s superstar player away, the disgruntled Wolves owner had some choice words about the former star’s ability to move on and contribute to another team.

“I think he’s around a couple guys are awful good. Now I’m not saying that Kevin’s not good, but I think where maybe he got away with some stuff, not playing defense on our team, I’m not sure how that’s going to work in Cleveland. So I would guess they’re going to ask him to play more defense. And he’s foul-prone.”

I understand Taylor’s testament here; he has a legitimate excuse to criticize Love’s defensive abilities because, frankly, they just weren’t very good at least for the majority of the game. But he’s so far-off base saying he’s foul-prone, and so asking him to play more defense will become a vice for Cleveland and they’ll have trouble keeping him on the floor. In fact, Love’s one of the best big men in staying out of foul trouble, having just fouled out once in the last few years. Once.

Taylor’s comments spew sour grapes, if you ask me, and have no place in the public eye. Otherwise you have national attention shining negative light onto a new situation, a fresh environment, where young talent needs nurturing. I’m sure Andrew Wiggins doesn’t want to see his boss calling out his former star player, who worked very hard to get where he is now. Love had a right to correct the ship by saying Taylor ought to focus on his new team. After all, he did get a strong haul back in return but now attention should turn to that nurturing I mentioned before. There’s no need to try to ship Love out with a ‘FRAGILE: THIS SIDE UP’ label on his back.

I’ve always learned, living with three women, to never “poke the bear.” If a person is leaving a situation, even in not-so-good of a mood, just leave it be. If you try to address the situation at the wrong time or say the wrong thing, you’re heading into a world of hurt. In Love’s case, Taylor’s comments just fuel the fire. He’s excited to be in Cleveland playing with LeBron and Kyrie. And now you just stoked the ashes into a full-blown flame. We all thought Love was great playing in a disappointing few years with Minnesota, just how good could he be on a great team with oodles of motivation?

The Timberwolves playoff drought has one connecting fixture throughout the years: Glen Taylor himself. The team has always been poorly managed, whether it’s botched contracts, poor front office and coach hirings or bad P.R. like things like this, and Taylor’s always been at the helm. Even with all the years of experience as an owner and one of Minnesota’s best businessman of all time, he ought to take Love’s advice and shut up this time around.

Kevin Love’s Legacy

On February 8th, 2008, Kevin Garnett made a memorable entrance into the Target Center. This time was different, however. In street clothes, the anointed Big Ticket stepped foot onto the floor as a member of the Boston Celtics, his first time there not as a Minnesota Timberwolves.

It didn’t matter what he was wearing or which team he represented because the fans knew who he was at heart. As the single greatest Wolves player ever, everyone in Minnesota had a place for K.G. within them, thus the A-class reception to his introduction that night. The memories, the success, the statistics, the rivalries, the drama; everyone took interest in those years dominated by the self-appointed “6-foot-11″ (My ass) power forward. He poured his heart and soul into every game on both ends of the court and expected nothing but the same from every one wearing the same jersey as he. And it worked. He made the players around him better, he made fans, both die-hard and bandwagon, care, which was the root of his prominence for 12 years around these parts.

Sadly, the era had to end because of extenuating circumstances but, luckily, the next in line happened to be another guy named Kevin. This one different; a tad pudgy, maybe out of shape but with an elite skill set of his own, different to that of Garnett’s that fans fell in love with. This Kevin could rebound as well as the other one ever could but had a secret weapon Garnett never quite honed: The three-pointer. As the NBA’s game grew faster and the post game’s importance has become nearly obsolete, Love’s unique inside-out game as a legitimate power forward has garnered league-wide attention. For some reason, there’s always this white dude shooting threes, completing bizarre put-backs, that keeps climbing the points rankings behind only the elite scorers in the game.

Love’s numbers with the Timberwolves were outstanding, and to give you a better scope of his accomplishments, just remember that Garnett was here for 12 years, while Love just six. He’s third in total scoring (6,989) in franchise history behind just Garnett (19,041) and now assistant coach Sam Mitchell (7,161). He ranks second in three-pointers made (440) and attempted (1,215) behind Anthony Peeler (465/1,226). He’s second in offensive (1,345), defensive (3,108) and total rebounds (4,453) behind only Garnett (2,571/7,971/10,542), as well as free throws made (1,913) and attempted (2,346).

Statistically speaking, Love is undoubtedly the second-best player to ever have worn a Timberwolves jersey. That’s an awfully high honor considering the only guy above him. But besides all those ungodly statistics both Kevins posted during their time in Minnesota, that’s just about where the comparisons end.

It’s hard to compare Love to Garnett in terms of intangibles because they’re two entirely different players from different backgrounds. Garnett came straight out of Farragut Academy in Illinois, while Love hails from Oswego High in Oregon, a top-notch basketball program, to UCLA where, well, history can speak for itself on UCLA’s importance to college basketball’s history. Garnett fought his way to the top through a lot of adversity, while Love grew up in a significantly better environment. His uncle’s a Beach Boy, for God’s sake. One thing still remains, once they got to Minnesota, it was time to work. Both players struggled through their ups-and-downs early on in their careers but triumphed through it all.

The biggest difference between the two stars is simply the likability factor. Garnett was adopted by the Twin Cities. During much of his reign, there was already an anti-superstar hanging around town named Randy Moss. So all Garnett really had to do was steer clear of trouble, continue his individual success moving forward and help his team keep winning games. In Love’s case, the opposite scenario happened. Adrian Peterson is the city’s knight in shining armor, while he had to endure the role of the anti-star. It started with things like poor defense, a lack of emotional intent on the court, whining on no-calls — whether they were right or wrong — and the unforgettable “knuckle pushups” injury. When Love first started his ascent into basketball stardom in 2010, the Timberwolves had no rep at all due to all the losing, and no one really wanted to cheer for the chubby white guy who didn’t put as much heart into the games as the previous Kevin did. But once the numbers started to rise, people paid attention. It still wasn’t quite enough but at least people had a reason to watch basketball again in Minneapolis, because they perhaps had a chance to spring back into relevancy on another Kevin’s shoulders.

Sadly, it just never happened. Love failed to make the playoffs, and struggled to even elevate the entire team to win more games. Part of that has to do with poor management from David Kahn and company but the fact still remains that, even without Kahn and Kurt Rambis, Love failed to bring this team into contention or even bring hope to a once-thriving basketball fan base. In all honesty, it wasn’t even until Ricky Rubio, the Spanish Unicorn, came overseas that local attention started to grow at all. People wanted to see Ricky and all his flash in action instead of the numbers mogul Love. Once the two finally had some time to play together — albeit sparingly due to injuries — the fans started to come around. A hall of fame coach, Rick Adelman, joined the stable and the Wolves were pushing relevancy even on a national level. The thought was, “if they’re not good now, they will be very soon!”

Too bad ‘soon’ never came. Love grew sick and tired of the all the losing. For a guy who had won his entire life — not just in basketball, mind you — losing can take a really hard toll on your mind, which led a lot of people to believe that Love’s efforts were somewhat half-assed, especially when things didn’t matter anymore. He was always the most difficult interview in the entire locker room because his sulky, sad responses weren’t much of a scoop. The losing got to him, which leaked to the rest of the team, who were looking for their best player to also become their leader. And with the entire team searching for a spark, the whole fan base got down and began to point fingers. It was a cycle of perpetual sadness, and nobody involved had an answer.

Love’s last few years in Minnesota will soon be forgotten personally with the success he’ll likely see in Cleveland. And for that, I’m very happy for him. As hard as he’s worked, he deserves that at the very least. But for the Minnesota fans and the remaining teammates left over from the Love era, they deserve even better.

So what do you make of the Kevin Love legacy as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves? His time here was scarred with injuries, pathetic rosters and failed coaching staffs but was also filled with exciting, record-breaking numbers as well as the complete transformation into yet another NBA superstar with ties to Minnesota.

Later that year after Garnett had made his return to the Target Center, he and his Boston Celtics won the 2008 NBA Championship. Tears rolled down Garnett’s face in jubilation because he, like Love, just wanted to taste what it’s like. Once Michelle Tafoya caught up with the Celtics’ big man, he had this to say:

“This is for everybody in ‘Sota”

Kevin Love’s legacy as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves won’t be determined by all those statistics or even all those losses. Just like Garnett, it’ll be determined once he makes his first appearance at the Target Center and the fans’ appreciation — or depreciation — as a whole, as well as what his response is to winning his first championship.

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Timberwolves trade Kevin Love to Cleveland in 3-way Trade

Screen Shot 2014-08-23 at 10.34.13 AM

Wolves announce trade with an ad in Star Tribune

In what we’ve seemingly known to be fact for about two weeks now has finally blossomed into reality: Kevin Love is now a Cleveland Cavalier. And in return, the Wolves will be pressing the rebuild button but hope that no one really knows that they actually pressed it.

The return is about as good as it could’ve been. The past days of a potential deal with Golden State without Klay Thompson in the mix or with Chicago for a blend of different, mostly undesirable parts are now gone. Instead the narrative turned into receiving the two past first overall choices in the draft (Anthony Bennett, 2013 and Andrew Wiggins, 2014) and a solidified and strongly underrated starting power forward in Thaddeus Young.

Over the next week or so, I’ll break down the new Pups individually to give you a better scope on what to expect. But for now, evaluating the trade as a whole is difficult because of the question marks Wiggins and Bennett carry along with them to the Great North. Just by that merit alone, this deal isn’t even close to a slam dunk. The percieved notion of it for sure is, but that’s assuming that everything goes either as or even better than expected. Wiggins would need to become a borderline superstar, while Bennett a potential All-Star down the road with Young rounding out the front court rotation in the mean time. That’s a lot to expect, which is why the head of reason dictates that the Wolves are taking an enormous step back with this deal in the short term to aim for a wider window at being more successful in the long term.

The Wolves had no choice but to trade Love eventually, which is sad in its own right. But they screwer up — I mean David Kahn/Glen Taylor screwed up. Flip Saunders is just here to patch the ship and set it off right as best he can. There’s a few more spots to fix on up but the ship ought to be setting sail in no time.

Wolves, Cavs agree to a Kevin Love deal

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Just about teammates, Love and LeBron have lofty goals in Cleveland

The one, the only Adrian Wojnarowski reported earlier this morning that the Wolves and Cavs have agreed upon a trade in principle that will ship Kevin Love to the Cavs for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a future 1st round pick. Perhaps the biggest piece of the deal is the assurance from Love’s camp that he’ll agree to a new contract, which will seal up his future in Cleveland for the foreseeable future.

Unless you live under a rock, this isn’t news to you. In fact, if you’ve been paying attention at all over the past three weeks, you would’ve known that this whole thing was inching closer and closer to completion. After all, it makes all sorts of sense for both of these teams to reach the alleged deal.

Cleveland just secured a once-in-a-lifetime second chance after LeBron James decided to ‘go home,’ but now the pressure is on to not blow like the first time around. Lucky enough for them, LeBron is now older, wiser and even better than he ever was in Cleveland. But, in basketball, we’ve learned that a team always triumphs over the individual, a lesson LeBron learned the hard way in Miami. That’s why the Cavaliers can’t afford to hand the ball to LeBron and say, “Have at it!” They need talent beyond him and Kyrie Irving, which is exactly why Love will help those three form, perhaps, one of the most deadly triple threats the league has ever seen. And one thing Cleveland still has, despite the trade, that Miami could never really figure out completely was depth up and down the roster. They’re still looking to shore things up at the moment, including looking at Shawn Marion, but for the most part, their youth and depth seem to give them an advantage. Miami never had a guy as good as Dion Waiters as their fourth player. They never had a true rim protector like Anderson Varejao — barring he stays healthy. They never even had a power, hustle forward like Cleveland does in Tristan Thompson.

The Cavaliers roster isn’t quite there yet to name them the unanimous title favorites but it’s a much improved scene over the cast of mistfits that Miami continually brought in on the veteran minimum with the promise of a championship. This core of young guys led by LeBron are hungry for a title, perhaps none more than Love himself. The thing that will really help Love mature is having a true leader to follow suit. In Minnesota, he was supposed to be that guy, but a poor attitude and a lack of vocal leadership hindered him in ever becoming a true leader. The skills and the game are there to be a team’s number one option but it was the swag and confidence in his teammates that never followed. Playing alongside the game’s best player and a worldwide icon will give Love a better opportunity to play to his characteristics and personality, while not forcing a leader to come out of him.

I can’t state enough how fortunate the Cavaliers have been through this entire offseason. Rarely does one team get a chance to run out the best player in the world in their jersey, but now another top-five player in the league will be right alongside him in the Wine & Gold.

But those opportunities don’t just fall into your lap. There was a price to pay, and that price was the potential of Andrew Wiggins. Notice that I said “potential” there because that will become ever-so important once you see this kid play his first game for Minnesota.

I’ve been a big Wiggins fan for a few years. Got to watch him play on the best AAU circuit in the country, the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League. He led his CIA Bounce team, alongside friend and teammate Tyler Ennis, to the championship game, where they fell to the Aaron Gordon-led Oakland Soldiers. But then even through college, where he played at one of my favorite programs Kansas. He wasn’t a star by any means but he oozed with potential and still was able to throw in some of the most impressive plays that most college kids couldn’t ever pull off.

The problem with Wiggins is his consistency and passive-aggressive nature on the court. Overall, his year at Kansas was solid. It wasn’t enough to garner talk of the first overall pick like Michael Beasley’s freshman year did but it was good enough to pair with his NBA potential at such a young age to justify the pick. The problem was that, scattered throughout the season, were some really poor performances, especially scoring-wise.

How about three points on 1-5 shooting in a big conference game with Oklahoma State? Or how about seven points on 2-12 shooting against Texas? Better yet, the show-stopper, a measly four points in Kansas’ tournament-ending performance against Stanford in the second round? The evidence shows that Wiggins’ poor games happen more than just poor shooting nights. He tends to disappear in games — at least on offense — which is by no means a trait of any superstar in this league.

But what Wiggins does best doesn’t show up in the stat sheets. He’s an above-average defender as it stands right now, and he’ll only get better as he learns assignments better. He’s also been very durable over the course of his career (Knock on wood). He makes a lot of things happen on the court simply due to his elite athleticism that many players couldn’t even fathom. It doesn’t all add up and make a pretty stat line but he’s been doing what it takes to win games at every level he’s been at. That’s something Love can’t quite say yet in his career.

Alongside Wiggins in the deal is Anthony Bennett. I’m not huge on Bennett. I believe he’s simply a newer version of Derrick Williams with even a shakier jump shot and less athleticism. That doesn’t bode well moving forward, but what I do like about Bennett is the will and the want to get better. He had one of the worst statistical seasons ever last year, of any player, so Bennett knows what’s at stake. In order to improve, you have to work very hard at it. Bennett came into Summer League having lost a good amount of weight, had his tonsils removed, so he’s breathing on the court better. There was no slacking off in getting prepared for this season because he knows it’s a big one.

The toughest part of this trade is imagining the drop-off from last year’s starting 4 to this year’s potentially starting 4. Love was the best statistical power forward in the league, while Bennett was the complete opposite. And as it stands right now, Bennett is the best option at that slot. That’s scary. So unless they can flip Bennett or find another way to deal for Thaddeus Young, as rumor has it the Wolves’ interest in acquiring him from the 76ers is very high. I like the idea of bringing in Young to have Bennett sculpt his game in the mold of his, while coming off the bench. Otherwise, as things stand currently, the Wolves are set to take a huge step back in terms of production of their starting five, and that’s very scary for a team that missed the playoffs for the tenth straight season this Spring.

All in all the trade was a huge success just in terms of getting something substantial in return for a mega-star, who made it known that he had zero intentions of staying in Minnesota past this coming season. He was going to walk, leaving the Wolves with nothing but his statistical records in the books. So for that very reason, to pull off a deal for a player with high aspirations in this league and another that looks to be climbing a mountain, is a great deal for Flip Saunders and the Wolves. It doesn’t necessarily dawn yet another full rebuild but fans must be willing to accept the step backwards and be ready for brighter days ahead with a roster constructed in the right manner.