Timberwolves get best deal possible in Kevin Love trade

Published 5:33 am Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Column: Notes from Nashville, by Andrew Dyrdal

The Minnesota Timberwolves pulled the trigger on the second most meaningful trade in franchise history on Saturday: the team traded All-Star forward Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers for three young and promising players.

In a three-team trade that sent Love to pair with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving to form the NBA’s newest Big 3 and a pair of role players to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Wolves received this summer’s No. 1 pick, Andrew Wiggins, 2013’s No. 1 pick, Anthony Bennett, and 26-year-old forward Thaddeus Young, who will take Love’s place in the starting lineup.

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Timberwolves head coach and President of Basketball Operations, Flip Saunders, is being lauded as a hero and took the stage at the State Fair this weekend to answer questions from the Twin Cities media as well as fans. The questions he received were mostly softballs with many people wondering how the trade went down, which other teams or players were involved and how he plans to use the three newest Wolves.

Saunders said the team now has an identity, an athletic and up-and-down team who will run the floor well with Ricky Rubio and be better defensively. When he got home, he should have sent a two-word text to LeBron. A simple, “thank you.”

While Saunders did a good job using the little leverage he had — all 32 NBA teams knew Love was leaving Minnesota after this season — he held his ground and waited for the best possible offer to come through.

He demanded the Golden State Warriors include Klay Thompson in their trade package and resisted any offers that didn’t include him, and when the Chicago Bulls offered a trio of talented players for the star forward, he continued to wait for a better deal.

When LeBron announced last month that he was returning to Cleveland, that’s when all of Saunders’ leverage changed. Love was still walking after the upcoming season, but suddenly the most powerful player in the NBA, one who’s even arguably more powerful than the league’s commissioner, Adam Silver, wanted Love as his teammate.

Luck also played into the Wolves ability to trade Love to the Cavs. Cleveland had a 1.7 percent chance to win the lottery and hit the jackpot, allowing them the opportunity to draft Wiggins. Without Wiggins, the Cavs wouldn’t have had the assets to land Love.

And the Wolves wouldn’t have received an offer close to what they landed.

Andrew Dyrdal’s column appears in the Tribune each Tuesday.