Right around this time last year, Love spent a weekend in Boston, stoking the flames of the fire that would eventually become the all-consuming Love trade rumors.
As those evolved, Golden State became a key team that was, at the very least, thought to be interested in acquiring Love. The biggest sticking point was the Warriors’ reported refusal to include Klay Thompson in any deal — though I have to imagine the prospect was, at the very least, tempting. Golden State was criticized for not making the deal; as you’ll recall, a season ago the Warriors were the No. 6 seed in the West and lost in the first round of the playoffs. How were they going to get better if not for a major shakeup?
As it turns out, Golden State absolutely made the right decision to stand pat. The biggest move was, instead, hiring Steve Kerr as head coach. And now the Warriors are in the finals and likely thankful in 1,000 ways that they never made the trade for Love — even though his free-flowing style would have paired nicely with Steph Curry and certainly would have been a better match for Love than Cleveland.
That brings us to the trade that did happen. Love went to the Cavaliers, who relented with the package of young players that proved to be ideal for the rebuilding Wolves. Love had an uneven season with the Cavaliers, clashing with LeBron James and seeing his individual numbers — which many figured would take a trim — take a pretty major dive from 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds with the Wolves in 2013-14 to 16.4 ppg and 9.7 rpg with the Cavaliers.
Then Love was hurt in the first round of the playoffs … and the Cavaliers still reached the finals. They would no doubt be better off if Love was still healthy, but it’s interesting to wonder how much so. It’s also fair to wonder if — even if everyone was healthy — they’d be better off at this point with Love or Andrew Wiggins. There’s no doubt Wiggins developed more quickly (and by necessity) with the Wolves and that his career arc would have been much different if he was still in Cleveland. It’s better for him to be here … but it’s sure tempting to think about how Wiggins, after a full season, might benefit Cleveland (particularly defensively against someone like Thompson) in the finals.
There are no take-backs. Everything that happened is done. But there’s no doubt that the 2014 Summer of Love dramatically impacted three franchises.
Two teams are in the finals and one is in the lottery (again), but if I had to say who made the best decisions the rankings would go T-1) Golden State and Minnesota and 3) Cleveland.