The landscape of the NBA's Eastern Conference changed once again Thursday morning when Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Cavaliers and Timberwolves had agreed to a trade that will send Kevin Love to Cleveland to team up with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Though it won't be made official until Aug. 23 -- the first date Andrew Wiggins' rookie contract can be traded -- it will make up the league's newest "Big Three," and one that should contend in the Eastern Conference and potentially for an NBA championship.
In Love, the Cavaliers receive a 25-year-old with a perfect skill set to complement James on the perimeter. The three-time All-Star is coming off a season in which he averaged 26.1 points and 12.2 rebounds for a Timberwolves team that won 40 games but missed the playoffs in a brutal Western Conference. He set career-highs in a number of categories, the most important of which may have been his 2.5 3-pointers per game, seventh most in the NBA. If first-year head coach David Blatt's offense is anything like what Erik Spoelstra ran in Miami, the Cavaliers' goal will be to surround James with as many outside shooters as possible, and Love certainly fits the bill. Grantland's Kirk Goldberry pointed out, Love may see more time on the block in Cleveland, but that outside threat will be an added bonus.
Love didn't have much talent surrounding him in Minnesota, but point guard Ricky Rubio certainly was an exception. The Rubio-Love pick-and-pop was a thing of beauty every time they ran it, and Love finds himself with yet another stellar point guard option in Irving. The 22-year-old Irving isn't the passer Rubio is, but he's no slouch either; he's averaged 5.8 assists in three seasons while leading his team in scoring each year. With James and Love, the third and fourth leading scorers in the NBA a year ago, on board, Irving should become much more of a facilitator while also improving his efficiency (he shot a career-worst 43 percent from the field last year).
Injury concerns also are prevalent with Irving. In three NBA seasons, Irving has missed 49 games with injury and was limited to 11 games in his only season at Duke after breaking his foot. For all the talk surrounding whether or not Derrick Rose will put together a healthy season in Chicago, Irving's health as a now-max player -- he signed a five-year, $90 million extension last month -- may be more important to a Cavaliers team that doesn't have the same depth as Chicago does.
Then there's James. The best basketball player on the planet makes any team an instant contender -- he's made the playoffs nine straight seasons and been to the NBA Finals five times, winning it twice -- and while his regular-season numbers were down in 2013-14, his efficiency was up and his playoff numbers were some of his best ever. Love and Irving were the go-to players on sub-par rosters, so their total numbers were somewhat inflated and naturally will decrease with James in the fold. But there's no question that James will provide invaluable tutelage and direction to a pair of players with zero career playoff appearances.
It's tough to compare Cleveland's current Big Three to the force that teamed up in Miami four seasons ago; James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh had each been in the NBA for seven seasons when they teamed up, compared to Love (six seasons), Irving (three seasons) and James (11 seasons). It's a different scenario in which the Cavaliers aren't considered a potential dynasty like the Heat were in 2010, plus the Cavaliers' roster is much younger and inexperienced than Miami's group was, though Cleveland has put together a solid mix of veterans in free agency.
Whether that roster is good enough to be considered the favorites in the Eastern Conference is still unknown. As good as those James, Love and Irving are collectively, much of their success will be determined on how well the supporting cast, namely Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao, can perform. See what else our team had to say in The Rundown, presented by AT&T U-verse.