Yes, finally, the deal is done. The Cleveland Cavaliers, on August 27, formally introduced Kevin Love to its fans. Now we can move on from the trade speculation to just how good the Cleveland Cavaliers will be with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and our own Bruin, Kevin Love. ICYMI, in an unexpected twist to the trade, Minnesota sent another Bruin, Luc Mbah a Moute, along with a first round draft pick, to Philadelphia for 6'8" small forward Thaddeus Young. Minnesota also picked up Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, the last two overall top draft picks, from Cleveland.
Las Vegas bookmakers are calling the NBA title for the Cavs, with San Antonio, Chicago, Oklahoma and the Los Angeles Clippers behind them in that order. I called it for the Cavs two weeks ago, but my order was Cleveland, Chicago, Oklahoma, and San Antonio. I like Chicago with Tom Thibodeau as coach. He's worked miracles almost in a league with Greg Popovich, and they've added Pau Gasol. As for San Antonio, I have the utmost respect for them, but they have to fade sometime. Don't they?
The biggest problem anticipated for Cleveland is the interior defense. LeBron can't cover five guys, and Love was not known for his defense. Will Cleveland have a rim protector? It won't be center Anderson Varajao. It will be up to new coach David Blatt, who has never been an NBA head coach, to get Love to buy into team interior help. There's definitely a crack open for Chicago to win the East. Can Derrick Rose play for a full season at a high level? He's coming off the bench for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup.
Minnesota fans are happy to get this behind them, and are looking forward to their totally remade, young and athletic team lead by Wiggins, Young, Rubio and Bennett. What about Zach LaVine? The Timberwolves are reportedly trying to trade J.J. Barea, which would open up point guard minutes for Zach. Wiggins, Young, and Bennett are all small forwards, but I would guess that Young moves to power forward and Wiggins drops down to shooting guard. If Bennett doesn't crack the starting lineup, Kevin Martin is the shooting guard. Zach may struggle for minutes on the wing.
The Philadelphia 76ers are headed into their third season with a deliberate tank job strategy. Does Luc care? The thought is that the Sixers acquired him to coach up Joel Embiid. He's been with the Bucks, Kings and Timberwolves, so no, he probably doesn't care, and he's not in a position to pull a Kevin Love.
It's a curious strategy for the Sixers, and you have to feel sorry for their fans. How much can they take? Their two big name first round draft picks, Noel Nerlens and Joel Embiid, both will have sat out a full year. At the end of the draft pick orgy, will they be lucky, and have at least one superstar emerge? Philadelphia is not a small market, so you would have expected a "spend-to-win" mentality, but all bets are off under the last great equalizer, the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
In UCLA recruiting news, two more targets included the Bruins on their final lists: 6'8" small forward Brandon Ingram from North Carolina and 6'9" power forward Carlton Bragg from Cleveland. Notice that three of Ingram choices are in North Carolina, whereas Bragg left off the in-state school, Ohio State. 247 Sports has Kentucky leading for Bragg and Duke leading for Ingram.
In the Jaylen Brown watch, Brown announced his official visits to Kentucky and Kansas for their big opening hoopla "madness" events. Brown had an unofficial visit to UCLA in August, and plans to set an official visit. 247Sports now has him as a Kentucky lean with UCLA close behind.
Here is the remaining pool of 2014-15 hoops targets as I see it, listed in order of likelihood: Koumadje, Brown, Comanche, Zimmerman, Bragg, Hogg, Swanigan and Ingram. Koumadje has expressed the most excitement, Zimmerman is a tough call but I would say we are top 3, Comanche, Bragg and Hogg are waiting to see where the dominoes fall -- they aren't all going to Kentucky and Arizona (who really wants Ivan Rabb) and Ingram will wind up somewhere in North Carolina -- especially if we land Brown.