Name the last time a Cleveland team signed the best player in the league. Now give an example of when a Cleveland team acquired a top ten player in the league. How about when was the last time free agents took less money to play on a Cleveland team? Okay, now tell me when a team has been able to do this in one offseason. Can’t come up with one? This answer leads me to say that the last two months for the Cleveland Cavaliers has been the single best offseason in the history of the Cleveland professional sports.
On Saturday, the Cavaliers officially made the long awaited trade for Kevin Love. The deal involved the Cavs sending first-round picks Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett to the Minnesota Timberwolves, and a future first-round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers. In return, the Cavaliers landed a top ten player who averaged 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds last season.
Love is a scoring machine who can make baskets in the post, mid-range, and perimeter. Last season he shot 45.7% from the field and 37.6% from behind the three-point line. His scoring versatility gives defenders fits. Along with his scoring, he also possesses elite rebounding skills—the 12.5 rebounds he averaged last season was the third most in the NBA. He gets great position in the paint and uses his strong hands to rake the glass. As if that wasn’t enough, Love has top-tier passing ability, creating easy baskets for his teammates because of his ability to throw down court to players leaking out on a fast break. And just think: This level of talent was only the second-best addition this offseason.
The unbelievable momentum first started when the best player in the league, LeBron James, chose to come back and play in Cleveland, winning services of the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player. James is hands down the top player in the league and a great teammate to play with—the “LeBron James bump” is a real thing. He is one of the best passers in the game, possessing the ability to see over the defense and find the open teammate with a quick and accurate delivery. James is one of the elite drivers in the league because of his athleticism. His penetration can not only help his scoring ability but it also makes the defense collapse on him leaving his teammates open for easier baskets. He has improved his outside shooting ability, shooting 37.9% from behind the three-point line. Yet his versatility on defense is one of his best qualities, having the ability to guard any position on the floor because of his athleticism and intelligence. James and Love give the Cavs a combo many could only dream of acquiring in separate offseasons let alone one.
The team boasts a new “Big 3” with Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, and Kevin Love. This trio is considered by many to be the best one in the NBA. They have games that are very compatible with each other and all three players are in or entering the prime of their respective careers. But the Cavs added more then just the “Big 3.”
Over the last few weeks, the team was able to sign multiple free agent veterans for less than market value. The first addition of the offseason was the signing of sharp shooters Mike Miller and James Jones. Both players were drawn to Cavs because of James returning to Cleveland. The latest addition in free agency is the commitment of Shawn Marion to play next season. He will take less money to come and play with the new look Cavaliers, adding even more versatility to the wing.
The offseason culminated with the trade for Love on Saturday, but it may not even be over. The Cavs are still in the running for veteran shooting guard Ray Allen. Reports say that he is leaning toward playing for the Cavs next season which would strengthen the already experienced and deep bench the team has accumulated. The team may also look to add a center to further bolster their big man depth, linked to players like Denver’s Timofey Mozgov and, more recently, Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
As the offseason has already proven, anything can happen with David Griffin and the Cavaliers. They have transformed a roster full of players like Alonzo Gee, CJ Miles, Luol Deng, Andrew Bynum, Jarrett Jack, and Spencer Hawes into a roster of LeBron James, Kevin Love, Mike Miller, James Jones and Shawn Marion. This new and improved Cavs are now considered one of the favorites to win not just the Eastern Conference championship, but also the NBA championship. Not a bad shift in fortunes for a team that was an NBA Lottery mainstay for the last four summers.
(Picture courtesy of Bleacher Report)