We now know that the deal sending Kevin Love to Cleveland will go down Saturday. Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Miami’s 2015 first-round draft pick will go to Minnesota, and in a side deal Thaddeus Young will be sent from the Sixers to the Wolves for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Alexey Shved.
Minnesota comes out with the last two overall No. 1 picks, Philadelphia comes out with an even worse team than before, and Cleveland comes out with ….
In another edition of the Three-Man Weave, our staffers take a look at how these events will shape the East this season.
1. True or false: Cleveland’s trio of LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving is the best three-headed monster in the NBA.
CHRIS SHERIDAN, PUBLISHER: This is quite true, but that does not mean that the Cavs should be the favorites to win the title. Three-headed monsters are nice and all, but the San Antonio Spurs would take these guys out quite easily. The Cavs’ monster has to learn how to play together, and it will not be an easy adjustment for Irving to have the ball in his hands much less than he is used to. Remember, LeBron is pretty much a point forward. Kyrie is a pure point guard. That could be a structural flaw.
CHRIS BERNUCCA, MANAGING EDITOR: The Cavs have an argument, but I will say false for now. Based on familiarity with each other, I would take Oklahoma City’s trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, who have been together for five years and still all reaching for their individual ceilings. A trio of superstars certainly puts you in championship contender category, but you need more than three guys to win a title, as the Thunder, Heat and even the Spurs have shown in falling short in recent years.
JAMES PARK, DEPUTY EDITOR: True. This one’s relatively easy to say because quite frankly, there aren’t a whole lot of trios out there considered a “three-headed monster.” The closest thing to a “Big Three” is in Oklahoma City with Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan may also be considered, and you always have to include Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard (replacing Manu Ginobili). James, Love and Irving are three players who have been the unquestioned go-to player on their teams. There is no other team right now that has such a combination of players. Of course, the level of success for each player in that role has varied, but that’s a whole different topic.
2. True or false: The Miami Heat are still a top-four team in the Eastern Conference.
SHERIDAN: True. The Cavs and the Bulls are the class of the conference, and the Wizards are knocking on that door. After that, it is a mishmash of mediocre teams and very bad teams. The Heat will have to play a completely different style than what they had grown accustomed to, with LeBron dominating the ball. But Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can continue to be two of the most efficient offensive players in the league, and Luol Deng will be solid. I’ve got Miami as a strong No. 4.
BERNUCCA: False. Miami is going to take a huge step backward without LeBron James. Mario Chalmers is going to have to do more as a point guard than pass to the wing, cut through the defense and stand in the corner. Dwyane Wade, Danny Granger and even Luol Deng are going to have to prove they can stay healthy for an entire season. Who is actually going to rebound on this team? In addition to Cleveland and Chicago, I believe Washington and Toronto both are better than Miami, and Atlanta and Brooklyn are both right there if healthy.
PARK: True, assuming Wade doesn’t have to take off a quarter of the season for maintenance purposes. Despite losing their best player, the Heat still managed to keep a strong roster intact by re-signing Wade, Chalmers, Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen. They also signed Deng, who is no James but is a borderline top-10 player at his position. Bosh and Wade will look to carry a bigger load as primary options – something both have been capable of in the past. It’s no “Big Three,” but not many teams have two go-to players of their caliber, either. Erik Spoelstra is still around, so the overall schemes and philosophy shouldn’t change much on either end. Essentially, the team downgraded some with the loss of James but has the personnel to stay strong in the still-anemic East.
3. True or false: The Indiana Pacers are still a playoff team in the Eastern Conference.
SHERIDAN: False. Aside from the four teams mentioned above (Cavs, Bulls, Wizards, Heat), the Raptors, Bobcats, Hawks and Nets should be considered playoff locks, which takes up all eight spots. Somebody else could jump in. The Knicks will be better with Jose Calderon and Sam Dalembert replacing Ray Felton and Tyson Chandler, and the Celtics will have Rajon Rondo healthy for the entire season, The Pacers lost their two best players (apologies to David West). You don’t recover from that.
BERNUCCA: False. Let’s see – no Lance Stephenson, who was their best player at creating for himself or others, shot 35 percent from deep and was an awesome defender. And no Paul George, who was their second-best player at creating for himself or others, shot 36 percent from deep and was an awesome defender. And even with those guys, Frank Vogel’s offense often looked like it was playing in sand. Indiana
will be playing a boatload of 85-80 games and won’t win enough of them to play in May.
PARK: False. The Pacers struggled to score last season, even with George and Stephenson. With both gone, Indiana could become the worst offensive team in the league. The team desperately needs a playmaker, but all it has is George Hill, a backup two-guard masquerading as the starting point guard. Newly acquired Rodney Stuckey can score but is generally inefficient and doesn’t have the range to space the floor. David West will take on a bigger role offensively (a good thing), but he’s turning 34 this month. Roy Hibbert can finally get all the touches he could ever ask for, but his confidence comes and goes. Bench production looks close to no-nexistent. The defense also will take a major dive. George’s irreplaceable defense will be handled by some form of C.J. Miles, Rasual Butler and Chris Copeland. Yikes.