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Fantasy Fallout: Kevin Love officially traded to Cleveland

Dalton Del Don
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Love connection: Kevin Love to be welcomed by Cavs
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Kevin Love is headed to Cleveland. (AP Photo/ Jim Mone, File)

The Kevin Love to Cleveland deal is finally official. The particulars involve Minnesota giving up Alexey Shved and Luc Mbah a Moute and Miami’s 2015 first-round pick to Philadelphia, who’s sending back Thaddeus Young and a trade exception worth $4 million. Meanwhile, the Cavs ship the last two No. 1 overall picks in Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins to the Timberwolves for Love. The deal had been agreed upon weeks ago but couldn’t become official until 30 days after the signing of Wiggins’ rookie deal, finally ending months of Love trade speculation.

Love will likely see his scoring decline some now sharing the court with two of the only eight players in the NBA who had a higher Usage Rate than him last season (Love finished tied for ninth, while Kyrie Irving was eighth and LeBron James fifth), but it’s hard not to get excited just thinking about his outlet passes to James starting fast breaks. Love, whose 65 double-doubles led the NBA last year when he finished third in PER, will continue to clean the glass and should be able to maintain first round fantasy value in his new digs, even if his scoring takes a small hit.

James’ value should remain mostly the same as well. He’s played a ton of minutes throughout his career, including four straight deep postseason runs in which he’s reached the Finals, so it’s possible the Cavs rest him more during the regular season, especially with them now being the heavy favorites to win the East. According to Basketball Monster, James finished as the No. 5 ranked fantasy player last season, his lowest mark since 2007/08 (when he finished No. 6), so he’ll safely be drafted second in almost every league this year.

Irving will likely take fewer shots, although his selectivity should improve. Still just 22 years old, there’s very much the chance he jumps to a next level, independent of having James and Love as teammates. If “Uncle Drew” can stay healthy, there’s a real chance Cleveland produces three top-15 fantasy assets in 2014/15.

It’s possible staying in Cleveland and having James as a mentor in a winning environment would have ultimately benefitted Wiggins’ career, but on paper, this move seemingly increases his fantasy value, as he’ll immediately be given a big role on a depleted Minnesota team that ranked No. 4 in Pace last season. Jabari Parker may be the favorite to win Rookie of the Year, but Wiggins is a close second and should be drafted in the middle rounds of fantasy leagues.

With the Timberwolves bringing in Wiggins and drafting Zach LaVine, Kevin Martin is unlikely to approach last year’s finish as the No. 64 fantasy player. It will also be difficult to ask Young to repeat last season’s performance, when he finished as the No. 31 fantasy player, but he’s going to be the focal point of a young Minnesota team with a pass-first point guard. It wouldn’t shock if Young’s Usage Rate actually increased this season compared to last.

Anthony Bennett gets a fresh start and showed improvement in Summer League, but he has a long way to go before fantasy relevance, and his presence in Minnesota’s frontcourt is a slight buzz kill for those hoping to see Gorgui Dieng get more minutes with Love out of town.

The 76ers’ loss of Young leaves an already thin roster even more wide open for someone to step up, and this is a team that led the NBA in Pace last season, so be on the lookout for whoever wins the starting job at shooting guard and small forward. Moreover, Nerlens Noel should be one of the more popular sleepers entering the year.

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