The Fantasy Basketball Impact of the Kevin Love Trade
The trade we have all been waiting for has finally gone down: Jeremy Tyler and Wayne Ellington to the Kings, while the Knicks acquire Travis Outlaw and Quincy Acy …oh wait, no one cares about that trade. Kevin Love is going to be a Cleveland Cavalier, while the Timberwolves will receive Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, and a protected first round pick. The deal cannot be made official until August 23rd, so there’s a good chance some other players will be involved, but we only know the main players involved in the deal. This greatly changes the fantasy basketball landscape as multiple players gain/lose value because of this trade.
Kevin Love has always been the man in Minnesota and an elite fantasy player as well. His numbers last season were incredible: 26.1 points (45.7 FG%/82.1 FT%), 12.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.5 blocks, and 2.5 three pointers made per game. However, now he’s no longer going to be the main option and has to share shots and rebounding opportunities with other teammates. There was only one other player on the T-Wolves that averaged more than six rebounds per game last season and that was Nikola Pekovic. Besides Pekovic and Love, Ricky Rubio was their third best rebounder with 4.2 rebounds per game, for a player that averaged at least 20 minutes played per game. Compare that with the current Cleveland roster, which has three players that averaged basically seven plus rebounds per game (LeBron (6.9), Varejao (9.7), and Tristan Thompson (9.2)) last season. The plethora of rebounding opportunities are not going to be there for Love this season, but still expect him to reach double digit rebounds per game and average closer to 10 rebounds than 12.5 rebounds.
The projected starting lineup for the Cavaliers will look like this: Kyrie Irving at PG (17.4 field goal attempts per game last season), Dion Waiters at SG (14.2 FGA), LeBron James at SF ( 17.6 FGA), Kevin Love at PF (18.5 FGA), and Anderson Varejao (7.1 FGA). Minnesota had only three players that averaged 13 FGA or more per game last season (Love, Pekovic, Kevin Martin), while the Cavaliers have three players that averaged 17 plus field goal attempts per game in their starting lineup. There is no way Dion Waiters is going to put up 14 shots per game and will barely get 10 shots per game, but this also means the new “Big 3” are going to take less shots as well. Therefore, Irving and Love’s points per game are going to decrease because their shot attempts per game are going to decrease.
The LeBron James effect is a real thing and will hinder the amount of points Irving and Love put up. Chris Bosh was an elite player during his last five seasons in Toronto by averaging 22.8 points on 15.92 FGA/8.3 FTA, 9.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.7 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game during that five year span. However, averaged only 17.4 points on 13.1 FGA/4.6 FTA, 7.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.9 steals, and one block per game during his four seasons with LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Not only did he averaged five less points, almost three less shots and four less free throw attempts, and 2.5 less rebounds per game with the Heat than with Toronto, his stats also got worse each season he played on the Heat. What about Dwyane Wade? His stats got worse when LeBron got there as well. Part of that could be blamed on his bad knees, but he scored less points and took less shots when he played with LBJ. There have been three seasons in which Wade has averaged 22 points per game or less, excluding his rookie year, for a whole season and that would be his past three seasons with the Heat. With that said, even LeBron’s stats went down a bit during his four seasons with the Heat. Part of that has do with these players getting less playing time because they no longer need to log heavy minutes. However, they also had to share to the ball and make sacrifices in order to be a winning team and that is a big reason why their numbers suffered. I bring up Bosh and Wade’s numbers to show you that they were all elite fantasy caliber players by themselves, but their production took a hit when they played together. As good as Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving are, there numbers are going to take a hit too. Love is no longer a top five fantasy option because his points/rebounds will decrease and has yet to stay healthy for an entire season. With that said, he’ll still be a top 10 fantasy producer. However, I can’t say the same thing for Kyrie. That’s because he’s not a good shooter and has never stayed healthy for entire season throughout his NBA career and now he’s going to be third option on a team in which he used to be the number one option, so his points and assists are going to take a hit. This is a player that shouldn’t be drafted in the first two rounds of fantasy drafts.
It’s time to focus on the Timberwolves part of the deal. They get a rising star in Andrew Wiggins and a much improve Anthony Bennett (and by improved, I mean he played well in summer league). That’s a great hall for a player that was going to leave them at the end of the season anyways. Wiggins will likely start over Corey Brewer, but both players will get plenty of playing time as Brewer started in 81 games for Minnesota last season. Both players will be put up mediocre fantasy numbers this season because they will share minutes as well as shot attempts. Kevin Martin was their second leading scorer last season by averaging 19.1 points per game and that should increase this season because he’ll get more shooting opportunities. His high scoring output, stellar free throw percentage (89.1%) and three pointers made (1.7) make him a great value pick in fantasy drafts, especially in rotisserie leagues. Nikola Pekovic numbers will increase a bit, but will be limited to 30ish minutes per game because of injury concerns and could find himself playing for another team before the season is over. There are strong rumors that Anthony Bennett is going to be shipped to Philadelphia for Thaddeus Young. Bennett’s fantasy value would skyrocket, as he’d go from role player to immediate starter that will play big time minutes with the Sixers. Young’s fantasy production is going to be solid no matter what team he plays for. Gorgui Dieng will see a huge bump in minutes and could start at the power forward position IF they don’t trade for Thaddeus Young. However, if they do trade for Young (which is highly likely at this point), than Dieng will find himself in fantasy purgatory. He’ll still get playing time, but his production will be nothing special. With that said, he makes for a perfect handcuff for Pekovic owners because Dieng average stats per 36 minutes played last season was 12.6 points, 13.2 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and 2.2 blocks. He’s a good player to stash in all fantasy formats this season.
The Cavaliers instantly become title contenders with this trade and will be challenged by only the Bulls, in the pitiful Eastern Conference. On the flip side, the Timberwolves go from fringe playoff contender to a team that is trying to build for the future while still not completely tanking. The future does look promising for them as they do have a solid nucleus of young talent, but they also have some aging veterans that do not belong on a rebuilding roster.
Enough said regarding this trade. Will be frequently posting articles about fantasy basketball throughout the offseason and will be putting out an awesome fantasy basketball draft guide later this year. Also, make sure checkout the Fantasy Alarm’s awesome Fantasy Football Draft Guide, but that’s only if you want to win your league. As always, feel free to holler at me on twitter @datrueguru.