The Cleveland Cavaliers became the favorites to win the 2015 NBA Finals when LeBron James returned to the club in July. Now, the team is set to trade for Kevin Love, giving them an even better chance to win the first championship in franchise history.
According to Yahoo! Sports reporter Adrian Wojnarowski, the Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves have agreed in principle to a trade that would send Love to Cleveland for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a 2015 first-round draft pick. Love has reportedly agreed to sign a five-year contract extension next offseason with the Cavaliers. The deal can’t be made official until Aug. 23.
On July 11, Bovada.lv set Cleveland’s title odds at 4/1, putting them ahead of the defending champion San Antonio Spurs. With the impending addition of Love, the team’s betting odds have gotten even better, moving to 5/2.
While the Cavaliers were the favorites before trading for Love, the team still had several question marks. Wiggins has yet to play an NBA game and it’s unknown what kind of impact he can have as a rookie. The team would also have likely relied on Bennett for significant minutes, and he's coming off one of the worst rookie seasons that a No.1 draft pick has ever had.
Cleveland’s new “Big 3” of James, Love and Kyrie Irving probably gives them the best collection of stars in the NBA, even better than what the Miami Heat had last season with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. All three of the Cavaliers’ players are in their prime, combining for an average age of just 25 years old. Neither Love nor Irving has ever played on a winning NBA team, but that will almost certainly change in the 2014-2015 season.
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Last year, Love averaged 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game for a 40-win Timberwolves team. In 71 games, Irving led Cleveland with 20.8 points, 6.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game in just his third NBA season.
It’s appeared that Cleveland has been in the driver’s seat to acquire Love for a few weeks, but the Golden State Warriors provided the biggest threat to their pursuit of the All-Star. Minnesota was reportedly interested in trading Love for a package that included Klay Thompson, but the Warriors were unwilling to part with their young shooting guard. Without Love, Golden State has 22/1 odds to win it all.
The Chicago Bulls reportedly had discussions with the Timberwolves about Love, though it’s unclear if they ever had a realistic chance of completing a trade. If the Bulls were able to land the 25-year-old, their title odds would have risen, and possibly could have competed with the Cavaliers’ odds to make them the favorites. Chicago currently sits just behind Cleveland in the Eastern Conference with 11/2 odds.
In addition to the Cavaliers, Spurs and Bulls, the Oklahoma City Thunder have separated themselves from the rest of the league as top title contenders. They come in fourth overall with 6/1 odds, despite not adding any significant free agents this offseason.