Kevin Love is finally teaming up with LeBron James.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers completed a delayed blockbuster trade Saturday that's been talked about for months and on hold for 30 days. Love, arguably the game's best power forward, is headed from Minnesota to Cleveland, where he will join James and instantly make the Cavs an NBA title favourite.
The Timberwolves are getting No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins and former top pick Anthony Bennett, also from Canada, from Cleveland and veteran forward Thaddeus Young from Philadelphia.
The 76ers get a 2015 first-round draft choice from Cleveland, and guard Alexey Shved and forward Luc Mbah a Moute from Minnesota.
A rarely used NBA rule forced the teams to wait to complete the trade until 30 days after Wiggins signed his rookie contract.
It's official now, and Cleveland, which hasn't had a major pro sports championship since 1964, is poised to make a run at ending the drought.
James didn't waste any time in making Love feel at home.
"Welcome to the Land (at)kevinlove!" the four-time league MVP posted on his Twitter account.
The Cavs and Timberwolves have been discussing a trade involving for Love for months, long before James decided to leave Miami and come back home to Ohio. The deal dragged on through the summer, first because of Cleveland's unwillingness to include Wiggins in any package, and then due to the 30-day provision.
That bit of fine print in the collective bargaining agreement triggered an agonizing wait in both cities, more so in championship-starved Cleveland where generations of fans have longed for the Cavs, Indians or Browns to win it all.
Now the league's best player has another superstar as a running mate. Add in all-star point guard Kyrie Irving and James again finds himself the ringleader of a star-studded trio after leaving Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade behind with the Heat.
Love will make James a better player and vice versa.
"I'm going to be very excited to have him," James said at his recent homecoming event in Akron, Ohio. "I don't really care about the 26 [points] and 12 [rebounds]. I care about the basketball IQ. His basketball IQ is very, very high. I had an opportunity to spend 32 days with him on the 2012 Olympic team. It's funny. I always told Kevin Love, 'You're very good, man.' He always thought I was blowing smoke.
"I always told him he was going to be a reason why we won the gold medal, and he played a huge role for us. So I'm looking forward to it. He's a great piece."
Wiggins becomes just the second No. 1 overall draft pick to be traded without playing a game for the team that drafted him since the ABA and NBA merged in 1976.
The only other time it happened was in 1993 when the Orlando Magic traded Chris Webber to the Golden State Warriors for a package headlined by Penny Hardaway.
The Webber-Hardaway trade occurred on draft night, allowing both players and both teams involved to leave the venue that night with a clear picture of their respective futures.
Wiggins, on the other hand, has endured a much longer, more awkward process. He suited up for the Cavaliers at the Las Vegas summer league even as the rumours of his trade started to swirl. As the summer dragged on, the 19-year-old Canadian who spent one year at the University of Kansas even wore the Cleveland colours in a rookie photo shoot at the start of August.
Through it all, he side-stepped questions about where he was headed and steadfastly maintained the rumours didn't bother him.
"Anywhere, any team," he said earlier this month when asked about it at a promotional appearance. "I can play anywhere."
But Jayhawks coach Bill Self said that he thinks Wiggins has used the Cavaliers' decision to trade him as fuel.
"I think he's handled everything great. He's excited," Self said at a basketball camp earlier this month. "I think the whole thing that's been blown out of proportion a bit is that he's been in limbo. He's known since the summer that he'd be traded. It's OK. In some ways he's looking forward to going to Minnesota."
The vast majority of top picks since the merger either have never been traded or were shipped out after spending at least four seasons with the team that drafted them.
Canadian Bennett also unique
Bennett, the No. 1 overall pick in 2013 who is headed from Cleveland to Minnesota with Wiggins, is unique in his own right in getting traded after just one year with the team that drafted him. He joins Pervis Ellison, who was traded from Sacramento to Washington after his rookie season in 1990, and Webber, who was traded from Golden State to Washington after one year, as the only No. 1s to be dealt that quickly.
That speaks to how highly the Cavaliers, and James in particular, think of Love. His versatility, shot-making, outlet passing and rebounding prowess will be a perfect fit for the James-led Cavaliers, just as it was when the two teamed up at the London Olympics with Team USA.
Love spent his first six seasons in Minnesota and has yet to make the playoffs. That lack of success caused him to inform management this summer that he intended to opt out of his contract next July and sign with a contender, so the Wolves started to entertain offers.
The Cavaliers jumped into the mix right after James decided to return home and shot to the top of the list of suitors when they decided to make Wiggins, a super-athletic, six-foot-eight forward, available.
Now that he is coming to Minnesota with the added motivation of being an outlier is just icing on the cake in the Wolves' eyes.
They see two young players with the talent that made them No. 1 picks and the motivation to show the Cavaliers they shouldn't have given up on them this quickly, even if they were getting a three-time All-Star and one of the best offensive players in return.
"When all this trade stuff started, I talked to Andrew and Andrew told me, 'I hope I get traded,"' Self said. "And I'm like, 'No you don't.' And he said, "Coach, I do. It's better for me, knowing my personality and what I need to do, to go somewhere where I'm forced to be something as opposed to going in there where they're going to be patient with me and I'm going to be a piece."