Remember when the Cavaliers and Warriors faced off in the NBA Finals for four straight seasons and everyone was mad because they were sick of the repetitiveness? Yeah, me too.
The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are off to very rough starts this season, and they both sit in or at the basements of their respective conferences. The Warriors' demise is largely due to players like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson being sidelined with injuries, as well as recent acquisition D'Angelo Russell, who was acquired from the Brooklyn Nets this summer in a sign-and-trade with Kevin Durant. Russell is averaging a cool 22.3 PPG and 6.2 APG, while shooting 45% from the field and 34.7% from three-land. His play hasn't necessarily translated to wins, and there are still concerns about Russell and Curry being able to coexist in such a offense-heavy and defensively scarce backcourt. Meanwhile in Cleveland, Kevin Love has recently seen a minutes restriction as the Cavaliers are falling apart, but he's quietly averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds a game for the Cavs.
Because of their scenarios, Russell and Love's names have failed to stay out of trade talks this season, and those talks are only intensifying now that the Warriors and Cavaliers are floundering. According to Sean Deveney, the Warriors "aren't in any rush" to trade Russell, but it could be a possibility around the trade deadline to deal D'Lo for draft capital and younger assets. Deveney also named five teams that had either previously inquired or are interested in Russell's services. The Cavaliers have already said they were open to trading Love, so he's bound to be traded by February. So, let's take a look at some fits for D'Lo and K-Lo, and come up with some intriguing trade packages.
Minnesota Pairs D'Lo and KAT Up
Timberwolves Receive: D'Angelo Russell
Warriors Receive: Jarrett Culver, Jeff Teague, Keita Bates-Diop, 2020 1st-rd Pick
Behind the emergence of Andrew Wiggins, the Timberwolves are off to a much better start than most people expected. Karl-Anthony Towns is an absolute monster this season, and while his rotations and decision-making are occasionally questionable, Ryan Saunders definitely has the potential to be one of the better coaches in the league. However, the Western Conference is a different monster, and a playoff spot is no guarantee even with KAT and Maple Jordan (yup, I did it again) balling early this year.
Minnesota was the favorites throughout June to land Russell if he was moved, and there is still a chance they can land him. They would more than likely have to part ways with Jarrett Culver, the 6th pick of last year's draft. He started slow out the gate, but has reached double-digit scoring in eight of his last nine games and is looking like he's starting to figure things out. Teague's contract runs out at the end of the season, so that would free up about $20 million in cap space for Golden State. Bates-Diop has quietly put together a great season, as he's shooting almost 50% from three and has done a great job on the defensive end as well, so that's another quality piece heading to Golden State in this case, and the 1st-rounder the Warriors would receive would probably fall in the middle of the 1st-round. This trade would give Golden State the opportunity to snag a younger asset and shed some salary, while Minnesota would land their point guard of the future.
Pistons Trade for Russell's Services
Pistons Receive: D'Angelo Russell
Warriors Receive: Reggie Jackson, Sekou Doumbouya, Christian Wood, Khyri Thomas, 2020 1st-rd pick, 2023 1st-rd pick
As I've talked about previously with the Pistons, they've been stuck in a cycle of mediocrity for what feels like forever, so they're in a need of a drastic change. The tandem of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond has paid dividends thus far, but its hasn't resulted in enough wins and, more importantly, zero playoff wins. The backcourt duo of Derrick Rose and Luke Kennard has played well this season, and Kennard's breakout has helped the Pistons out tremendously.
This trade may not seem like a massive haul back for the Warriors, but when you break it down piece by piece, it's a good deal in the long run. Reggie Jackson can help the Warriors finish the season, and then his mammoth contract is off the books this offseason, so it opens up a lot more cap space for this off-season (maybe for Andre Drummond?). Doumbouya is a prospect that holds a lot of future potential, and the Warriors know a thing or two about developing players into stars. Wood is another relatively unknown player but has had some impressive games over the past couple of years in New Orleans and Detroit, and could be a big help off the bench for the Dubs. The 1st round pick this season likely would be in the middle of the 1st-round, while the 2023 pick could prove to be much more valuable. The Pistons finally get a point guard for the future and pair him with Kennard, Drummond, and Griffin, and suddenly the Pistons look like much more of a threat in the Eastern Conference.
Kevin Love Gets Dealt to Boston
Celtics Receive: Kevin Love, Ante Zizic
Cavaliers Receive: Gordon Hayward, Semi Ojeleye, 2020 MEM 1st-rd pick, 2021 1st-rd pick
Love to Boston is one of the hottest rumors circling the league, and the rumors only flared up even more after Thursday night's turn of events. The Celtics were manhandled by Joel Embiid in a close loss, and Love went off for 30 points and 17 rebounds in a close win against San Antonio. It's very evident that the Celtics could use some more depth at the bigger positions, especially when it comes to interior defense and rebounding. It all comes down to if they want to splurge on a higher-end option, or buy low at the deadline and hope that it's enough come playoff time.
If they decide to chase after the more expensive and reliable options, then a great start and arguably the best option would be to trade for Love. As we've seen over the course of his career with Minnesota and Cleveland, he's been one of the best rebounders at his position. The Celtics rank 15th in 3PT% and 16th in rebounding this season, and adding Love will only move them higher in both of those categories. The Celtics could easily slot him in as the starting power forward alongside Daniel Theis (who has been great for Boston so far), and doing this would give them a great lineup of Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Love, and Theis. Sure, losing Gordon Hayward would really sting, but the Celtics have shown that they can win without him, and it would give more opportunities to Brown and Tatum. Plus, Hayward has a player option after this season and is more than likely going to decline that option and test free agency, so his time in Cleveland could be brief. The real prize in this trade may be 1st-round pick from Memphis, as Boston controls that pick if it falls outside the top 6 of the lottery. By doing this trade, the Celtics would have a long-term answer for their rebounding woes (Love is on contract for three more years) and Cleveland could potentially have two top 10 picks this June.
Love Joins Dame & C.J. in Portland
Trailblazers Receive: Kevin Love
Cavaliers Receive: Hassan Whiteside, Gary Trent Jr., 2020 1st-rd pick, 2023 1st-rd pick
Portland seems like the most likely destination for Love at the moment, and Love even said himself that Portland is his "preferred landing spot". If that's the case, then we could see Portland postpone this move until late January. That's when their starting center, Jusuf Nurkic, is slated to make his return from the horrific leg injury that he suffered at the end of last season.
Injuries have taken a toll on Portland this season, and that's a big reason why they've stumbled out of the gate to a 10-16 record. The addition of Carmelo Anthony has helped them out, but losing Rodney Hood to a season-ending injury really hurts the depth of this team. That being said, if they're willing to deal for Love, they can't afford to lose many key pieces of their rotation. If they wait until Nurkic to return to make a deal, then Whiteside becomes much more expendable, even though he's having a very nice bounce-back season. However, having Love on board would space the floor much more than having Whiteside and Nurkic on the floor at the same time, and his expiring contract would allow Cleveland to have much more financial flexibility moving forward. Gary Trent hasn't seen the floor much this year and could see more run for a Cleveland squad that, if we're being honest, isn't competing for anything other than the lottery this season. Attaching two 1st-round picks to the deal makes it much more enticing for Cleveland, especially if Portland continues to falter down the stretch and misses the playoffs. If Love really wants to go to his preferred landing spot, this might be the ideal trade for both sides.