TOM WITHERS and JON KRAWCZYNSKI
AP Sports Writers
Kevin Love isn’t on his way to Cleveland just yet, but it won’t be long before LeBron James has a new All-Star teammate with him on the Cavaliers.
Minnesota and Cleveland have agreed in principle to a trade that will send Love to the Cavaliers for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a first-round draft pick, two people with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Thursday. They spoke on condition of anonymity because no official agreement can be reached until Aug. 23, when Wiggins, this year’s No. 1 draft pick, becomes eligible to be traded.
By that point, the deal could be expanded to include a third team, according to one of the people familiar with the talks. The Timberwolves have had discussions with the Philadelphia 76ers about acquiring forward Thaddeus Young to help fill Love’s shoes. The Wolves could use the first-round pick they get from the Cavaliers to help entice the Sixers to part with the 26-year-old Young, but talks continue on that front, the person said.
For now, the deal will unite Love, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in a new-look Big 3 in Cleveland and give the long-suffering sports town a realistic chance for its first title in 50 years.
James is the best player in the NBA, Irving is an All-Star and the 25-year-old Love is coming off his best season, one in which he averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists. He is the top “stretch 4” — a power forward who can rebound and shoot 3-pointers — in the game, but all of his offensive gifts haven’t been enough to get the Timberwolves into the playoffs in the rugged Western Conference.
Love can opt out of his contract next summer, and the three-time All-Star made it clear to the Timberwolves that he was looking to join a contender after missing the postseason for six seasons in Minnesota.
The Cavaliers talked with the Timberwolves before the draft about bringing Love in, but his camp made it clear to owner Dan Gilbert and the Cavs front office that he wasn’t interested in signing a long-term contract with a young and unproven team that had not made the playoffs since 2010.
Then James left Miami for home, changing everything for Love, who teamed up with the four-time MVP to win the gold medal at the London Olympics.
Wiggins has been working out at a non-Cavaliers location and his representatives have already begun researching possible endorsement opportunities for him in Minnesota, according to a person with knowledge of those pursuits. That person spoke to The AP on condition of anonymity because the deals have not been completed.
The Wolves and Cavs have been in agreement on Love and Wiggins being the primary pieces of a trade for some time, the people with knowledge of the deal said. One told AP the Cavaliers have not had any discussions on a contract value or length for Love.
Love withdrew from his planned participation with Team USA at the FIBA World Cup of Basketball to avoid an injury that could derail the deal.