Even without Kevin Love, Minnesota will make Western Conference tougher

This looks to be the kind of trade that makes both teams better. The Cavs have a third star to pair with LeBron and Kyrie Irving. The T-Wolves get three promising pieces, in solid power forward Thaddeus Young plus Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, the last two overall No. 1 picks.
by Berry Tramel Published: August 24, 2014
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photo - In this photo taken May 3, 2013, former Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Flip Saunders is introduced as the Timberwolves’ new president for basketball operations during an NBA basketball news conference in Minneapolis.  It's seems like an odd pairing at first. Saunders, the slick, media savvy executive who wears designer suits. Rick Adelman, the curmudgeonly coach, who dresses in all black every day and has no interest in small talk. Together, they represent this long-suffering franchise's best chance to become relevant again. (AP Photo/The Star Tribune,  Richard Sennott)
In this photo taken May 3, 2013, former Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Flip Saunders is introduced as the Timberwolves’ new president for basketball operations during an NBA basketball news conference in Minneapolis. It's seems like an odd pairing at first. Saunders, the slick, media savvy executive who wears designer suits. Rick Adelman, the curmudgeonly coach, who dresses in all black every day and has no interest in small talk. Together, they represent this long-suffering franchise's best chance to become relevant again. (AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Richard Sennott)

The Minnesota Timberwolves have traded their superstar, Kevin Love, to Cleveland, and that’s supposed to be a dark day for a franchise. But not this time.

This looks to be the kind of trade that makes both teams better. The Cavs have a third star to pair with LeBron and Kyrie Irving. The T-Wolves get three promising pieces, in solid power forward Thaddeus Young plus Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, the last two overall No. 1 picks.

Cleveland sacrifices potential long-term greatness for immediate gratification. The rookie Wiggins paired with LeBron could have been a fearsome duo for years to come. But Love almost surely will be more impactful in 2014-15, and when your city hasn’t won a sports championship in 50 years, that’s a sacrifice you can make.

Meanwhile, Minnesota wasn’t making any ground in the Western Conference with Love. And it didn’t have any great prospects for future success even if Love hadn’t threatened to bolt when his contract was up, which he had.

To escape that quagmire with a decent roster loaded with young talent signals a banner job by president/coach Flip Saunders and general manager Milt Newton (yep, the Kansas Milt Newton, starter on Danny Manning’s 1988 NCAA title team).

Wiggins, Bennett and Young join a team of point guard Ricky Rubio, big center Nikola Pekovic, sharpshooter Kevin Martin, veteran Mo Williams, defender supreme Corey Brewer, athletic rookie Zach Levine and promising shot blocker Gorgui Dieng. That’s not a roster that will contend for the Western Conference title, but that’s a better roster than the 40-win Timberwolves of last season.

Which means the West just keeps getting tougher. Ten Western Conference teams had at least 40 wins last year. Two more had at least 34 wins, and one of those was the Pelicans, who have added Omer Asik to team inside with Anthony Davis and will get better fast.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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