Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Detroit Pistons have agreed in principle to a three team trade that will send forward Kevin Love to Cleveland, Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young and the Cavaliers protected 2015 first-round draft pick to Minnesota and Anthony Bennett to Detroit, according to reports. 

For the past month, trade talks have been ongoing between the Cavs and the Timberwolves. Although at first Cleveland was reluctant to trade Wiggins, the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA draft, the Timberwolves were adamant in acquiring the potential star in a trade for Love. Bennett, despite a pedestrian rookie season in which he averaged just 12.8 minutes per game, is potentially a valuable commodity for the Pistons as the No. 1 pick of the 2013 draft has shown signs of progress recently.

On Sunday, Wiggins, very aware of trade talks involving him, indicated he was comfortable playing for any team.

“I just want to play for a team that wants me,” Wiggins told ESPN. “Whichever team wants me, I’ll play for.”

The trade, due to a minimum 30 day wait after Wiggins’ contract signing, cannot officially occur until August 23. All three teams have agreed to the trade, but no team faces any punishment should they choose to change their mind before the deal is official. The trade also comes with an agreement that Love will opt out of his current contract in 2015 and re-sign with the Cavaliers for a reported five-years, $120 million. Although the exact terms have been agreed upon, the three organizations plan to stay silent until the trade is announced, according to reports.

The 25-year-old Love is coming off one of his best seasons, netting an average of 26 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. The three-time All-Star received his first All-Start start this season as well, beating out Dwight Howard.

For the Timberwolves, this trade works. Love informed Minnesota that he would not be returning and would be opting out of his contract next summer. Trading the All-Star with a foot already out the door in exchange for the very talented Wiggins is about as good as a consolation prize as a team can get.

For Cleveland, acquiring Kevin Love is the icing on the cake after an amazing offseason that included the signing of four time MVP, LeBron James. Love joins James and guard Kyrie Irving to form a ‘Big 3’ in Cleveland that will be considered a favorite to win the Eastern Conference and contend for an NBA championship immediately.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

This is the first installment in a series previewing the seasons of NBA teams with former Texas Longhorn players.  Up today: the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Cleveland Cavaliers.  

Oklahoma City Thunder 

Last season: 60-22, Lost Western Conference Semifinals to Memphis Grizzlies 4-1

Longhorn player: Kevin Durant.

The Thunder had a legitimate shot to win the Western Conference all of last year. They were the top seed in the west bracket, but they lost star guard Russell Westbrook to injury on a questionable play by Houston’s Patrick Beverley. Suddenly, that series went from a sure-sweep to a taxing six-game battle, which no doubt took something out of the Thunder against Memphis in the next round.

This year, the Thunder are still feeling the effects of the Westbrook injury. Westbrook is expected to miss the first four to six weeks of the season. That’s about 25 games and a gaping offensive hole, especially after losing sharp-shooting winger Kevin Martin to free agency. Now you are looking at a roster that is offensively thin.

Backup point guard Reggie Jackson just became likely the Thunder’s second best scorer. Serge Ibaka continues to improve each year, but he still is nowhere near a dynamic scoring threat. He will have to pitch in on offense more than he is used to in order to help Durant in the first quarter of the year.

The bench should be phenomenal this year, as it usually is. Nick Collison, Thabo Sefolosha, rookie standouts forward Andre Roberson and center Steven Adams, Derek Fisher and Ryan Gomes make up a unit that is capable of putting in 30-35 points a night.  

Bottom line: This team needs Westbrook at 100 percent to have a chance. The West will be as deep as ever this year, and the Thunder shouldn’t count on an easy sweep in a first round series. Fully healthy, this roster has enough to make it to the conference finals. I see them losing to the LA Clippers or San Antonio Spurs.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Last season: 24-58, missed playoffs

Longhorn player: Tristan Thompson

The Cavs aren’t improving at near the rate they were expected to, but this season can't be worse than 24 wins of last year. They had a stellar offseason and draft — two things that can improve a team pretty quickly.

The Cavs brought in center Andrew Bynum on bargain. Only $6 million of his salary is guaranteed, and for that money, he is well worth the risk. When healthy, he is possibly the most skilled offensive center in the league, an elite rebounder and a potent defender and shot blocker. He provides intimidating size for Cleveland’s frontcourt. Don’t forget about the additions of guard C.J. Miles, forward Earl Clark and streaky point guard Jarrett Jack, who had an inspiring playoff run last year with the Golden State Warriors.

The Cavs’ took UNLV’s Anthony Bennet with their first overall pick. That selection was questioned by many critics, who thought they should have picked Nerlins Noel from Kentucky. But their subsequent picks were brilliant, notably 19-year-old Russian guard/forward Sergey Karasev. He has the potential to blossom immediately working with star guard Kyrie Irving.

The offense should be explosive with the likes of Irving leading a group headlined by Bynum, former Longhorn Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and more. This a young team with boundless athletic ability — that always bodes well for at least an under-the-radar defense. They have a lot of guys who are excellent in transition, and so the key defensive number for them this year is turnovers forced.

Bottom line: This team may not make the playoffs, but they have a nice core and added several solid complementary players. They could be in the mix for the east’s last playoff seed, but I think they need one more year to really make noise. Hey, why not take another first round pick and continue to stockpile talent?

NBA Draft

Tristan Thompson, left, and Kyrie Irving hold up Cleveland Cavaliers jerseys, Friday, June 24, 2011, in Independence, Ohio. Irving was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA basketball draft and Thompson was the No. 4 overall pick.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Tristan Thompson was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers as the fourth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. This selection makes Thompson the third highest selection to come from Texas behind LaMarcus Aldridge in 2006 and Kevin Durant in 2007, who were both chosen second overall.

“We’re very excited for Tristan,” said Texas head coach Rick Barnes. “I’m not sure we’ve seen a player improve so quickly once he came to campus. Tristan is a wonderful person and Cleveland is getting a special individual who will work hard every day.”

The Cavaliers finished second-to-last in the 2010-11 season with a final record of 19-63.

Thompson will join former high school teammate Samardo Samuels on the Cavalier roster. Samuels and Thomson played together in New Jersey at Saint Benedict’s Prep for a year.

“It’s great, especially having a big brother in the situation that I am in right now,” Thompson said. “Having him be almost like a mentor to me that’s had a year under his belt with the NBA — it’ll just help me a lot.”

The Cleveland basketball community has continually expressed their excitement with Thompson’s constant energy on the court and his ability to make game-changing plays. Thompson, who considered staying at Texas another year, is equally pleased with his future with the Cavs.

“Everyone here is upbeat and likes when we run,” Thompson said. “Look at me on the court — I’m like a relentless bulldog. I think we are going to go hand-in-hand like a perfect marriage.”

Texas' Tristan Thompson talks to reporters after being taken with the No. 4 pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA basketball draft, Thursday in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

For the first time in school history, three Longhorns — Tristan Thompson, Jordan Hamilton and Cory Joseph — were selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. 

Thompson was chosen at No. 4 overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The 6-foot-9 power forward, who left after his freshman season, was the third-highest player drafted in school history, behind Kevin Durant (No. 2 in 2007 to Seattle) and LaMarcus Aldridge (No. 2 in 2006 to Chicago).

“We’re very excited for Tristan and his family,” said Texas head coach Rick Barnes. “I’m not sure we’ve seen a player improve so quickly.”

In one year at Texas, Thompson scored 13 points a game and averaged 7.8 rebounds as well. He will team up with Duke point guard Kyrie Irving, the No. 1 pick of the 2011 Draft, to usher in a new era of basketball in Cleveland, a franchise still reeling after the departure of LeBron James last summer.

This marks another connection between the Cavaliers and the Longhorns. Chris Mihm played three years in Cleveland, and former point guard Daniel Gibson has been on the team since being drafted in the second round of the 2006 draft.

It was a harder night for Hamilton, who slipped past a preferred lottery destination, and then past the top 20 before finally having his name called by the Dallas Mavericks at No. 26. Then, he was traded to Portland, where Aldridge currently plays, for Rudy Fernandez. Finally, the Trailblazers sent him to Denver.

When asked why he thought he dropped so low in the draft, Hamilton told NBA reporter Chris Tomasson that he heard that Barnes had warned NBA teams that the small forward was “uncoachable.”

But in Barnes’ post-draft statement, he was very complimentary of the growth Hamilton underwent between his freshman and sophomore seasons in Austin.

“I will always respect Jordan for the way he honestly sat down and evaluated himself after his freshman season here,” he said. “He realized there was a lot he needed to learn…He has matured so much, not only in basketball, but as a man.”

In his second and final year as a Longhorn, Hamilton led the team in scoring with 19 points per game and was a third team All-American.

The feel-good story of the night may have belonged to Joseph. Not expected to be picked in the first round, nearby San Antonio snatched him with the No. 29 overall pick in one of the bigger surprises of the draft.

“Cory is a player who, as a coach, you really enjoy being around,” Barnes said. “He simply loves to be in the gym and compete.”

With the Spurs sending backup point guard George Hill to Indiana, Joseph projects to fill that role. He started all 36 games this season for Texas at shooting guard. He led the team in steals, assists, three-point field percentage and minutes played.

“He does all the little things that help a team,” Barnes said.