Cleveland Cavaliers: Chicago Bulls Gain Edge Over Cavs After Kevin Love Trade

By Brian Neal
Kevin Love Trade
Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Fans of the Cleveland Cavaliers are absolutely stoked with the news that a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love is everything but official at this point. And shouldn’t they be? Going from perennial losers after The Decision to becoming one of the Eastern Conference‘s best teams again will do that to a fanbase.

However, there is one key factor being overlooked here, and that’s their main competition to reaching the NBA Finals in 2015; that main obstacle is the Chicago Bulls.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a respectable analyst or even just a semi-unbiased fan who would argue the Cavs and Bulls aren’t the top two teams right now in the East. After all of their offseason additions, the two teams appear to be loaded with talent.

Obviously, everyone knows LeBron James came home and even before this trade, they would’ve had No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins on board. Instead, they’ll have Love once 30 days have passed since Wiggins signed his rookie contract. Most Cleveland fans are pleased with this because Love’s talent is proven and he’s ready to compete now, as opposed to Wiggins, who may take a year or two to find his footing and really take off.

The Bulls, on the other hand, had a less dramatic but still impressive offseason with numerous positive signings — or returns. Their biggest offseason addition will, of course, be Derrick Rose. Provided he’s healthy, they’ll without question get back a top-10 player in the league. When they missed out on Carmelo Anthony, they didn’t hang their heads, and instead moved onto Plan B and brought in Pau Gasol. Nikola Mirotic came over from Spain, and they traded with the Denver Nuggets in the draft to acquire No. 11 pick Doug McDermott.

The thing about this Bulls team is that they’re extremely deep and well-rounded. Their one weakness, however, is going to be perimeter defense because of the four wing players they have, only Jimmy Butler is a respectable defender. You can’t really count on McDermott, Mike Dunleavy Jr. or Tony Snell to provide consistent, strong defense out there.

Cleveland seemingly had a distinct advantage there after bringing in James and Wiggins, because the Bulls could really only guard one or the other well at one time. Sure, Kirk Hinrich is a solid outside defender, but if you expect him to keep up with either of those two, you’re kidding yourself.

However, once this trade goes through, the edge that Cleveland had will be gone and the Bulls will without question match up much better with the Kevin-Love-led Cavs.

Yes, Cleveland will have more star power with Love, James and Kyrie Irving, but the Bulls can combat that defensively with Rose, Butler and a combination of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson. The Bulls are one of the few teams who match up extremely well with the Cavs’ lineup and have the depth to back it up. If Wiggins were still there, however, there would be much more potential for Cleveland to get past Chicago.

Even though you won’t be able to completely stop a LeBron James or Kevin Love, the Bulls’ top defenders will no doubt be good enough to slow them down, and nobody in the NBA can match their depth. The Bulls run 10-11 deep with ease, while the Cavs? Well, they might go six or seven at most.

I mean, who do they have after their top three? Dion Waiters, Anderson Varajao, Tristan Thompson and Mike Miller aren’t a frightening bunch by any means. They won’t even have 2013 No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett because he’s gone in the Love trade as well.

After the Bulls’ clear-cut superstars in Rose and Noah, they have Gasol, Gibson, Mirotic, Butler, Dunleavy, McDermott, Hinrich and Aaron Brooks; even Snell has looked like he’s taken major steps forward this offseason and should provide a consistent outside threat on offense similar to McDermott or Dunleavy.

While the Cavs may have improved overall and have a roster that’s more ready to compete right now, they hurt themselves against their biggest competition in the East, and that may prove to be their downfall for the next couple of seasons.

So, Bulls fans, rejoice. Your team didn’t get Kevin Love and at the same time improved its odds of making it to the Finals.

Brian Neal is an NFL and NBA contributor for Follow him on Twitter @brianneal23, “Like” him on Facebook and add him on Google+.

You May Also Like