MINNEAPOLIS — The wait is almost over.
The blockbuster trade that will send Kevin Love to team up with LeBron James in Cleveland is expected to be completed today, making the Cavaliers an instant favorite in the Eastern Conference and turning Andrew Wiggins into something of an anomaly.
If Wiggins is moved from the Cavs to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the deal as expected, he will become just the second No. 1 overall draft pick since the ABA and NBA merged in 1976 to be traded without playing a game for the team that drafted him.
The only other time it happened was in 1993, when the Orlando Magic traded Chris Webber to the Golden State Warriors for a package headlined by Penny Hardaway.
The Timberwolves also will get Anthony Bennett, the 2013 No. 1 pick, from Cleveland and veteran forward Thaddeus Young from Philadelphia in the three-team deal.
The 76ers will get Miami’s 2015 first-round pick from the Cavaliers and guard Alexey Shved and forward Luc Mbah a Moute from the Timberwolves in the trade, which could not be announced until today because of a seldom-used NBA rule that prohibits draft picks from being traded until 30 days after they sign their rookie contracts.
The Webber-Hardaway trade occurred on draft night, allowing both players and both teams involved to leave the venue that night with a clear picture of their respective futures.
Wiggins, on the other hand, has endured a much longer, more awkward process. He suited up for the Cavaliers at the Las Vegas summer league even as the rumors of his trade started to swirl. As the summer dragged on, the 19-year-old Canadian, who spent one year in college at Kansas, even wore the Cleveland colors in a rookie photo shoot at the start of August.
The vast majority of top picks since the merger either have never been traded or were shipped out after spending at least four seasons with the team that drafted them.
Bennett is an anomaly in his own right in getting traded after just one year with the Cavs. He joins Pervis Ellison, who was traded from Sacramento to Washington after his rookie season in 1990, and Webber, who was traded from Golden State to Washington after one year, as the only No. 1 picks to be dealt that quickly.
That speaks to how highly the Cavaliers, and James in particular, think of Love. His versatility, shot-making, outlet passing and rebounding prowess will be a perfect fit for the James-led Cavaliers.
Love spent his first six seasons with Minnesota and has yet to make the playoffs. That lack of success caused him to inform management this summer that he intended to opt out of his contract next July and sign with a contender, so the Wolves started to entertain offers.