The biggest sports news this summer is undoubtedly LeBron James returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers. This has led to the biggest watch for
Setting the stage
First, let’s examine where the two teams are. On the one hand you have the Cavs. This is a team with a lot of young, promising pieces surrounding LeBron, who just returned to
On the other hand you have the T-Wolves, a team lacking sufficient talent to even make the playoffs in a stacked Western conference. They have one of probably the top 10 players in the league in Kevin Love. No one really doubts how good Love has been, and he is coming off a career year in which he averaged 26.1 ppg, 12.5 rpg, and 4.4 apg. Those stats are eye-popping! But Love has told the team that he will become a free agent after this season, and he will by all accounts sign elsewhere once the opportunity is available. Thus the team can’t build around him, and so they are faced with trading him this season or getting nothing for him should he leave via free agency. Prior to LeBron returning to the
Understanding the sides
Minnesota, and in particular team President, coach, and part owner Flip Saunders, can’t come away from a deal with Cleveland without Wiggins. Waiters, Bennett, Tristan Thompson, etc. are nice additions to a deal involving Love, but the centerpiece has to be Wiggins. While more times than not the team trading away the established star is not going to get fair value in return, they also can’t afford to just give him away. Should they not be able to pry Wiggins from
The case, from
It’s difficult to understand the
What you can’t afford to do is miss out on a second window of opportunity with LeBron James. Whether that window shuts because he ages out of his prime or because he leaves again, it just can’t happen. Speaking to the former scenario, James has a lot of games and minutes on him. A decline doesn’t appear likely anytime soon, but we did just witness Dwyane Wade seem to age at an accelerated rate the past two seasons in
So really what it boils down to in this win and win now climate that hovers over the Cavaliers franchise is whether they feel Andrew Wiggins is going to improve enough, and if he’ll do so quickly enough, to give them a better chance of winning a championship during this window than Kevin Love does. Potential is nice. Building for the future is nice. But it takes a back seat to winning that elusive ring. Wiggins has an incredibly high ceiling due to his physical gifts. His athleticism, quickness, vertical leap, wingspan, etc. all add up to someone with maybe a higher ceiling than anybody in the league short of LeBron. But right now the space from reality to that ceiling is filled with potential. What if Wiggins never improves his ball handling, or his jump shot remains inconsistent, or if he settles into a pattern of disappearing from games? If the
As to Love specifically, many project that his game is the perfect complement to LeBron. He is a jump shooter who will space the floor, allowing James room to drive the lane. He is an excellent rebounder, providing a welcome boost for a mediocre rebounding team. And many are giddy envisioning the Wes Unseld-esque outlet passes that Love is famous for.
Something else to consider in all of this is that Wiggins was not the Cavaliers’ first choice. He was never "their guy." They appeared set to draft Joel Embiid before his foot injury was discovered. Even after the Embiid injury, there was no consensus. They were torn between Jabari Parker and Wiggins. Now Wiggins is one heck of a consolation prize, but given this perhaps it is easier to see where
The case, from
In the aftermath of watching LeBron take his talents to
We also haven’t seen this team on the court. We haven’t seen how LeBron will coexist with Irving, Bennett, Waiters, and Wiggins. So why the rush? It could be that Wiggins is perhaps a more perfect fit with LeBron than Love is. By all accounts, Wiggins will step on the court day one and be a plus defender on the perimeter. Throughout his career LeBron has almost always been tasked with guarding the other team’s best player. Wiggins could provide some relief in this respect. Want to stave off aging decline? Allowing James to take a breather on one end of the court could be just what the doctor ordered to prolong the years of his prime. All of this is in stark contrast to Love, who while not on a perimeter defender, is regarded by most to be a sub-standard defender. So the Cavs’ defense immediately takes a hit in a Wiggins for Love exchange.
A final reason to keep Wiggins is financial flexibility. Because of the abundance of youth and some creative contracts, the Cavs have the ability to add multiple reasonably priced pieces over the next few years. If they’re looking for big man help maybe someone like Kenneth Faried or Marc Gasol. If they acquire Love, however, most of that financial flexibility likely goes out the window (assuming Love agrees to an extension prior to the trade, something
The best scenario for Wiggins is…
Impossible to determine. In Cleveland, he would be able to focus on the parts of his game he does well – defending and getting out in transition – while working on the parts of his game that need improving. He could let his offensive game come to him naturally, as opposed to forcing it. He could learn from one of the all-time greats. I could envision a Kwahi Leonard type of career arc, where he is surrounded by other great players yet is being groomed to be the face of the franchise. And he’d be in a position to win right away, something that is seldom the case for #1 overall picks.
However, it could be that playing for a team like
Personally, I’m a little more fearful of him going to