The Cavs have finally stopped lowballing the Timberwolves in their pursuit of Kevin Love. No longer are the Cavs only offering Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett, and a first round picks for Love. The Timberwolves have held out, with the hope of getting Andrew Wiggins in return, and it looks to have paid off. Despite having little leverage, as Love only has a year left on his current deal, the Wolves may get their guy Wiggins. This being after Cavs rookie head coach David Blatt recently shot down the chance of a potential trade involving Wiggins, saying:
“There’s no reason or cause for worry on his part because Andrew’s not going anywhere, as far as I know and as far as the club has expressed”
Apparently the Cavs changed their mind on Wiggins, and then LeBron reached out to Kevin Love on the possibility of playing together. Or maybe, LeBron reached out to Love, and then the Cavs changed their mind. That makes a little more sense. LeBron gets what he wants. His two year deal, with the player option after year one, may be a way of maximizing the money LeBron earns, but it’s also his way of keeping leverage over Dan Gilbert and the Cavs. It’s a way of putting pressure on management to be proactive and improve the team.
But the Cavs should realize–and it looks they do now–that trading Wiggins for Love is the best move, regardless of what LeBron wants. When discussing the possibility of trading Wiggins, people need to stop framing it in terms of how good Wiggins could be. That’s not the point. Trading Wiggins is not betting against his potential, or the likelihood that his skill-set eventually matches his athleticism. It has more to do with LeBron’s age and Love’s talent. Bill Simmons doesn’t see the rush of trading Wiggins for Love and finishing up the Cavs’ roster now. In his opinion, the Cavs are better off waiting until December or January to see how the Wiggins experiment goes. If Wiggins struggles, then just ship him off to Minnesota! Does that make any sense? If Wiggins struggles–and for the record, he is struggling mightily in summer league right now–will the T’Wolves really still be willing to give up Love for him? If he’s hardly averaging double-figures with a mid-30’s FG%, are the T’Wolves going to want him as much?
Even if Wiggins doesn’t struggle, it still makes sense for the Cavs to trade him for Love. Love’s stats might be a bit inflated, playing for an average Timberwolves team, but he is at least a consistent 20 and 10 guy, just entering his prime. What gets lost in all of the ‘Wiggins for Love’ analysis is that Love is pretty young himself. How do we know Love won’t get any better? He’s only 25 years old.
It’s tantalizing to imagine a Jordan-Pippen scenario, where Wiggins extends LeBron’s career, and LeBron mentors and molds Wiggins into a great player. But if that doesn’t happen. What if Wiggins is just Tony Allen 3.0? A great defender with a more polished, but still not great offensive repertoire? So many scouts project Wiggins as somewhere in between Scottie Pippen and Tracy McGrady and Paul George. The McGrady comparison holds no water aside from the athleticism component. The George and Pippen comparisons are a bit lazy. Any highly-rated prospect whose defensive ability far outreaches his offensive ability is instantly compared to Scottie Pippen. A defensive-oriented player who can still produce offensively, but not on the level of a go-to-guy, is similar to Pippen, according to many scouts.
I don’t doubt that LeBron could mentor Wiggins and make him a much better player. I think Wiggins will be a very good player someday. But the Cavs have a chance to get one of the best players in the entire league, who’s only 25 and may still be improving. Furthermore, that player is willing to commit long-term to the team involved in the trade talks. There are only two reasons you refrain from trading Wiggins for Love:
1) You think Wiggins will be an All-Star caliber player by his second or third season. Meaning you think LeBron’s mentorship will accelerate Wiggins’ development greatly, and he’ll reach his potential much sooner than people expect.
2) You think that you can get Love in free agency after the season. Basically, you think the Klay Thompson for Kevin Love talks are just a smokescreen that have little chance of happening, and that Love will almost certainly be available in the summer.
Unless you are very confident in either of those scenarios, you trade Wiggins for Love. Of course, there are other components to the deal, but Wiggins is the only guy you’re really concerned about. Getting Love instantly makes the Cavs the favorites in the East, and it’s not even close. If the Cavs trade for Love, that’s not some sort of desperation move just to appease LeBron and reassure him that you’re committed to winning now. It’s the smart move that acquires one of the league’s best players who’s in the middle of his prime.