On paper, trading a player who has never played on an NBA court along with a player who averaged 4.2 points and 3.0 rebounds per game in his lone NBA season for a 25-year-old all star who averaged 26 points and 12 rebounds last season would be a no brainer. It sounds like common sense.
Of course, the potential trade I am referring to would involve the Cleveland Cavaliers sending Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, and picks to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love. The ramifications of this potential move stretches both conferences and would send ripple effects throughout the league for years to come. Most pundits would ask: Do the Cavaliers have the guts to make this franchise-altering deal? Instead, I would ask: Do the Cavaliers have the guts not to make this trade? Though tempting, I would pass on trading Wiggins and becoming the first team since the Orlando Magic traded Chris Webber in 1993 to trade the number one overall selection before he plays a game, and here is why:
The Schematic Fit:
The giant elephant in the room, whom I have somehow neglected to mention thus far, is LeBron James. One of the main reasons LeBron chose to become a member of the Cavs was his desire to be the “veteran leader” on this young team. Andrew Wiggins would benefit from having the game’s best player around. Of course, at just nineteen years-old, there are a few holes to fill in Wiggins’ game, most notably his ball-handling and passing ability. But who better for Wiggins to learn from and hone those skills with than the best passer and one of the best ball handlers in the game? While those skills are still developing for Wiggins, Coach David Blatt could use him in a more slashing/defensive role that would help him thrive.
Who knows, maybe Wiggins has a more refined offensive game in his rookie year than we have been led to believe. But in the meantime, Wiggins and LeBron would immediately form the most fearsome and dominant perimeter defensive (and fastbreak) tandem in the league. They could easily mask Kyrie Irving’s weakness on that end of the floor and turn it into a significant strength while also being a well above-average offensive team. The key with this group is balance on both ends of the floor. Picture the Indiana Pacers this past year with a coherent offense.
Kevin Love would fill a need on this team for a stretch-four – although some may argue Bennett could develop into that role this season. But he is a serious liability on the other half of the floor. Acquiring Love, for any team, would almost immediately require a corresponding move for a rim protector. Though Anderson Varejao is better than nobody, he is often hurt and hardly protects the rim. Offensively, yes, adding Love would make them better, but I would contend that it would not make them as great as some believe. Love and Irving are redundant offensive players who are both very gifted but inherently flawed players.
While Love will seek out plenty of rebounds, his awful on-ball defense and post defense far outweigh any extra rebounding ability. He, along with Kyrie Irving, would leave nearly the entire defensive onus on LeBron, which would contradict one of the main reasons he left Miami. As he approaches 30 years old, Lebron will not be able to chase the best offensive player on the other team while still asserting himself offensively for 40+ minutes for much longer. He needs Wiggins and Wiggins needs him – why break them up?
The Doomsday Scenario:
Love and the Cavs would have two main options if this trade goes through. Either they could agree on a long-term, maximum contract extension and cripple any flexibility the Cavs had to add pieces, or they could let Love become a free agent after next season. Let’s say, hypothetically, the Cavs do not win the title in their first year together – similar to the Big Three in Miami their first season. What is precluding Love from following HIS roots and heading home to the Lakers where they would embrace the hometown star with open arms and open checkbooks? Though admittedly unlikely, this leaves Cleveland without Wiggins, Bennett OR Love. That also leaves LeBron with a fascinating opt-out clause in his contract for the 2015 or 2016 offseason. Does he ride the sinking ship or does he bolt yet again? All of a sudden, Cleveland is Cleveland again and they are left to pick up the pieces with Kyrie, Dion Waiters, and Tristan Thompson. Ouch.
You can open your eyes again, Cavs fans, the nightmare is over. The other, far likelier, scenario would involve Love signing a max extension immediately after the trade and completely handicapping the Cavaliers cap situation for years to come. This is what makes Wiggins such a valuable asset; he is the number one overall pick in the first season of a rookie contract. You can add players in free agency and build the team further around those three guys. Love would be an expensive third option, and would limit nearly all of their role player signings to sign for the minimum contract. Under this option, GM David Griffin better hope the three stars could bring championships, because if they couldn’t there’s little, if anything, he could do about it.
Contrary to popular belief, the potential that Andrew Wiggins will be a bust is extremely low. Generally, busts have one of two traits: chronically injured or highly athletic, without one specific strength. At worst, Wiggins will be an elite defender and athlete who never put his offensive game together – still a valuable player in the NBA. At best, Wiggins is a dangerous mix of Tracy McGrady and Scottie Pippen – leaving him as an all-time great. If the Cavs are misguidedly worried that Wiggins will be a bust, which therefore justifies this trade, they will regret it.
Even if the Cavaliers are hell-bent on trading Wiggins, there is no reason to do it now. The second best reported offer of Nikola Mirotic, Taj Gibson, and Doug McDermott for Love might be 50 cents on the dollar in comparison to the 80 cents the Cavs can offer. I would implore the front office in Cleveland (assuming LeBron isn’t running the entire organization at this point) to wait until the trade deadline to make any rash moves. Evaluate the Wiggins/LeBron pairing after seeing it for over fourty games, and then decide whether or not to trade for Love. The offer will still on the table midway through the season, because Minnesota cannot let the opportunity to acquire a potential superstar go to waste. I know some fans are clamoring for this deal, but Cleveland would be smart to wait this out until the deadline.