The LeBron-Wiggins-Love Dilemma

The LeBron-Wiggins-Love Dilemma

 

By Norm

On Tuesday, the Cleveland Cavaliers made what seemed to be a minor trade, sending Carrick Felix, a future 2nd rounder and $1 million dollars to the Utah Jazz for John Lucas III, Malcolm Thomas and Erik Murphy. Now you may remember Lucas from his one-year stint with the Raptors, but, nicely put, these guys are bench players; Thomas and Murphy have combined for 39 points in 35 career games. (Note : that’s not a lot in basketball).

So what does this have to do with anything? Well, enter Yahoo’s Adrian “scoops” Wojnaworski to explain.

There you go. All that talk about Kevin Love to Cleveland is far from over. And despite the fact that the Cavs signed  Andrew Wiggins on Thursday, meaning that the Canadian is untradable for 30 days, the 2014 #1 overall pick is still expected to be the centerpiece of the package offered to Minnesota in the hopes of landing Love (in a month).

But should Cleveland be offering Wiggins in the first place?

Quite frankly, it depends on LeBron James, the King himself, and whether or not his commitment to Cleveland is really long-term. Let me explain.

We know LeBron only has a 2-year deal with Cleveland (with an opt-out clause after this year), and we know his singular wish is to deliver a championship to Northeastern Ohio. So let’s pretend for a second that James is aiming for a title in that two-year window so that he can go back to free agency in 2016. (If you’re a Cleveland fan, this is the worst case scenario).

In that case, the Cavs need to do whatever they can to land Kevin Love (short of trading LBJ or Kyrie, obviously). If that means Wiggins, then so be it. As of right now, Cleveland might be one of the favourites to come out of the East, but they’re still far from the quality of (several) teams in the West that, at last count, included the likes of the Spurs, Clippers, Thunder, Warriors, Blazers, Suns, Rockets, Mavericks, Monstars, the German soccer team and the ’85 Bears.

Kevin Love would fit so well with LeBron. I was thinking recently of the All-LeBron team, i.e. the 4 starters you would surround LeBron in a dream situation. For me, it would be an elite rim protector/good passer/decent scorer at center, such as Joakim Noah or Anthony Davis. (In his prime, Tim Duncan would be the perfect 5 alongside LBJ). I’d take Golden State’s backcourt; Steph Curry is the perfect combo-guard/elite shooter to play the point, while Klay Thompson brings a perfect mix of 3-point shooting and defense for the 2. And finally, at 4…I think I’d take Kevin Love. Maybe Durant. But Love won’t demand superstar touches, can space the floor with his great shooting and is an outstanding rebounder. He’s basically a better Chris Bosh. And Bosh was at times very good alongside LeBron. Basically, when you’re drawing up a team to play with James, you want a rim protector and a bunch of shooters.

In other words, not only do I think LeBron and Love would work, I think Love would be one of the best possible fits for James. No player except for Kevin Love averaged at least 26 points and 12 rebounds per game last year (LaMarcus Aldridge was the closest at 23 and 11). He gives the Cavs their best chance at a title in the next few years, so if it’s a short-term plan, go for it.

But if LeBron is truly committed to his home city and he’s ready to embark on the “long process” as he wrote in his letter, I don’t think trading Andrew Wiggins is wise.

Wiggins is obviously immensely talented and has high upside. He’s uber-athletic, plays great perimeter defense, rebounds well, and has a solid jumper. Like any rookie, he still has a lot of room to grow; he needs to work on his 3-point shot, his passing, and his handle. (I refuse to give time to Jason Whitlock’s comment about Wiggins – and about all of Canada – in which the American reporter claims that “Canadians don’t want it as much”. Steve Nash once popped his nose back into place after breaking it and kept on playing without missing a beat, or even wearing one of those bulky masks. He’s won 2 MVPs. I think he wanted it just as much as anyone).

Sure, Wiggins isn’t polished yet. But if you’re Cleveland, you basically guarantee that Wiggins has the best chance of reaching his full potential by keeping him under the wing of the best small forward to ever play the game. LeBron at 29 is still in his prime, but he’s getting close to making the turn to the back nine (if he hasn’t made it yet). Having a player like Wiggins, who could take on the main defensive responsibility on the perimeter from LeBron (in time) could help James extend his career. Different context, but kind of like Tony Parker did to Tim Duncan and the Spurs; an on-the-fly reload that allowed the team to transition while still being a contender.

Best case scenario, you have yourself a pseudo Jordan-Pippen. Not to mention that Love is not signing an extension in Minny, so who knows, maybe you can sign him anyway and keep your assets (assuming either Golden State or Chicago don’t acquire and/or extend him first). Worst case scenario, Wiggins becomes “just” a solid player, and you have a decent core that you can build on through free agency without losing key pieces.

Again, this kind of falls on LeBron to decide if he’s truly in for the long haul. If he is, I say keep Wiggins, and try build a perennial contender. I get that Love is only 25, but I think we know what we’re getting from him by now (which, granted, is a lot). But he doesn’t have the transcendent potential of Wiggins.

No matter Cleveland’s ultimate decision, the career arc of Andrew Wiggins seems to be forever linked to LeBron James. Wiggins goes from being the number #1 overall pick (yay!) of the Cleveland Cavaliers (oh…) to having LeBron join the club (yay!!!) to potentially being dealt to Minnesota (ohhhh…….).

But maybe a trade to the Timberwolves is the only path that would lead the Southern Ontario native to return home someday. Just like his current (soon to be former?) teammate.

 

 

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