Just when the Eastern Conference landscape seemed to get as balanced as we’ve been hoping for, the brainchild of trading away a young, valuable aspect became a viable option.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are up to about three “change of hearts” with their No. 1 overall pick, Andrew Wiggins.
Selecting him on June 26, there was no strong intention of dealing him away to Minnesota, in efforts to receive a top two power forward in the league. Kevin Love, fresh off a healthy season and star-studded averages of 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds, doesn’t want to be in Minneapolis any longer.
For the All-Star, it’s not any bad blood with the organization or any of his current teammates. It’s the fact that he knows himself, you can’t be a top player in this sport and get the praise and respect you’re warranted if you don’t make a playoff run.
Cleveland is planning on signing Wiggins to a contract this week, according to Brian Windhorst’s report. This would stall the trade talks between the Timberwolves and Cavaliers, due to the CBA’s rule of rookies not being available for trade until 30 days after they’ve been signed.
In both team’s cases, this could hinder (and even shut down) everything.
Milt Newton and the Timberwolves would likely search for other trading partners, including trying to get Golden State’s head out of their behinds. Being reluctant on losing sharpshooter Klay Thompson seems fair, since he’s one of the founding members of this exciting group that’s gotten the Warriors to the playoffs. However, when you can fill the gaps of Thompson and David Lee with the best frontcourt rebounder in the league, the trigger should be pulled.
The Cavaliers wouldn’t be out of the running completely by signing Wiggins, as their lucrative deal still sounds the best for Minnesota. There were rumblings that the Timberwolves are more excited about the idea of a Thompson-Rubio backcourt and placing Lee up front, but the chance to have “the next LeBron” can’t slip through their fingers.
People are losing focus in all this monumental drama.
Kevin Love is not the asset all the eyes should be on here. It’s Wiggins.
Yes, Love is proven. Love is the three-time All-Star and just found his way on the All-NBA second team. But, Minnesota needed him to explode, as it’s the only way they were coming close to grabbing an eight seed in the West. While there are general managers around the league that claim they would let go of Wiggins in a heartbeat, there is a share of GM’s that believe “Love is overrated.” I’m not disagreeing.
Love gets the wrong proportion of praise for his outside shooting.
You always have those that scream how amazing of a 3-point shooter Love is, and the fact of the matter is …. don’t overdue it. There’s only been one time in Love’s career that he’s been over 37.6 percent effective from the outside, and that was four years ago (41.7 percent). This past season, Love shot 37.6 percent from the perimeter, and that ranked eighth among all power forwards eligible.
Wiggins, on the other hand for Cleveland, is just 19 years old, six years younger than Love. The athleticism difference is more than just through the roof, and his quickness is something that catches the eyes of anyone he’s played in front of — at any level.
Defensively, the world is just months from finding out how frustrating and deadly of a defender this kid will turn out to be. Wiggins can stay in front of the fastest athletes in the sport, and has the wingspan that only gives him advantages. He’s able to get slightly beat off the dribble, because he knows he has the jumping ability and arm stretch to contest nearly every attempt.
Love isn’t in the upper-echelon of defenders in this game, let alone his own position.
In terms of Defensive Real Plus-Minus (DRPM), Love ranked 21st among all power forwards with a plus-minus of 1.54. That was behind the likes of Dirk Nowtizki (1.78), LaMarcus Aldridge (3.22), and even Paul Millsap (2.06).
While everyone raved about Love being the most dominant power forward in the game, I was one of the only ones shouting in Aldridge’s direction. He’s the most complete power forward in the game under the age of 30, not Love.
As for the rebounding facet, Cleveland wasn’t even on the atrocious side in terms of grabbing boards last season, and that’s without a LeBron James & Andrew Wiggins on hand. The Cavaliers ranked 11th in the entire league in rebounds per night, while Minnesota grabbed just 0.7 more on average.
Not a vast difference, and again, it’s without the freak of natures roaming the lanes. Cleveland, with their current roster, should be just fine in that department. Most of rebounding is predicated off agility, and nobody should have more than these Cavaliers.
Any time you have the opportunity for the greatest athlete in the world to train and mentor a 19-year-old future superstar, you don’t let go easily. Don’t take the easy way out. Wiggins, in Minnesota, wouldn’t have the opportunities to blossom as he would in Cleveland. That’s from an individual AND team standpoint.
As an individual, how many guys with Wiggins’ potential have had the chance to practice with LeBron on the weekends, or call up the King late at night and ask him for a midnight gym session? None in Cleveland from 2003-2010, and none in Miami from 2010-2014. LeBron has never played with a guy that he could look at and say “this is the future of this league.” He now has two of those in the same backcourt.
The loudest argument for the last two weeks has been an annoying one. The “win now” perspective. Does Cleveland want to win immediately?
You can bet your bank account they do. With the most talented roster in the East already, it’s impossible not to.
Nonetheless, there’s a problem everyone runs into. Who’s to say this roster can’t come out of the gates and make it to the Finals in 2015, or even 2016? That’s a one (or two) year window from this point in time now. Isn’t that “winning now?” We all know the NBA — and sports — landscape. What’s the number one rule you keep in mind? If you can just get there, you never know what can happen. If Cleveland can just make it out of the East with their young roster and Wiggins is just 20 years old, there’s no definitive answer if San Antonio or Oklahoma City would knock them off. There’s not.
LeBron has 5-6 more years as a force in this league. Once he hits age 35, heavy decline is set to come. We know another golden rule in sports: Late-career injuries are almost impossible to prevent. None of us foreseen Kobe tearing his Achilles at age 34. It’s one of those freak accidents that’s bound to happen, and nobody is avoiding it. That would be the reason LeBron contacted Love and told him he wants him in Northeast Ohio. “Winning now,” for LeBron, is important.
That puts Cleveland management in the toughest situation they’ve ever been a part of.
You can satisfy the guy that just made your franchise relevant again, and trade your 2014 No. 1 pick to Minnesota. Or, you can do all you can to assure LeBron this route will work, and keep Wiggins for the long haul.
Choosing the latter would be the most viable option for Cleveland. Why? Because they have to be thinking about their future too, at the same time of thinking about the current. When LeBron leaves his legacy in Cleveland and retires, the Cavaliers can’t leave the city with mediocrity in the long haul.
Drafting Wiggins very well could have been the security they needed, to ensure that they’re around for the next 15 years. Do you honestly believe they would want to stumble back down to the pits of the East and miss the playoff after LeBron is timed out? No, they are going to want the train to continue.
This is all incredibly too early, and it’s years too soon to project what the NBA’s terrain will mirror when today’s superstars are over the hill. But, one thing is for certain.
You fell into a pot of luck landing the No. 1 pick in the deepest draft class of the decade. It’s time to evaluate if short-term success is going to outweigh the longevity of winning, and athleticism. Wiggins has the chance to learn and grow from the best. Don’t strip him of it, unless you want it to come back and bite you.
**All statistical support credited to NBA.com**
Shane Young is an NBA credentialed writer for 8 Points, 9 Seconds and HoopsHabit.com. For all Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers, or general NBA coverage, follow @YoungNBA and @HoopsHabit on Twitter.