Love for Cleveland?
The Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers have been discussing a potential deal that would send All-Star forward Kevin Love to the Cavaliers for Andrew Wiggins (1st overall pick this year), Anthony Bennett (1st overall pick last year) and other pieces. The Cavs and Timberwolves have had ongoing discussions about a trade for Love, who can opt out of his contract next summer, since before Cleveland selected Wiggins in May. Love has tremendous influence on where he ends up, and he initially balked at joining a Cavaliers team that appeared to be in rebuilding mode after missing the playoffs and firing coach Mike Brown.
That changed when LeBron James decided to leave the Miami Heat and return to Cleveland, where the Akron native played for the first seven seasons of his career. James’ signing changed Love’s mind about going to Cleveland and the Cavaliers again started conversations with the Wolves. With Love, James and All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, Cleveland would have a “Big 3” comparable to what Miami had in James and All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Can It Happen?
The Timberwolves have always insisted that Wiggins be involved in any package. If Cleveland signs Wiggins as has been rumored recently, it does not mean that he will not be traded. In fact, that would make a trade easier to complete.
League rules require teams that are at or over the salary cap to exchange packages of similar dollar values when they make trades. Before Wiggins signs a deal, he has a contract of $0, so his inclusion does not help the Cavaliers get closer to the $15.7 million value they would receive with Love’s contract.
Keeping Wiggins unsigned also gives the Cavaliers more flexibility to pursue free agents. They have already agreed to terms with veteran shooters Mike Miller and James Jones, and have reached out to Ray Allen as well who stated he is leaning towards signing with them.
Cleveland acquired John Lucas III, Malcolm Thomas and Erik Murphy from Utah for guard-forward Carrick Felix, a 2015 second-round pick and cash. Lucas III, Thomas and Murphy all have unguaranteed deals for next season which are attractive to a team looking to make a trade but cut salary.
Why Cleveland Should Do It
From Cleveland’s perspective, even the best rookies struggle to perform like stars. Kevin Love hasn’t struggled to perform in years. He’s the second-best shooting big man in the league (behind Dirk Nowitzki) and the NBA’s top rebounder. He’s also just 25 years old, at the front end of his age-based projected prime.
Win Shares are imperfect, but the top mark for a rookie no older than 20 years old in the modern era is Magic Johnson’s 10.5 in 1979-80. Love had 50 percent more Win Shares last season. That’s a huge gap. If Wiggins has a rookie year as good as LeBron’s (five Win Shares), that is a third of what Love had last season.
Why Minnesota Should Do It
Wiggins, Bennett and pieces for Love and teaming them with Zach Lavine, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic is a great way to start the rebuilding process. Wiggins oozes superstar potential out of his 6’8″, 200-pound frame, and with the Wolves likely to lose Love via free agency, they will not find a better offer.
Perhaps the most attractive part about Wiggins might be where his basement sits. Maybe his star will never shine as bright as some project, but he could still become a difference-making talent. “Even if Wiggins never asserts himself offensively as consistently as he should, he’s still likely going to be a plus-15 PPG guy and one of the best perimeter defenders in the league,” wrote Grantland’s Mark Titus. A worst-case scenario puts him in two-time All-Star Luol Deng’s class.
Why Cleveland Should Not
Love doesn’t fix the Cavaliers’ interior defense nor rim protection which is their biggest weakness as of now. You don’t trade a talent like Wiggins if the return doesn’t even shore up your biggest weakness. For as great a player as he is, Love remains a poor defender. The very best thing you can say about his defense is that he doesn’t foul that much. Love shoots approximately 46 from the field and 38 from three. Opposing NBA teams will convert layups at a higher rate than that.
Furthermore, they already have a Love type player in Anthony Bennett. I thought that’s why they drafted him number one overall last year? After a terrible rookie campaign which he suffered from a shoulder injury and was out of shape, he is now 25 lbs lighter and has looked great in summer league at the tender age of 21. Love was underwhelming his rookie year. Could Bennett be Love in three years? LeBron will most likely still be great in 5 years. I personally would like to see him grow with the pups.
Why Minnesota Should Not
Andrew Wiggins is 19 and has never played in an NBA game, and Anthony Bennett was extremely underwhelming in his rookie campaign. klay Thompson, David Lee and Harrison Barnes from Golden State, if they could get it, would be a better deal for not only the future, but the present. Chicago’s offer of the newly drafted Doug McDermott, Taj Gibson and Nikola Mrtic would probably also be better for the here and now as well as the future. When I say better, I am speaking in terms of being easier to extrapolate what future production will be.
Pull The Trigger
History tells us that teams in Minnesota’s position typically lose these kinds of trades badly. Minnesota won’t bring back an established star for Love. By announcing he will not resign with them, he has backed the T’Wolves into a corner. Wiggins offers the best possible escape route. A potential superstar with an astonishing collection of natural gifts is far more than a consolation prize.
A mediocre present with Love or the possibility of a bright future are the choices. The Wolves aren’t the first small-market team to be forced to part with a rising star, but they could be the first to bring one back in return. Wiggins has the chance to be great, and greatness is incredibly hard to find on the trade market.