If the Cleveland Cavaliers trade for Kevin Love, they will be the favorites in the NBA’s Eastern Conference next season.
If the Cavs don’t trade for Love, they will be the favorites in the East.
So we’re talking a matter of degrees here. And if I was general manager of the Cavs — you know, if I was LeBron James — I would not trade Andrew Wiggins to Minnesota for Love.
I know all the valuables about Love. Great rebounder. Good 3-point and mid-range shooter. Superb outlet passer. A bonafide star. But I still wouldn’t make the trade.
Love’s defense is not good. Kyrie Irving’s defense is shaky. The Cavs’ centers, Anderson Varejao and Brendan Haywood, are aging and injury-prone. Varejao will be 32 in September; he has played 146 games in the four seasons since LeBron left. That’s fewer than he’s missed. Haywood turns 35 in November; he’s averaged 45 games per year the last six seasons and missed all of last season.
LeBron can guard anybody. But he can’t guard everybody.
Wiggins, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, is from all accounts an NBA-ready defender. A 6-foot-8 athletic marvel. Put LeBron and Wiggins on the floor together, and opposing offenses will bog down.
Love’s offense would entice any team. But the Cavs have LeBron and Irving, two premier scorers. When you’ve got two offensive players of that caliber, it’s better to be offensively-deficient than defensively-deficient with the rest of the roster. NBA history tells us that.
And that’s not even factoring in the contract status. Wiggins would be spending at least four years on a rookie contract, which would give Cleveland plenty of financial flexibility. And probably keep 2013 No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett around, and while Bennett is not the talent of a Wiggins or an Irving, much less a LeBron, he still could develop into a quality young player.
The Cavs would strike fear in the hearts of NBA opponents with a LeBron/Love/Irving lineup. But the deep thinkers of the NBA know that a young Cleveland team with salary maneuverability would give the Cavs more chances to win over the course of five years.
So maybe that’s what it comes down to. Love would give Cleveland the best chance to win immediately. Keeping Wiggins would give Cleveland the best chance to win over the long haul. If you haven’t won a title since 1964, maybe you go all in.
But I wouldn’t. The best way to win an NBA title is to give yourself as many chances as possible to do just that. And that’s what Andrew Wiggins does.