Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love: Why Potential Trade Makes Sense for Cavaliers

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Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love: Why Potential Trade Makes Sense for Cavaliers
Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Andrew Wiggins could be an All-NBA player. Kevin Love is an All-NBA player.

Wiggins is a project—an athletic wing with transcendent open-court and defensive potential but a developing jumper and half-court skill set. Love is proven—a unique, 6’10” 4 who averaged 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds while burying 37.6 percent of his 505 three-point attempts in 2013-14.

The Cleveland Cavaliers' front office knows that. So does new head coach David Blatt.

ESPN.com reported Friday that Love would commit long-term to the Cavaliers if the Minnesota Timberwolves agreed to send him to Cleveland.

Blatt told reporters on Saturday that Wiggins would not be traded for Love, which is the latest development in trade talks between Cleveland and Minnesota.

According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, that would be a deal-breaker:

Cleveland has no reason to be stubborn here.

With Wiggins instead of Love, the Cavaliers will be good in 2014-15. They signed LeBron James on Friday. They have Kyrie Irving, one of the game’s best point guards.

Wiggins and James will form one of the most formidable perimeter defenses in the league. The rookie will score in transition and contribute opportunistically in the half court.

Even without Love, USA Today's Chris Chase indicated that Cleveland is Vegas’ favorite (4-1) to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy next season. However, that’s likely a combination of overreaction to James’ signing and anticipation of the Cavaliers trading for Love.

Stick Love in a lineup with James and Irving, and Cleveland becomes the unequivocal title favorite.

Consider this: Love isn’t just an All-Star. He’s not just one of the NBA’s most productive big men. He ranks right up there with James and Kevin Durant—yes, the two men who have combined to win five of the last six MVP awards—among the league’s elite.

Love’s 14.3 win shares in 2013-14 ranked third in the NBA behind Durant’s 19.2 and James’ 15.9.

He posted a usage percentage of 28.8 and offensive rating of 120 last season, ranking eighth and ninth in the NBA in those respective categories.

Only Durant and James ranked higher in both advanced statistics. In other words, only Durant and James were more efficient offensively while using a higher percentage of their teams’ plays.

2013-14 Advanced Statistics
Name USG% NBA Rank ORtg NBA Rank
Kevin Durant 33.0 1st 123 4th
LeBron James 31.0 4th 121 5th
Kevin Love 28.8 8th 120 8th

Basketball Reference

For reference's sake, kenpom.com indicates Wiggins produced an offensive rating of 112.3 while using 25.5 percent of his team’s possessions in 2013-14, according to Kenpom.com. That, of course, was in college.

Apples to oranges, yes. Nonetheless, those numbers underscore Wiggins’ need to develop offensively. He has the tools to be an elite defender—a title Love could never dream of obtaining—but he’s a few years away from being an all-around force.

Love would fit seamlessly into Cleveland’s lineup right now and in a few years as well, barring health issues.

Irving and James wouldn’t have a third running mate in Wiggins, but Love would stretch the floor, freeing them to attack and create in the half court. Chris Bosh stretched the floor for James and Dwyane Wade, and we all witnessed how that helped Miami reach four straight NBA Finals.

This trio could be even better offensivelynot to mention Love is one of the NBA’s best rebounders.

It also doesn’t hurt that Anderson Varejao would complement Love well down low as a hard-nosed post player sharing space with the versatile All-Star.

Of course, Cleveland will need to offer more than just Wiggins in exchange for Love. According to ESPN.com, the Timberwolves already rejected a package including Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett and a first-round draft pick. 

This suggests Cleveland could avoid trading Wiggins by involving a third team.

If the right scenario materializes and the Cavaliers can acquire Love while keeping Wiggins, they would pull the trigger immediately. However, missing out on Love to hang on to Wiggins would be a mistake.

The city of Cleveland has not produced a championship-winning professional sports team since 1964, when the Browns defeated Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts in the NFL Championship Game. It’s been an agonizing 50 years for Cleveland sports fans, to say the least.

The city craves a championship.

With Love, the Cavaliers would reign mercilessly over the Eastern Conference—if not the entire NBA.

Without him, the time bomb on James’ two-year contract will only tick louder and louder.

 

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Unless otherwise noted, advanced statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.

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