Will Cleveland Cavs Regret Decision to Keep Andrew Wiggins?

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Will Cleveland Cavs Regret Decision to Keep Andrew Wiggins?
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Somewhat overshadowed in the LeBron James madness surrounding the Cleveland Cavaliers lately, Andrew Wiggins is beginning to make headlines both on and off the court.

While trade talks have popped up involving the Cavs' No. 1 pick, the team has refused to deal Wiggins thus far.

According to ESPN's Chris Broussard, the Cavs have informed Wiggins that he will not be dealt, while Fox Sports Ohio's Sam Amico was also told that that Wiggins will be staying in Cleveland:

While the original plan was to sit back and watch Wiggins grow alongside Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and others, the signing of James puts the Cavs in an interesting position.

Do they go all-in for a championship given that James will turn 30 this year, or stay patient and keep a good amount of that young talent for sustained success?

If the Cavs end up going the former route, Wiggins is their best trade piece. Wiggins is a 19-year-old bundle of potential that not even his 44-inch vertical could leap up to reach.

While dealing for a player like Kevin Love, with Wiggins as the bait, may help the Cavaliers win now, ultimately it wouldn't be worth it.

Cleveland needs to hang on to Wiggins and let him grow with the team.

It's a move they won't regret.

 

Trade Value and Potential

While he may one day be an All-Star and first-team defender, Wiggins' current trade value is almost entirely based off potential.

Teams that come calling for him can only refer to college film and three summer league games with the Cavaliers. Wiggins has certainly shown his skills this summer but is averaging just 13.7 points on 37.8 percent shooting, via NBA.com/stats. His shot has been very shaky thus far, as Wiggins can't go off athleticism alone when competing against other NBA-level players.

While he's still just scratching the surface of his potential, Wiggins can already do things like this:

Imagine what Wiggins will look like in a year or two. How about five years? Imagine if Wiggins could go against LeBron James every day in practice, picking his brain and learning how to train and everything else that goes into becoming a star.

It's scary to see what Wiggins could become, right?

Well, that's not going to happen if the Cavaliers trade him now.

The Cavs' best bet is to give Wiggins minutes immediately, letting him play both shooting guard and small forward depending on the lineup. Every day he spends lifting, shooting and learning from James not only makes Wiggins better, but also increases his trade value should the Cavaliers eventually choose to go that route.

Trading Wiggins now and watching him blossom into a star elsewhere would be extremely tough to do. Holding on to him is the safe, and smart, way to go.

 

Immediate Contribution

Wiggins is young, raw and unproven.

That being said, some people act as if he's a European prospect that the Cavs will have to stash away for years before getting any real production.

This simply isn't true.

Wiggins, right now, is a better perimeter defender than anyone on the Cavaliers not named LeBron James. Cleveland can take advantage of Wiggins' defensive talents immediately by assigning him the toughest cover, allowing James to focus his energy on the offensive end instead. Such a luxury has never been bestowed upon James. While Dwyane Wade was a strong defender from the shooting guard spot, Wiggins' 7'0" wingspan and lateral quickness allow him to cover multiple positions.

Offensively, Wiggins still needs some work adjusting to the NBA's three-point line. He made just two of his 12 three-point attempts in the summer league, air-balling his first try from deep.

That being said, Wiggins is still lethal in transition and can hit the step-back jumper.

He's also a terrific complement to guys like Irving, Waiters and James who operate best with the ball in their hands. Wiggins can play either wing position, knocking down jumpers and getting out on the fast break. He doesn't need the ball to be a solid contributor to a winning team right away.

 

Contract Value

Wiggins will soon be signed to his rookie contract, one that pays roughly $20 million over the next four years, per BasketballInsiders.com.

If there's any downside to signing James, it's the amount of salary-cap space he takes up. The Cavs need value contracts like Wiggins' to balance out their lineup and keep things flexible for the future.

While trading Wiggins for Love may be an upgrade in current talent, it would also greatly complicate the Cavaliers' salary situation.

Love is set to make $15.7 million this coming season, more than three times Wiggins' salary. If Cleveland wished to trade for him, they'd have to do so by matching up salaries. Not only would the Cavs have to include Wiggins, but also players like Anthony Bennett and Brendan Haywood as well.

Rocky Widner/Getty Images

Even if they choose to make that move, the Cavaliers have to look long-term. Love will almost assuredly opt out of his contract after the 2014-15 season and want a five-year max extension valued at around $20 million per season.

Between Love ($20 million), James ($20-plus million depending on new TV deal max contract) and Irving ($18 million), the Cavs would have virtually no cap room at all.

Should they keep Wiggins, his salary gives them that added flexibility to sign additional players if they need to.

Here's what some NBA front-office members had to say about the Wiggins-Love debate, via Jeff Goodman of ESPN (subscription required):

I feel like Wiggins may only be a year or so away from being a legit contributor. And Wiggins is cheap, so you are able to add more. Love is gonna cost a ton." "Star potential on rookie scale deal for four years.

Love is a tremendous player—and will expect to be paid as such. Wiggins is under team control for the next five years at a very reasonable cost.

 

Love Doesn't Fulfill Team's Needs

When eyeballing the Cavaliers' current roster, power forward just isn't a position of need.

Tristan Thompson has proved himself to be a solid starter, Anthony Bennett has looked great in the summer league and players like Anderson Varejao and James play minutes at the 4 as well.

Love's major strengths revolve around his scoring and rebounding. With the addition of James and Wiggins, along with the progression of Irving and Waiters, the offense should already be much improved.

Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images
Wiggins should help the Cavs offense right away, if only in the transition game.

Rebounding actually wasn't an issue for Cleveland last season, as they were 11th-best in the league with 44.1 a game.

What the Cavs really need is a center, rim protector and interior defender. Love is a lot of things. These three, he is not.

Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report gives us further insight:

And as good as Love is offensively, he's not adding much to the defensive table. The Cavaliers finished No. 17 in defensive efficiency last season, and though James is as close to a superhero as anyone around, he alone doesn't put Cleveland into the tier with the top team defenses.

When looking at the overall roster, it would actually make more sense to pursue a player like Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks instead of Love given their position and skill sets. Horford is a solid defender at the center position, blocking 1.5 shots per game with the Hawks last season. He's 28 and is under contract for just $24 million over the next two years.

Should Cavs trade Wiggins to win now?

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Throwing Wiggins into a Love deal blindly adds star power and makes for a great team on paper, but ultimately overstuffs the cap space and ignores the team's real needs.

The Cavs' best bet is to sit back, let Wiggins develop while using their other young players and draft picks as trade bait.

Cleveland needs to keep Wiggins, both now and for the future.

 

All stats provided by Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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