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Kevin Love Would Make Cavaliers 2014 Eastern Conference Favorites

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 14: Kevin Love #42 of the Minnesota Timberwolves during a game against the Golden State Warriors on April 14, 2014 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistJuly 18, 2014

Andrew Wiggins could very well live up to his potential one day for the Cleveland Cavaliers and turn into an absolute transcendent talent and one of the best basketball players on the planet.

Kevin Love has already done just that.

This article isn’t intended to be about the merits of a Wiggins-for-Love swap and whether it is better to play for the long-term future or the immediate present. Rather, it is simply meant to let basketball fans know that there isn’t a single team in the Eastern Conference that would beat the Cavaliers in a seven-game series in next year’s playoffs if LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Love were all suiting up in wine and gold.

The Indiana Pacers lost Lance Stephenson, the Chicago Bulls are still counting on Derrick Rose’s tenuous knees and the rest of the conference is mired in mediocrity. It’s time to do this now, Cleveland. 

James is playing under a two-year contract, so it’s not exactly like the Cavs have forever to wait around for their young players to reach their peaks. There are Lord of the Rings movies that are longer than James’ most recent commitment to Cleveland.

Let Chuck Klosterman of Grantland whet the appetite of Cavaliers fans:

If you deal Wiggins for Love, you obviously have the best team in the East. You obviously have the ability to spread the floor and outscore everyone, and the premise of Love throwing full-court outlet passes to Irving and LBJ would make all of November feel like a McDonald’s All American Game.

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 14: Kevin Love #42 of the Minnesota Timberwolves shoots a free throw against the Golden State Warriors on April 14, 2014 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

That's right, the outlet pass could be a key ingredient in the Eastern Conference title race next year.

Simply put, there isn’t a better outlet passer in the entire league than Love. It may sound boring to exhort the value of such a play, but James loves to get out in transition, and with his young sidekick in Irving, it would be an absolute dunk- and layup-fest in Northeast Ohio all season.

Then there are the actual tangible numbers Love brings to the table. Oh, those beautiful numbers.

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 17: Andrew Wiggins #21 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots a free throw against the Houston Rockets at the Samsung NBA Summer League 2014 on July 17, 2014 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly ac
Jack Arent/Getty Images

Last year, he posted nightly averages of 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists and became the first player since the NBA-ABA merger to average 26 points, 12 points and four assists a night in a single season. Just for good measure, he shot 37.6 percent from behind the three-point line.

What’s more, he joined Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robertson, Bob McAdoo, Billy Cunningham, Charles Barkley and Tim Duncan as the only players in the history of the game to score more than 2,000 points, grab more than 950 rebounds and tally more than 300 assists in a season.

That’s not exactly a bad list to be on.

Sure, those statistics may dip a bit playing next to James and Irving, at least in the scoring department. However, think of all the open looks he will get that he simply didn’t as the primary focus of the opposing game plan when he was in Minnesota. 

Talk about his lack of a playoff experience all you want, but the fact is Love wasn’t exactly playing with world-beaters as teammates on the Timberwolves all these years.

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 10: Cleveland fans show their support for Lebron James during the eighth inning of the game between the Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees at Progressive Field on July 10, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty
Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Western Conference was absolutely loaded, and the ninth-best team on that side of the league would probably have made mincemeat of every squad in the East outside of Miami in the NBA Finals. Don’t hold it against Love that his team didn’t reach the postseason in that loaded conference.

Love himself even hinted earlier in the offseason that moving to the East and playing for Cleveland could be a possibility, via Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead: “I don’t think the Cleveland rumors] are outlandish at all. They have a great young foundation.”

For all the talk about Wiggins, who was nothing if not inconsistent throughout his one college season and still has plenty of question marks surrounding his offensive game, Love is the perfect match for James right now.

The King is the ideal receiver for those outlet passes, Love’s presence stretches the floor because of his ability to hit from the outside when defenders collapse on James and the Minnesota forward will grab every rebound in sight. That means James doesn’t have to focus so much on sapping his offensive energy banging around among the trees for rebounds.

Andrew Sharp of Grantland brought up an interesting concept recently.

Think of a potential Wiggins-for-Love trade in terms of how the Bulls or Pacers would view it. Would those teams rather play against an All-Star Game threesome of James, Love and Irving in their primes together for the next few years or take their chances against James, Irving and a cast of younger complementary pieces that includes Wiggins?

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - April 16:  Kevin Love #42 of the Minnesota Timberwolves looks to pass the ball against the Utah Jazz on April 16, 2014 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading
Jordan Johnson/Getty Images

Don’t overthink that.

Cleveland’s championship drought across the sports landscape is well documented. Its teams continue to build for a future that has yet to arrive, and it’s easy to become pessimistic that this potential-filled utopia that is seemingly always a few years away may not actually exist. 

It’s time to play for a championship ring now. All the Cavs need is a little Love.

 

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