Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James' Role in Kevin Love Trade Doesn't Make Andrew Wiggins Expendable

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 13: Andrew Wiggins #21 of the Cleveland Cavaliers smile on the bench during the game against the San Antonio Spurs on July 13, 2014 at Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nevada. 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 the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 19, 2014

Although LeBron James has seemingly inserted himself into the Kevin Love trade negotiations, the end doesn't have to be nigh for Andrew Wiggins as a Cleveland Cavalier.

Most of this talk started again after Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported LeBron was going right to the source to gauge whether Love would be interested in playing for the Cavaliers:

ESPN's Chris Broussard then reported the Cavs would at least consider including Andrew Wiggins in a potential deal for the Minnesota Timberwolves superstar.

Cavaliers head coach David Blatt brushed off any trade discussion.

"That's why they call them rumors," he said, per Broussard. "Sooner or later, in one's career, you're going have to deal with it. So if he has to deal with it now, then so be it. It's the summer league. He's learning everything as he goes along."

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 11: Andrew Wiggins #21 of the Cleveland Cavaliers talks with Head Coach David Blatt during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks at the Samsung NBA Summer League 2014 on July 11, 2014 at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO U
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While there's no reason to question the veracity of Broussard's report, it's important to not get too ahead of yourself. Until Wiggins is put on a plane to Minneapolis, his future remains in Cleveland.

Of course James would want to have a player of Love's ability on the Cavs; that doesn't mean the team will deal away the No. 1 overall pick, however.

What some seem to be failing to realize is the possibility LeBron would simultaneously want to have Love on the Cavs but also want to help groom Wiggins into a superstar. Those aren't mutually exclusive desires.

Minnesota has its back against a wall in this situation. The Timberwolves could hypothetically hold on to Love for the whole of next season before he opts out of his current deal with a view toward winning in 2014-15. Just how much could be accomplished by a team whose last trip to the postseason was in 2004 is anybody's guess.

The Cavaliers could wait until the trade deadline, by which time the T-Wolves would have lost a ton of leverage in the event they haven't dealt Love. Minnesota in turn would be much more amenable to some sort of trade package involving any combination of Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters and draft picks.

Despite the sense the team's changed its stance, Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press reported Cleveland wasn't yet including Wiggins in any trade discussions:

He did add the caveat that if LeBron told Cavaliers management to include Wiggins, then the former Kansas star would likely be thrown in:

There are a few variables still to consider, though.

The first is the Timberwolves' other potential trade partner: the Golden State Warriors. Joe Kotoch of Sheridan Hoops reported Minnesota still valued Klay Thompson more highly than Wiggins:

ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein reported back in June the Warriors were engaged in an "organizational split" as to whether it would trade Thompson for Love. Essentially, Golden State is in the exact same position as Cleveland. The Warriors could just as easily shift in their position and determine trading Thompson for Love is a worthwhile pursuit as the Cavs could do with Wiggins.

James might be able to convince Love to come to Cleveland, but he can't convince the Warriors to remove themselves from the situation altogether.

Many are also of the opinion that LeBron's sole motivation is to win now and think slightly less of the future. As a result, the immediacy of Love's production would trump Wiggins' development. That sentiment was summed up by ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst:

Of course, James himself wrote in his Sports Illustrated article about how he was looking forward to watching the younger Cavs players grow:

I see myself as a mentor now and I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys. I think I can help Kyrie Irving become one of the best point guards in our league. I think I can help elevate Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. And I can’t wait to reunite with Anderson Varejao, one of my favorite teammates.

Conspicuous by his absence in that letter was Wiggins. Technically, though, he hasn't even signed his rookie deal with the team yet. He is on the summer league roster, but Wiggins isn't yet on the Cavaliers on a more permanent basis.

Maybe James had that in mind when he crafted the letter.

If you want to really seriously analyze which players he included and which players he didn't, does listing Thompson among those players mean James doesn't want Love? Considering Thompson and Love both play power forward, they're almost certainly not going to play on the same team.

Getting Love is all about becoming a title contender. The Cavs' best move is arguably waiting until the last possible second when Minnesota has few options and then making an offer that doesn't include Wiggins.

James might be building the bridge with Love now but they might not be crossing it until months from now.

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