Andrew Wiggins' head must be spinning.
He's been a part of the NBA for only a matter of weeks, but he's already in the middle of a massive storm that involves LeBron James, Kevin Love, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Nonetheless, he soldiers on.
"It's been crazy," Wiggins said about his experience in the Las Vegas Summer League, per Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver. "It's all positive stuff. With LeBron coming back, there's nothing negative about that at all. The best player in the world coming to your team, it's just a great feeling. The organization is on the rise right now."
Is it really his team, though?
Wiggins isn't guaranteed to remain in a Cleveland uniform when the regular season rolls around. As ESPN.com's Marc Stein explains on Twitter, he may well be part of a package sent to the 'Wolves for Love's services:
That's a ridiculous offer, one that Minnesota would be crazy to turn down. After all, the Cavs are giving up way too much in order to bring Love to town.
Lots of Talent Going Away
The Cavaliers aren't going to land Love—at least not right now—without making the proverbial Godfather offer.
As Stein explained up above, that basically means including the NBA's last two No. 1 picks, as well as a future first-round selection. If Cleveland ends up having to part ways with even more, chances are another future first-round pick will be thrown into the mix.
That's an awful lot of talent to give up.
First-round picks are always valuable, even when an organization is expected to be highly competitive and has LeBron James on the roster. All it takes is one devastating injury or a lot of bad luck, and suddenly that selection set to be conveyed looks a lot more enticing. Superhuman as LeBron has been throughout his professional career, there's no guarantee he remains healthy in his 30s.
There's never a health guarantee for any player, after all.
But Wiggins and Bennett?
That's a mother lode of incoming talent for the 'Wolves.
Wiggins is one of those transcendent prospects, even if he doesn't quite qualify as one of the once-in-a-generation guys. In fact, ESPN.com's Chad Ford (subscription required) even ranked the Kansas product as the No. 10 prospect since 2000:
If Wiggins had left for the NBA straight after high school, he would've been four or five spots higher on this list. Blessed with elite athletic ability and size for his position, he came out of high school ranked as one of the best prospects ever. The less informed started calling him the next LeBron James or Kobe Bryant. While his comp was really closer to a Tracy McGrady or a Paul George, the hype surrounding Wiggins was enormous.
His performance at Kansas dinged his reputation. While he was dominant at times (especially toward the end of the season), too often he looked passive and didn't display the killer instinct that NBA teams covet in a prospect. Regardless, many scouts believe he is an elite prospect who could be a transcendent player once he refines his offensive game.
Keep in mind that these scouting grades were all determined before the prospect in question had played a single minute at the NBA level. Ford has been in the evaluation business for a long time, so he's uniquely able to recall his exact values of these players over the last 15 years.
It's obvious that he's highly thought of.
During Las Vegas Summer League, Wiggins showed exactly why. His overall shooting numbers weren't abundantly impressive, but he put an incredible offensive arsenal on display. The space-creating step-backs, the spins through traffic, the jaw-dropping athleticism and the surprisingly adept handles may actually have raised the overall perception of his game, and it's already widely assumed he'll be a defensive stud.
He's a franchise-changing player, one who would immediately fill up the seats in the Target Center and help rejuvenate a fanbase that's been struggling to stay enthusiastic in the wake of lottery appearance after lottery appearance. No other players on the market can have that type of on- and off-court impact.
Plus, Bennett actually looks promising again.
During his experience in Sin City, last year's top pick averaged 13.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per contest while shooting 42.6 percent from the field. The numbers won't blow you away, but it was encouraging to see how much more athletic and in-shape he looked than he did during his embarrassing rookie season.
Without the glare of the spotlight, a nagging shoulder injury and a poor start holding him back, the former UNLV standout should start living up to at least some of the expectations. It's not as though he's just a throw-in for any trade that Cleveland makes; he's a valuable piece, especially this early in his professional career.
If NBA tenures could be doomed after one season, so many superstars would never have risen to prominence. Kobe Bryant only averaged 7.6 points on 41.7 percent shooting as a rookie, so clearly he was never able to amount to anything.
I'm not trying to compare Bennett and Bryant. Don't get me wrong. However, it's worth noting that slow starts aren't tantamount to death knells.
Giving up Wiggins alone for Love is too much, as we'll see in a few years time. Giving up Wiggins, Bennett and a first-round pick is nonsensical. Giving up Wiggins, Bennett and multiple picks?
That's just insane.
No Guarantees with Love
If Cleveland is giving up that kind of talent, it better be virtually guaranteed of being highly competitive right off the bat.
For reasons I've explained multiple times (here and here, if you want further reading), Love doesn't make the Cavaliers immediate contenders, at least not when they lose Wiggins in the process. Defense matters, after all.
With Love on the roster, Cleveland simply isn't going to be able to protect the rim. The All-Star power forward is one of the worst in the league at deterring made shots right around the basket, and Anderson Varejao is similarly bad—though not on the same level. Plus, Tristan Thompson isn't really much help coming off the bench in this scenario.
LeBron's presence will help a Cavs unit that finished No. 19 in defensive rating last year, per Basketball-Reference.com, but he's not going to single-handedly transform it into a top-notch group of players. Not with Love and Varejao serving as the last line of defense, and certainly not with Kyrie Irving ushering players into the paint at will.
That, in addition to the natural adjustment period that goes hand-in-hand with adding two new superstars to a roster featuring a first-year coach with no NBA experience, doesn't bode well for the Cavs' chances of winning a ring in 2015.
Sure, it would be possible to add more pieces in future seasons, and the young players remaining in The Q would certainly improve, ideally on the defensive end of the court. However, there's no guarantee that Love would be a part of that process.
He can still opt out of his contract at the end of the 2014-15 season, and though he's said he would extend his contract in Cleveland, per Stein, there's been no guarantee.
What if Love isn't blown away by what happens in the first year of his tenure with the Cavaliers? What if the young pieces fail to make strides next season and the potential of the franchise looks awfully shaky? What if LeBron declines in his new home?
There are so many variables, and Love's decision is just one of many.
But think about what this means.
Sure, it's a fairly safe assumption that Love would remain put once he joined a new team and finally got a taste of the playoffs, but it's still an assumption. There's no ink involved; there haven't even been any handshakes or non-verbal agreements.
It would be nothing short of devastating if the Cavaliers parted ways with so much talent for a chance to use Love for only one or two seasons, neither of which are guaranteed to end Cleveland's championship drought.
Who is Cleveland Bidding Against?
The price just keeps going up and up.
In a competitive trade market, that makes sense. Offers come flowing in, and each team keeps having to up the ante in order to convince the sellers that they're the strongest buyers. But who exactly is forcing Cleveland to do that in this apparent bidding war for Love's services.
The Golden State Warriors still aren't including Klay Thompson in any package they can offer, and even he can't touch the value that Wiggins possesses by himself.
"And, according to multiple sources who have remained consistent on this issue for weeks, the Warriors have made their decision: No Klay Thompson in the offer to Minnesota," reports Tim Kawakami for MercuryNews.com.
Sources say that the Bulls, though, have re-entered the race and would appear to be the biggest threat to the Cavs thanks largely to the Golden State Warriors' resolute unwillingness to add longtime Wolves target Klay Thompson in any deal.
Although the full extent of the Bulls' offer wasn't immediately known, it is believed Minnesota would seek a package from Chicago featuring forward Taj Gibson and defensive ace Jimmy Butler in addition to other assets. The Bulls shelved their Love interest while trying to sign Carmelo Anthony away from the New York Knicks but, according to sources, have re-emerged as contenders.
Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and other assets are intriguing (especially if those assets are first-round picks), but that package pales in comparison to Cleveland's Godfather offer.
The Denver Nuggets could get involved by putting Kenneth Faried and Arron Afflalo on the table, but that's not as impressive as the Wiggins haul. And who else is willing to make some noise? The Boston Celtics with some of their young talent? Sure, but that's not a Wiggins-quality package either.
Cleveland isn't exactly exhibiting patience here.
It's not as though the Minnesota front office would accept another deal and submit it to the league for approval without first seeing if Cleveland wished to trump the offer. The Cavs can afford to sit back and wait for the Timberwolves' demands to become more reasonable as time passes; they don't have to force the issue right away.
Either way, they're probably giving up too much for the All-Star power forward.
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