Why Kevin Love Is Worth Cleveland Cavaliers Risking Andrew Wiggins' Future

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistAugust 5, 2014

TARRYTOWN, NY - AUGUST 3:  Andrew Wiggins #21 of the Cleveland Cavaliers poses for a portrait during the 2014 NBA rookie photo shoot on August 3, 2014 at the Madison Square Garden Training Facility in Tarrytown, New York. 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 Brian Babineau /NBAE via Getty Images)
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LeBron James brought a mandate for the Cleveland Cavaliers along with him.

The time is now.

With James already 29 years old and well into the prime of his career, waiting around for improvement isn't an option. The obvious subtext is that the franchise can't afford to slowly groom its 2013 and 2014 No. 1 overall draft picks, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins.

In turn, a deal that would exchange Wiggins (and likely Bennett) for disgruntled Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love has become the worst-kept secret in the NBA.

Columnist Brian Windhorst explained to ESPN NY 98.7 that, "The deal is done but not done. The teams have agreed but they can't say they've agreed and they can't agree because we're in this weird moratorium period. Because you can't trade Andrew Wiggins until the 23rd of this month."

Windhorst added, "Essentially, before the papers have been signed there is this handshake agreement that Kevin Love to the Cavs, Andrew Wiggins to the Timberwolves, and I believe Thaddeus Young will end up in Minnesota either as part of a separate deal or as part of a three-way deal."

Windhorst and ESPN.com's Marc Stein separately wrote, "The Minnesota Timberwolves were engaged in serious Kevin Love trade talks with no teams other than the Cleveland Cavaliers... adding to the growing belief around the NBA that Love teaming up with LeBron James is inevitable, sources have told ESPN.com."

As CSN Northwest's Chris Haynes put it, "It would be a shocking development if the two sides ended up not doing business together."

So it should come as no surprise that the Pioneer-Press' Charley Walters reported that, "The Timberwolves say now that they expect to trade disgruntled all-star Kevin Love and that a deal is expected Aug. 23 or Aug. 24."

In other words, the organization just happens to be poised to move Love when Wiggins officially becomes available.

Per Walters, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor clarified, "I'm saying it's most likely because Kevin has made it pretty clear that that's what he wants to do."

For Love, the opportunity to play with the planet's best player is too much to pass up. For the Cavaliers, Love immediately upgrades a young rotation in need of another star sidekick to join James and point guard Kyrie Irving

As for Wiggins, he just wants to find a home.

According to ESPN.com, he told SportsCenter, "I just want to play for a team that wants me. So whichever team wants me I'll play for."

Wiggins' exceptional upside would give many teams pause about including him in a trade, even for someone of Love's caliber. The 19-year-old averaged 17.1 points and 5.9 rebounds in his first and only season at Kansas.

His work on the defensive end has also turned heads.

DraftExpress' Mike Schmitz wrote back in March that, "Defensively, Wiggins is already extremely effective. His combination of size, length, lateral quickness and solid intensity gives him the potential to develop into a multi-positional lockdown perimeter defender in the NBA, particularly as he matures and gets stronger."

Wiggins' athleticism and skill set make him a potential superstar. There was a reason he was selected first overall in a highly touted draft class. 

So why are the Cavaliers ready to part ways already?

Much as LeBron conceded the need for patience in his return-home essay, we're still talking about a guy who's been to four straight NBA Finals. Given the choice between a protracted evolution and the opportunity to immediately contend, few can blame James for preferring the latter.

SAN ANTONIO, TX - JUNE 15:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat reacts on the bench against the San Antonio Spurs during Game Five of the 2014 NBA Finals at the AT&T Center on June 15, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges an
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

To that end, ESPN's Brian Windhorst outlines the extent to which the four-time MVP has already involved himself in shaping his new roster:

James may not have been in the same room as his front office this summer but he's been working alongside them. He successfully recruited Miller and free agent James Jones. James has also been in contact with Love, Marion and free agent Ray Allen as he decides whether he wants to continue his career.

While the return to Cleveland may have been about something bigger than basketball, James' aggressive pursuit of talent suggests he hasn't forgotten how good it feels to win.

There's just no telling how quickly Wiggins could contribute to that cause.

Love—on the other hand—is already a three-time All-Star and one of the most intriguing big men in the league. He's a dominant rebounder capable of spacing the floor with his steady three-point stroke. Last season, Love averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and converted on 37.6 percent of his 6.6 three-point attempts per contest.

SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 13: Kevin Love #42 of the Minnesota Timberwolves in a game against the Sacramento Kings on April13, 2014 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and o
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

The prolific spot-up shooting should dovetail nicely with James' ability to drive and kick the ball out to the perimeter. And the mere threat of Love's long-range shooting would open driving lanes for James (and Irving), spreading out defenders and encouraging ample penetration.

In short, the 25-year-old reasons to be a strong fit and productive complement to Cleveland's already impressive core. 

It certainly doesn't hurt that Love could very well have another decade's worth of strong play ahead of him. As painful as it may be to lose Wiggins' sky-high ceiling, it's not as if Love is staring down the final years of his career.

A trio of James, Love and Irving would have plenty of basketball left in it.

Therein lies the undeniable value of adding Love. It ensures the best of both worlds for Cleveland—the opportunity to vie for a title now without sacrificing the future. Though Love may not sign an extension initially, keeping him around shouldn't be too difficult thanks to James' commitment to staying. 

Wiggins' future will be bright, but the Cavaliers can't be preoccupied with the long view.

Not when a championship is already within reach.