Kevin Love Trade Must Not Cost Cleveland Cavaliers Andrew Wiggins

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJuly 14, 2014

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You can't trade Andrew Wiggins. Not even for Kevin Love. Not after the upside Wiggins has flashed and the progress he's made.

Of course, Love mixed into a lineup with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving sounds contender-worthy on the surface. It's a shortcut to winning now. 

But not every shortcut is worth taking—especially when you consider the promising path the Cleveland Cavaliers are already on. 

Realistically, the Cavs are in a can't-lose situation here. But after potentially screwing up the No. 1 pick in 2013, the basketball gods gave them a second chance in the 2014 lottery. And then, the best player on the planet decided Cleveland was where he wanted to be.

If I'm the Cavaliers, I'm riding this wave of good fortune without doing anything drastic.

But that's just my gut talking. My head likes the value of Wiggins, who has the potential to emerge as a premier defensive talent—like Kawhi Leonard and Paul George—within his first two years in the league. 

And he's going to be providing that defense, along with a scoring repertoire that's growing by the month, on a cheap rookie contract. 

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"Star potential on rookie scale deal for four years," one general manager told ESPN's Jeff Goodman (subscription required)

"I feel like Wiggins may only be a year or so away from being a legit contributor," said another front office executive. "And Wiggins is cheap, so you are able to add more. Love is gonna cost a ton."

With Love, James and Irving, the Cavaliers would be financially limited in terms of their ability to build around them. And though that's a pretty darn good trio, it eliminates some major margin for error. The Cavs would probably be relying on the same three guys night after night, year after year. Regardless of how talented your Big Three is, that team-building strategy isn't quite foolproof. 

Love is obviously the better all-around player, but Wiggins does give Cleveland an immediate upgrade as a defender on the wing while also allowing the Cavaliers flexibility with the cap to add some more talent to their frontcourt. Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao each blocked less than 0.7 shots per game last season. 

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.

However, pair James with Wiggins on the wing and throw in a rim protector or defensive-minded big man via free agency or trade, and now the Cavaliers are looking scary at both ends of the floor. 

And while Wiggins' skills might be a tad behind his effortless athleticism, they're getting better rather quickly.

Sure, it's just summer league, but if the flashes of step-back jumpers and pull-up three-pointers we're seeing turn into routine occurrences and regular weapons, the Cavaliers could soon be looking at another go-to option in the lineup. 

Plus, in Cleveland, Wiggins couldn't ask for a better setting to grow in. He has a solid point guard who draws plenty of attention and James, who not only makes the game easier for teammates, but has a lot to offer Wiggins in regard to breaking into the league.

No, the Cavaliers can't go wrong by bringing in Love to play with James and Irving. But Cleveland can still be pretty dangerous with James, Irving and Wiggins along with guys like Dion Waiters and Thompson, whose efficiency is sure to increase now that their responsibilities have been reduced. And by keeping Wiggins, they can maintain the flexibility to fill some holes without having to sift through the bottom of the barrel for rental plugs.

It should also be awfully nice to have Wiggins entering his prime when James' age gets up there into his mid-30s (assuming James stays in Cleveland for a handful of years). 

Wiggins has the potential to offer some special value in the short term as well as a monster ceiling in the long term. And he just happens to fill a need in Cleveland given its lack of defense and athleticism. 

The Cavaliers' current roster and rebuilding efforts have so much positivity and promise. I wouldn't mess with them.


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