It is a story of potential versus immediate impact. Andrew Wiggins is, arguably, one of the most coveted draft picks in recent memory, and his contributions during the summer league has raised eyebrows. Despite all of his potential, it appears the Cleveland Cavaliers are willing to trade Andrew Wiggins for All-Star big man Kevin Love. However, they should avoid the temptation of a move that may yield regret many years down the road.
The Advantage of Wiggins – Wiggins is probably one of the most unique players in this year’s draft. He is not the best example of a physical specimen, but his 6’8″ height along with his 7’0″ wingspan will pose a problem to many players on both ends of the court. During his one season at Kansas, he averaged 17.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.2 spg and 1 bpg. Offensively, he can be a nightmare due to his combination of size and speed. Additionally, he was one of the best slashers in the college circuit last season, allowing him to score at ease. His rebounding could be his most underrated stat, because while 5.9 rpg is nothing earth shattering, he is one of the best offensive rebounders due to his quickness to get off his feet and execute putbacks.
While Wiggins is a fantastic offensive player, it is his defensive prowess that is the key reason as to why the Cleveland Cavaliers should not deal him. He is a great all-around defensive player, who is strong at positioning, staying on his defender, contesting and stealing the ball. Moreover, much like it is difficult to stop his shot due to his wingspan, it is his length that enables him to be a nightmare to any team’s offense. Last season, Cleveland finished 16th in points allowed. By keeping Wiggins, while also now having LeBron James on the squad, the Cavaliers could potentially catapult into a top 10, if not top five, defensive team.
Why Wiggins Can Be a Greater Asset Than Love – Kevin Love, despite never making the playoffs, has proven that he is one of the best big men in the entire NBA. At 6’10” and 250 lbs, he is strong, powerful, and can box out players better than practically anyone. He also has a diverse range for a big man on offense as he can go inside, shoot the long two, and is one of the better three-point shooters on the league. However, the problem with Love is that he is not much of a defensive player. With power forwards such as Blake Griffin, Dirk Nowitzki, or even Chris Bosh on opposing teams, he will be a liability and, in turn, will make Cleveland a weaker defensive squad. Another problem is that Love simply is not as quick or as athletic as the young 19-year-old Wiggins, who can be a major game changer in the NBA if he continues to improve.
Another problem with Love is that while he is still fairly young at 25 (26 once the season starts), he likely cannot play the minutes that Wiggins can. More importantly, Love has an injury-riddled past. While he only missed five games last season, in the 2012-2013 season, he missed all but 18 games. In fact, with the exception of his first season in the league, he has never been healthy for a full season. This is a problem, and while he looks to be in good shape now, bringing him on could potentially be a huge risk for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Loves Comes at a Cost – One of the biggest weaknesses that the Miami Heat had while LeBron James was on the roster was their lack of depth. Currently, Cleveland has significant depth between James, Anderson Varejao, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and even Anthony Bennett. Of course, Andrew Wiggins will be an even larger part of that depth while only making approximately $5 million per season. Kevin Love, on the other hand, is set to make a little over $15 million this season, so in order to bring him in, Cleveland would have to sacrifice its depth by not only trading Wiggins, but most likely Bennett and at least one additional player. What makes the situation more difficult is the fact that James will be making $20 million this season, while Irving will be making close to that next season. Essentially, in order for Cleveland to obtain Love, they would limit their depth potential much like James’ previous team.
Wiggins is not the seasoned player that Love is. However, sacrificing the future for an immediate All-Star will come at a huge cost. There is no doubt that Love is a great offensive player who can crash the boards, but Wiggins could potentially have a better all-around game at a mere fraction of the cost. It seems evident that Cleveland is scrambling at the moment in order to make James happy. However, bringing Kevin Love in is no guarantee towards bringing a championship to Cleveland. As such, Dan Gilbert should avoid the temptation that his Cleveland Cavaliers are involved in by sticking to his initial stance to not trade Andrew Wiggins. After all, there simply is too much at risk.
Commentary by Simon Mounsey