24-hours after LeBron James made July 11,2014 a day forever immortalized in the minds of Cleveland Cavaliers fans, its time to look forward now to rounding out the roster. This time last week Cavs fans were talking themselves into a Gordon Hayward max deal, but with the addition of the aforementioned King, everything changes: The Heatles’ SuperTeam is no more. Bosh, who by the end of the run had become a running joke for casual fans (lest we forget he averaged 24.0 PPG, 10.8 RBG in 2008-09), is now on his way toward making $118Mil over the next five years by staying with the Heat (I need a Chappelle Show skit of Bosh finding out LeBron’s decision. *Chris and his wife Adrienne are seated on the couch. The phone rings; Chris walks into the next room to answer it; it’s Pat Riley. Bosh mutters, “I understand,” and hangs up the phone — one tear rolls down his cheek. “It’s over,” he says. “Just call him honey,” Adrienne says. “NO, WE MUST MOVE ON,” Bosh screams as he runs into his room, slamming the door behind him.* You know, something like that maybe.)
Numerous reports expect some combination of Ray Allen, Mike Miller and the Birdman to join their leader in Cleveland. The point is: Everything is different with LeBron “Coming Home.” A team hoping to return to the Playoff’s under first-year Coach David Blatt now will undoubtedly be thrown into the mix for title contention — whether LeBron writes it or not — that’s just what comes with having the best player of a generation on your team. Which makes sense of the rumored trade for Kevin Love. Common NBA theory says that in the current NBA landscape, three superstars are necessary for title-winning success to occur. Whether that truly is the case (I’d venture to say the Spurs were more a “team” as a whole, rather than label them a Big 3), most teams have spent the last years reshaping their cap space so as to be able to acquire superstar talent. And Kevin Love is certainly a superstar talent.
Love is a three-time All Star and is coming off of a season in which he averaged a career high 26.1 PPG, 12.5 RBG and 4.4 APG playing for a very average Timberwolves team. He has the option of opting-out of his current contract at the end of the 2014-15 season, and after weeks of saying he wouldn’t sign with Cleveland long-term, the addition of a certain MVP seems to have changed his mind. Love is now reportedly “intrigued” by the idea of playing in Cleveland, and would allow the Cavaliers to recreate a better shooting, younger version of the original Big 3 (sorry, I’m not putting Kyrie Irving in the same category as in-his-prime Dwyane Wade, so the jury’s out as to which threesome features more talent). Love would give the Cavaliers another legitimate scoring option to play with LeBron and All-Star Kyrie Irving, and also gives the Cavaliers the best rebounding big man in the game. Can you picture a perfectly thrown outlet pass from Love hitting James in transition for a signature finish? The offense, apart from the time needed to adjust to playing together, would be equipped better than David Blatt could ask for. You’re surrounding the most talented player in the NBA, an unselfish playmaker at heart, with two of the best young scorers in the NBA. It’s the dream scenario…right?
The case for Kevin Love is simple, so I won’t spend much time on it: He’s a top 10 or so player, provides the interior scoring option the Cavs sorely need and rebounds better than anyone (and we saw how much rebounding came into play in the Finals, as the league-worst rebounding Heat consistently allowed second-chance opportunities to Spurs shooters. The Cavs, for the record, were the leagues 11th best). Love spreads the floor a la Chris Bosh in Miami — with better three-point range (37.6 percent to 33.9 percent) — and finished fourth in the NBA in scoring (behind James). Oh, and he doesn’t turn 26 until September 7, meaning he’s still firmly in his prime for the considerable future. Love would give the Cavaliers a legitimate Big 3 and would push Irving to the third option on offense. Any team that has the NBA All-Star Game MVP as their third-best player is going to be tossed around when contending is brought up. How good is Love? According to Kevin Pelton of ESPN, Love’s 20.3 WARP last season put him as the league’s third-most valuable player (behind James and Durant). For comparison, Dwyane Wade’s stellar 2009-10 season (in which he averaged 26.6 PPG, 6.5 APG, and 4.8 RBG) gave him a 20.0WARP! (http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/11203671/if-cavaliers-get-kevin-love-even-andrew-wiggins-do-nba). He’s 25, he’s the reigning Mokeski Award Winner four years running and allows for Pepsi to make more Uncle Drew & Wes commercials.
So what’s holding this deal up? Well, any trade starts with Andrew Wiggins. For those of you who didn’t scan through James’ letter like a crime scene investigator, let me fill you in: The letter featured the names Tristan Thompson, Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Anderson Varejao. Either LeBron hasn’t paid much attention to the last two NBA Drafts, or he left out the past two No. 1 picks Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins. Insert Twitter conspiracy theories. During ESPN’s LeBron-Center sportscast last night, Bill Simmons, Grantland’s Editor-in-Chief, suggested that maybe LeBron knows about something in the works. Speaking of Simmons, back when he wrote consistently, he had a “dollar theory.” Players were worth different monetary values (Click here for the whole thing). It goes a little like this: $2 Untradeable Stars (James), $1 All-Stars who aren’t transformational stars and can be traded (Love), Silver Dollars (All Stars that are slightly less desirable, probably Irving’s landing spot) and so on. He claimed you always want to turn coins into paper. What is Andrew Wiggins’ worth? Before the college season there were rumblings that he should sit the year out and train until the NBA Draft. He had such a high value; scouts actually thought sitting out a year would do less damage to his stock than playing. And they might have been right: Wiggins had his share of critics this year, which claimed his offensive game was too raw, his motor too passive and his risk too high. Well, the 6-8 guard/forward might have a ceiling that’s too high to be traded. At least, that’s the message the Cavs are going with for now. The Timberwolves front office wisely claims any deal starts and ends with the inclusion of Wiggins. No Waiters, Thompson and picks deal will cut it (what would that be in money terms? Three quarters for the dollar?)
The season is still months away; as the season progresses on, that deal might represent the best offer out there for the T-Wolves. But for now? No Wiggins, no deal. Wiggins also features one attribute Kevin Love has never been associated with: Defense. An Irving, Waiters, James, Love and Thompson starting 5 (or something along those lines) has two minus defenders that need to be hidden at all times (Irving and Love). That doesn’t exactly fit the notion that LeBron wants to manage his minutes and energy better as he ages, does it? But a team of Irving, Wiggins, James, Thompson and Varejao, with a deeper bench, allows for players to be allocated minutes, and there is someone who can defend opposing stars while LeBron sits. As LeBron enters the latter portion of his career, his physical attributes will start to diminish; Father Time is undefeated. Wiggins represents the next-in-line for Cleveland, the player who can defend the opposing teams’ superstar (allowing James to save himself, after watching the Heat spend their energy wearing James out to save Wade). His offense will catch up; remember, LeBron wasn’t exactly the refined offensive savant he is now when he entered the league. As Simmons said on SportsCenter last night, playing with LeBron is the best thing that could happen to his career. Nobody can teach him more about basketball than James. Nobody can help him reach that potential. Wiggins represents the Pippen to James’s Jordan; the protégé he’s never had. If you want to dig deeper into his message, James says,
I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head. But I get a thrill out of bringing a group together and helping them reach a place they didn’t know they could go. I see myself as a mentor now and I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys.
Does that sound like a hidden cry for TRADE WIGGINS FOR LOVE ASAP DAVID GRIFFIN to you? This is about development, growth and progression. Not to mention the fact that unless James took less than the max and didn’t tell anyone, any deal for Kevin Love has to include a third team or Anderson Varejao’s $9.7 million contract to make ends meet. Doesn’t LeBron specifically mention reuniting with his buddy, Twitter detectives? Kevin Love is an All-Star, and would be a welcomed addition…if the price is right. But me personally? I’ll stand with Joel Embiid in the #KeepWiggins Movement.