Trading Andrew Wiggins For Kevin Love Was A Poor Decision By Cleveland Cavaliers

Dec 23, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) reacts beside Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22) in the fourth quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 23, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) reacts beside Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22) in the fourth quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

Cleveland Cavaliers fans look back with contempt on the Andrew Wiggins-for-Kevin Love trade. They should, because it has put a strain on the Cavs’ cap space and draft options.

Aug. 23rd, 2014 is a date remembered well by any Cleveland Cavaliers fan.

One month and 12 days after LeBron James announced he was coming back home to Cleveland (cue “Coming Home” by Diddy), the Cavaliers confirmed the rumors swirling about. They announced the trading of the first overall pick of the 2013 and 2014 NBA Drafts, Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, to the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of a three-team trade.

This trade had huge repercussions. This meant LeBron had created a so-called “Big 3” with Kyrie Irving and the newly acquired Kevin Love. LeBron had made sure he had a team that was ready to win.

Love had put up monstrous numbers in Minnesota, where he averaged 25.9 points and 12.4 rebounds as the Timberwolves lone All Star in the 2013-14 season, and even had a handful of games where he dropped 35-plus points and 15-plus rebounds. He was third in the NBA with 10.6 Offensive Win Shares, right behind only Kevin Durant and the king himself, LeBron James.

Related Story: Kevin Love Is Starring In The Wrong Role

In the 2014-15 season, Love’s numbers dropped. He lost almost 10 points a game and three rebounds from the previous year, averaging 16.1 points and 9.7 rebounds. Coming into a system as a third option, many thought his points would drop, but not this drastically.

Soon enough, the 2014-15 Cavaliers went 53-29, and lost in six games to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. The Cavs suffered many injuries, Kyrie Irving’s fractured left knee cap and Kevin Love’s dislocated shoulder, infamously caused by an arm lock with the Boston’s Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Then, last year July 1st the Cavaliers gave Kevin Love a new contract, a max deal worth about $110 million over 5 years. This gave the Cavaliers a rising cap hit of $19.7 million, and in the final year of the contract a cap hit of $25.6 million.

Putting this into perspective, for the 2016-17 season, the combined cap hit of Irving, Love, and James is $69.8 million, which is 74 percent of the $94 million dollar cap the NBA has put in place.

The Cavs came out into the 2015-16 season without Irving available until February. After firing Head Coach David Blatt 41 games into the season, the Cavs went on to go 57-25 in the regular season.

Kevin Love put up almost the exact same offensive numbers he did the year before, 16.0 points and 9.9 rebounds, and the Cavs handedly made their way to the NBA Finals, a rematch between Cleveland and Golden State.

The Cavs ended up winning the series in seven games. Love will always be remembered for “clamping” Stephen Curry in the 4th quarter of Game 7, not allowing Steph to hit an open shot.

However, many questions still surround Kevin Love, including his lack of defensive competence and his poor playoff offensive performance made many wonder, “Is Kevin Love really worth what he was traded and paid for?”

Related Story: The Kevin Love Question

Has Love’s production suffered by playing with Kyrie Irving at point guard, whereas Love had played and developed chemistry with Ricky Rubio, the polar opposite of Irving’s playing style.

His field goal percentage in the 2015-16 playoffs was under 40.0 percent. For a stretch power forward, that’s an inadequate number, even if one averages 14.7 and 8.8 boards a game like Love did.

On defense, just by the eye test, Love cannot guard anybody strong inside, nor is he athletic enough to guard anyone on the perimeter – stretch fours seem to have this issue, a lack of a position to guard.

To take a look at what happened at the other side of the trade, Andrew Wiggins is an up-and-coming NBA future star for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Even though he is questioned over whether or not he is an efficient scorer, his stats do the talking. This past year Wiggins averaged 20.7 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.0 assists, along with a 45.9 field goal percentage. Playing on an uber athletic and young Timberwolves roster, Wiggins has shown flashes of what his long and lanky 6-foot-8, 200-pound frame can do.

Earlier this week, Wiggins posted to Instagram a video of himself almost completing a 720 dunk. Which has never been done before.

Because of his size, Wiggins has the ability to guard shooting guards and small forwards on the perimeter. This talent was something the Cavaliers definitely missed and needed in a league full of perimeter shooters and spaced offenses.

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Love’s rebounds and ability to stretch the floor has helped the success Cleveland has had the last couple of years. But, will his rising max contract be any help to the Cavaliers’ cap space in the future?

The breaking point to why the Cavs lost the Andrew Wiggins trade is the amount of money Wiggins makes. His 2016-17 cap hit is only $6 million, compared to Kevin Love’s $21 million and rising cap hit.

With those $15 million dollars of cap space, the possibilities are endless. The Cavaliers could have used that cap money to sign another power forward who effectively worked inside and provided rebounds, while Wiggins worked out his growing pains and scored in isolation sets for Cleveland.

Financially, the decision to keep Wiggins would’ve made sense. Even after the Cavs won this past year’s NBA Finals, this should make any fan wonder, “Could the Cavs found a better way to win the 2016 Finals or to even win the 2015 Finals with Andrew Wiggins and free agent pieces instead of Kevin Love?”

Hindsight is 20/20, and whether or not the Cavs would’ve been better off with Wiggins or Love is up in the air. However, in today’s NBA, 20 points per game for only $6 million dollars is a steal. DeMar Derozan, a similar statistical counterpart to a future Wiggins, just was given a max contract by the Toronto Raptors.

Related Story: Will Kevin Love Have The Long-Awaited Breakout Season?

Kevin Love isn’t getting any younger or better for Cleveland. Looking back at this move now, Cleveland clearly made a win-now move with the Love trade, and Cleveland may have hit a homerun in 2016, but they’ve struck out from the scoring talent Andrew Wiggins will now be for cheap.