Friday, July 18, 2014

Wiggy Love

The Wolves Choo Choo Choose Him
The story today is how the Cavs are now willing to trade #1 pick and uber prospect Andrew Wiggins as part of a package to Minnesota for Kevin Love, the borderline All-NBA power forward with three point range, Team USA pedigree and the inevitable max contract desire. Oh, and Love will be a free agent in a year, just like LeBron James.

Now, there seems to be more than a little momentum around the idea that Love would make the Cavs, already the betting public's favorite to win the NBA Championship next year, an even more slam dunk favorite for the gold. And, well, I get it: having three players who could be ranked in the top ten seems like a hell of a good thing, especially when they all (theoretically) pass the ball, and will subvert their will for the grand and noble pursuit of showing Cleveland Fan that winning a title isn't actually utterly impossible.

But, um... not to put too fine a point on this, but...

Does anyone actually know what they are getting in Love?

A year ago, he was an injury risk with back issues. Right now, he's a first team All-NBA level talent, who has somehow never gotten to the playoffs. (And yes, I get that Minnesota's general managerial work has been downright humorous, but you'd think that one of the five to ten best players in the world would have gotten four guys from the Y to an 8th seed at least once, even in the West.) If you trade for him, you just get the last year of his current deal, and, well, that's it. If you keep him, you're going to have a team in Cleveland with three max deals and nine guys making minimum wage. Didn't James just spend the Finals getting his head kicked in by a team with depth?

There's also this, and it's kind of unsettling. James' best teams come when he plays as a power forward on offense, and simply guards the other team's best player on defense. That gets him deep touches in the half court, rather than letting him pound a dribble from 25 feet and settle for a fadeaway three. (He still hits an ungodly number of those, but it's the shot the defense wants him to take the most, for obvious reasons, in that it kills the legs of his teammates and doesn't go in so often as to make you lose.)

So this isn't as good or obvious a fit as, say, James was with Chris Bosh... and the reason why is that he's just not a very good defensive player. That's why the Wolves have slid him back and forth from power forward to center, depending on whether the Wolves had injuries (frequently) at center, and whether or not the opposition had a stud 4 or 5 that Love needed to be shielded from. Love gets his numbers, but they've been in a vacuum and with major minutes, and those lack of wins is more than a little telling, really. If you own Love in fantasy, he's aces; in reality, maybe not so much.

Know who also qualifies under that statement? Kyrie Irving. Volume, minutes, and the terrible state of affairs in the East have generated another superstar without wins here, and another guy who honors that old-time NBA Superstar Detente of Don't Try Too Hard On Defense Against Me, And I Won't On You.

So, let's say the Cavs decide that James at 30 is not something that can wait for a rookie to figure out, and move Wiggins out for Love. You wind up with a starting lineup that can't get it done on defense, and the bench isn't exactly dripping with that, either... which means that it's another year of Max Minutes for James, and to a lesser extent, Love and Irving.

Meanwhile in Minnesota, Wiggins gets to crank up a clear and obvious Rookie of the Year effort as one of the rare two-way rooks, and the Wolves get him for the relative pittance that is a rookie deal. The Cavs, on the other hand, will be giving big minutes to the three guys that they can't possibly risk to injure, and possibly, well, giving each guy the impetus to think about playing somewhere else.

Now, I'm not saying that keeping Wiggins is without risk. He could tank, a la Anthony Bennett, or get hurt, and then the Cavs would be kicking themselves for not cashing in the unproven ticket for the solid citizen that is Love. Waiting around for Wiggy's jumper to settle and get a role on offense without the ball in his hands isn't in keeping with anyone's Parade Or Bust mentality right now.

But if James walks in a year, or two, Love won't stay, and the Cavs will be right back in the 25 to 35 win purgatory that, by all karmic rights, they should have never left.

And if James bolts on Wiggins instead of Love?

Well, the Cavs would still have the guards to attract FA bigs, not to mention the possibility of LeBron II in their laundry.

If it's my call... I don't let James ruin the fan base twice. You keep Wiggins, you groom him, and you give him huge minutes for the first half of the year, just to save the legs of James and Irving.

But it's Cleveland. You know, the guys who did almost everything wrong in the past few years, and still got back Prodigal James.

Oh, and as a guy who already has Wiggins on his NBA roto team?

Deal, Cavs, deal. I want the Rookie of the Year out of conference from my Sixers, not to mention on a fast-tempo team with a pass-first point...

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