Andrew Wiggins of the Cleveland Cavaliers (l), and Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love (r).
When the Cleveland Cavaliers re-signed LeBron James last week, it put them back into title contention. It also put them in the hunt for Minnesota Timberwolves Olympian and All-Star power forward Kevin Love. Love, who averaged 26 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game last season, has risen to the elite class of National Basketball Association (NBA) forwards, shooting with three-point range and rebounding like a mad man. He could easily walk onto any roster inside the NBA and start immediately, making the 25-year-old a dynamite asset coveted by numerous teams. The Cavaliers happen to be one of those teams and their reacquisition of James along with the presence of All-Star guard Kyrie Irving and a platoon of young marketable talent has all of a sudden made Cleveland a prime destination. The Timberwolves are trying to squeeze some assets out of Love, who has a year remaining on his contract and has demanded relocation.
After an initial reluctance, reports surfaced late last week that Cleveland was now willing to part with last June’s top pick, Andrew Wiggins, plus 2013’s top overall selection, Anthony Bennett, and future potential first round picks to try to pry Love away from the Timberwolves. But both Bennett (21 years old) and Wiggins (19) have impressed so far in this year’s summer league and both still possess worlds of potential which has caused fans to question whether or not the Cavs are offering too much to land Love. Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate what Cleveland should do.
Green: I wouldn’t label Love injury prone but he’s definitely missed some serious time over the last few seasons, making me question whether any team should move any young and healthy pieces for him. He also has only one season left on his deal, putting Cleveland in the same situation that the Knicks found themselves in a few years ago with Carmelo Anthony. Love has already expressed a willingness to sign with the Cavaliers so they could just wait for a season and go after him next summer while still keeping their pieces and assets intact. The Knicks mistakenly traded away several players to land Anthony in a trade a few seasons ago, which only weakened the depth of the roster at a time when they probably could’ve just sat back and attacked Anthony through free agency. James wants to win now and that’s understandable but it’s rare for a team to have back-to-back No. 1 overall selections on the same roster. And it’s even rarer for both players to hold as much potential as Wiggins and Bennett maintain. Both can shoot from range and run the court. And when it comes to Wiggins, he might be the most athletic wing prospect to come out of the draft since 2003, the year James was drafted.
Riley: Until Wiggins and Bennett become dominant players, they’ll never be anything more than just potential. Love is already a top ten player, an Olympian and All-Star as of this writing. Adding Love puts the Cavaliers into the title conversation and removes some of the youth that could possibly derail their championship hopes next year. Despite the profitable strategy that James’ two-year deal is based upon, his deal is still only for two years and he has shown Cleveland already he will leave if the right pieces aren’t placed around him. James has never played with an Olympian who is in the prime of his career and that’s the idea he could be sold on should he even question the team’s willingness to move Wiggins. James and Love would make up the best front court in the East and easily propel them to over 50 wins at the least. Love is still young enough to get better and when you factor in Irving, James literally could play assist man while his two teammates light up scoreboards. There is no luxury to waiting for Bennett and Wiggins’ learning curve. If Cleveland wants to win now then they need to acquire Love, now.
Green: We talk about title contention but the Cavs are already one of the most talented teams in the East with James. They don’t need Love to push them into the NBA Finals next season and even his potential arrival in Cleveland doesn’t “guarantee” them a Finals appearance. This team is still largely stocked with young talent and a first time head coach so expectations should be tempered, just as James said in his open letter. So if we’re scaling back high expectations then why not give the young prospects a chance to grow and fill out the roster? We know what Love gives a team but we don’t know how good two No. 1 picks — especially Wiggins– can and should be. Let me make this clear: I’ll take Andrew Wiggins over K. Love every day. I believe Wiggins will be the biggest star of his era, when all is said and done. A kid with that kind of freakish athleticism combined with his hard work ethic just doesn’t come along often. And unlike Love, Wiggins doesn’t need the ball in his hands on offense to make an impact. He may turn out to be the best defender in the NBA very shortly and he can run the floor like a gazelle so there will be plenty of easy fast break scoring opportunities. Pairing him up with LeBron, the standard for freak athletes, is a scary thought for the rest of the NBA.
Riley: No matter how much James tries to temper expectations they’re still going to be there. He’s the game’s top player on a team with some former top picks, we’re going to expect success. Adding Love only gets them closer to that success while still lacing the team with a young super star who hasn’t hit his prime yet. He combines shooting, rebounding and post scoring and would give Cleveland its own Big Three headlined by James. Love’s price tag may be a little bit steep but to grab one of the NBA’s best players under the age of 26 who can put your team into the upper echelon should have a big cost to it. And if Cleveland wants to hold James this time around then they’ll make sure they pay handsomely.