Kevin Love is one of the 10 best players in the NBA, that is not in dispute. By any metric you’d like to cite, Love is one of the Top 10 players in the NBA. You can argue the junk that he’s never been to the playoffs, or that he’s padding his stats on a bad team, but at the end of the discussion, it’s undeniable: He’s one of the best 10 – at worst, 15 – players in the NBA. Love turns 26 in September, so he’s in his prime, and he’s coming off his best season as a pro: 26.1 ppg, 12.5 rpg and 45/37/82 shooting numbers, which are very impressive. The media is frothing that the Cavs should go out and get Kevin Love yesterday.
Still, I wouldn’t give up Andrew Wiggins for him.
As I argued for much of June, even before LeBron left Miami for Cleveland, Wiggins gives LeBron something he’s never had – a long, quick, bouncy, athletic defender to take some pressure off him defensively.
And remember, LeBron’s coming off a humbling Finals defeat where he was going 1-on-5 and the Miami bench had nothing – blame the cheap owner if you want, or Riley for striking out on Beasley/Oden – while the Spurs’ reserves were younger, quicker and most importantly, cheaper.
LeBron “went to college” in Miami and learned a lot – and perhaps he learned that an elite power forward on a max deal while sacrificing youth and cap flexibility isn’t the way to go. Yes, they won two titles and went to the Finals four times. But could that dynasty have been prolonged if the Heat had been a bit savvier on the financial side?
Quick reminder: Chris Bosh, in his last season in Toronto at the age of 25, averaged 24 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. He was 4th in the NBA in PER. The situation is almost parallel to Kevin Love’s right now.
One wonders if LeBron and Cleveland had this discussion: Bosh deserved a max deal, but then we had him sacrifice his game and by the 4th year he was averaging 16-6 and we were paying him a max deal and we had a bunch of old guys coming off the bench and zero depth. Yeah, yeah, Wade got old, obviously that was a big part of it. If we have to give up Wiggins and other young, cheap talent for Love, then max him out, and we’ve suddenly got no depth.
With the signing of Mike Miller, the Cavs have to be ecstatic. They can surround LeBron with Kyrie Irving (39 percent/39/35 on three pointers in his first three years) and Miller, and then they’ve got young role players in Wiggins/Bennett/Thompson. When LeBron’s off the floor, there are still options. One has to assume their next move after acquiring James Jones is to try and secure Ray Allen, and then after that I’d guess they try and move Dion Waiters (15.9 ppg in his second season), probably for some shot-blocking help inside.
One last word on ‘The Big 3’ vs. the Depth of San Antonio: After whipping the Cavs in the 2007 finals, the Spurs struggled to get back to the Championship because a) they play in the West, b) in 2009 they tried to replace pivotal role players Bruce Bowen, Michael Finley and Kurt Thomas left with Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess and DeJuan Blair, and the production just wasn’t there. It wasn’t until the Spurs unearthed young Danny Green (2nd round pick of the Cavs, kicked down to the NBDL), heisted Kawhi Leonard from the Pacers for George Hill, and picked up Boris Diaw off the scrap heap did they get back to the Finals two years in a row.’
Youth. Cap flexibility.
My gut tells me that no matter how bad it gets for the Cavs, Cleveland only offer Waiters/Bennett and a pick or two for Love, but refuse to put Wiggins into the deal.
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