Supporting cast, contract confidence yields Wiggins-Love answer

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at New Orleans Pelicans

kevin-love

Kevin Love. Andrew Wiggins. It’s been exhausting, and we’re looking at four more weeks of it as the No.1 overall pick’s contract clock ticks. Granted, it’s not “LeBron James” exhausting. It’s more nervous excitement. The Cavaliers are going to have three REALLY good players one way or another. I’ve been quite outspoken in my desire to hold onto Andrew Wiggins, and I stand by that earlier sentiment. But, that doesn’t mean I’m not excited by the thought of James, Irving, and Love playing together in Cleveland.

But, if I’m reading the writing on the wall, Kevin Love will be a Cleveland Cavalier, Andrew Wiggins will probably be a Minnesota Timberwolf, and the weight of expectations on the Cavaliers will increase. They’ll go from Eastern Conference contender to supposed Eastern Conference shoe-in and maybe even title favorite. And that’s the scenario I want to talk about.

So, let’s put Wiggins and Bennett (along with picks and expiring contracts and a nice fruit basket) in Minnesota and look at how the Cavaliers are constructed:

PG – Kyrie Irving – Matthew Dellavedova

SG – Dion Waiters – Mike Miller – Joe Harris

SF – LeBron James – James Jones

PF – Kevin Love – Tristan Thompson – Dwight Powell

C – Anderson Varejao – Brendan Haywood

The Cavaliers would potentially have three open roster spots following the trade (assuming Lucas, Murphy, and Thomas either get included in the Love deal or get released). If the Cavaliers push all of their chips into the middle of the table, Ray Allen is likely to claim one of those three spots one would think. Then, that leaves a need for a third point guard and a backup center that’s a little more reliable than the veteran Haywood that missed all of last season due to a foot injury and is soon-to-be 35 years old.

Above all, the question that keeps me up at night is not whether Andrew Wiggins will end up being a perennial All-Star talent, but instead, “Is that team above good enough to win it all?” The cynic in me implores to further clarify the question to “Is that team above good enough to win it all NEXT SEASON?”

QUOTELeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh didn’t do it in their first season. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen did. Three stars coming together has its hurdles associated with it. To complicate matters, the Cavaliers will have only five players from last year’s team returning. FIVE! Irving, Waiters, Thompson, Varejao, and Dellavedova. That’s it. LeBron has of course played with Varejao, Miller, Jones, and Allen if he comes. Still, when matched up against Indiana, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City, three teams that will have been largely the same core for the past three seasons, it’s likely to play a factor.

Normally, not winning the title in year one wouldn’t be the end of the world. But, that’s all we’re going to be guaranteed with Kevin Love when the Cavs pull the trigger on this deal. Sure, we’ll have Love’s Bird Rights, and we have two players he likely wants to play with in Irving and James. Still, I’m very uneasy about Love’s reported desire to play on the West Coast. Would he bolt to the Warriors or Lakers? Trust is a hard thing for me to have with regards to LeBron James this early in the process, but I do believe beyond a reasonable doubt that James intends to play the rest of his career in Cleveland. Is that enough for Love to take the five-year max deal when it’s offered to him by the Cavs? If it is, then the Cavaliers have Irving and Love locked up long-term and the loss of Wiggins is merely a matter of preference rather than an inequality of team control.

What if the team as currently constructed is not enough? Can the team add what’s necessary with its cap limitations? Being left only a first-round draft pick every other year near the end of the round and the mid-level and bi-annual exceptions, the Cavaliers will have to make additions. This team should not have any problems scoring or shooting or rebounding. What it may struggle with is getting defensive stops. While James, Varejao, and Delly are plus defenders, Irving, Waiters, Thompson, Miller, and Jones are below average to awful. Love is said to be an average defender. Without Wiggins and the recently-traded Carrick Felix, it would be nice to have another long athletic defender to pair with James as well as a shot-blocking center and a guy to bang down low with the Howard, Duncan, Lopez, Gasol, and Hibbert types.

So, for me, it really comes down to three burning questions. First, are Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson good enough to be the fourth and fifth best players on this team for the foreseeable future? Second, are the Cavs confident that if traded, Kevin Love will sign a long-term extension to remain in Cleveland? Third, can this team adequately defend at a championship level? If the answer to all three is yes, then fire away.

The part that isn’t a question for me is trading the future for the here and now. If Wiggins for Love allows the Cavaliers to win even just one title, it will not have been a failure, regardless of what Andrew Wiggins eventually becomes. But, the notion of one guaranteed year of Love, coupled with the expectations and short-term nature of much of the Cavalier core is more than enough to give me caution if I were David Griffin. Big moves have to be made sometimes, but they cannot be irresponsible and reckless. If it goes wrong, the Cavs could be left with Kyrie Irving and not much else in a couple of years.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    The point was the last four years have been awful.

  • NateOgden

    win now now now is what killed our first 7 years with Lebron. Its been 40 years with no title we need Jeri Welsh and to over pay for average talent. The argument they are making is an exact repeat of the mistakes we made 10 years ago. Plus we are trusting a player to resign like we did with booser.

  • NateOgden

    people don’t win sports championships, they sit in the stands or on the sofa and cheer, that is the full extent of their contribution. If not cheering one on has that dramatic of an effect on their lives they should probably be focusing more on other aspects of their lives.

    I rather watch a TEAM of cleveland players never win a title then watch a collection of free agents I don’t’ know win one. It’s why I stopped carring about baseball and basketball is quickly getting there as well.

  • WFNY_DP

    “I simply say this team is better situated with a triumverant of Irving-LBJ-Love then it is with Wiggins. For all of you downplaying, discrediting and second guessing Love I could do the same with Wiggins.”

    Yes, and I agreed with this above. I’m not even saying they shouldn’t make the trade if it comes to it. I’m just saying that it’s far from a no-brainer, and the Cavs have no need to rush into anything at all. I happen to think it’d be better in the long run NOT to trade Wiggins, but as you note that’s purely my opinion.

    I especially don’t believe that this trade immediately makes the Cavs title front-runners, because it doesn’t (unless you’ve missed how ridiculous the Western Conference teams are). It might make them better in this season and next, but I’m of the belief that Wiggins has the potential to be better than Love over the length of his career, and so I’m not in a hurry to push him out the door before he’s ever played.

  • WFNY_DP

    They have, but that literally has nothing to do with this conversation. Those years are done, over with. LeBron is here now. They aren’t going back there. You don’t have to make a trade to try to over-compensate for the past four seasons of garbage.

  • Slippery Cripple

    Playing for better odds at one championship vs slightly better odds at three championships in 5 years is like bunting late in the game. I like bunting when we’re home, but this is Cleveland. We’re always away. Play for more runs.

    Don’t bunt on this one.

  • Dave

    “are Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson good enough to be the fourth and fifth best players on this team”

    TT – yes: He’s a decently good choice for power forward, grabbing a lot of rebounds and scoring when the opportunity presents itself. He’s learning a lot from Andy, and it’s showing. He also works on his game, and improved his shooting percentage a bit last year.

    Dion Waiters – no: He’s developed into a bad-shot-chucker. Specifically, compared to the average shooting guard he takes 5 more shots per 48 and makes about 3% fewer of them. The Cavs would be better off with almost anyone else on the team taking the shot on offense.

  • mgbode

    Jacob linked to an article just this morning that demonstrates that Dion actually is much better at shot choice than he is often given credit for being.