The Cleveland Cavaliers are starting to look like the team that everyone thought would be the odds-on favorite for the 2015 NBA title when the franchise brought in LeBron James and Kevin Love this past summer. It hasn’t been all good for the Cavaliers, as the team failed to meet the lofty expectations thrust upon them in the first half of the season, and there has been plenty of reported turmoil among players and coaches so far. Cleveland didn’t have to give up anything other than money to bring in LeBron, but the Cavs paid a very high price to get Love in Cleveland, and there are a number of reasons why the Cavs will ultimately regret making the three-way trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Philadelphia 76ers.
In order to get Love to Cleveland, the Cavaliers surrendered Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a first-round draft pick (from the Miami Heat). That is a steep price to pay for Love, who is still able to become a free agent at the end of this season. Love, of course, was considered the best player in the deal, and the simplest way to evaluate any trade is to look at which team received the best player. That is oversimplifying things a bit too much, and the Cavs are going to regret this deal for many years to come.
Wiggins has flourished in Minnesota, and perhaps being the primary scoring option on a team with low expectations is best for his overall development as a player. More than halfway through this NBA season, most observers agree that Wiggins is a franchise player and is going to have an excellent career in the league for many years to come. Losing Wiggins is just one of the many reasons that Cleveland will wish they had never made this deal, especially since they are still far from the favorites to win a title this season.
10 10. Love’s Contract
In making the trade with Minnesota, the Cavaliers essentially traded for a single season of Kevin Love. Sure, they may have had assurances from Love’s camp that he would be open to an extension, but such a guarantee is prevented by the Collective Bargaining Agreement and does not negate the fact that the Cavaliers could have simply pursued Love in free agency in the summer of 2015. There were plenty of rumors floating around early in the season that Love could leave at season’s end, but he has repeatedly said he intends to stay in Cleveland beyond this season. Of course, why would he say anything else?
9 9. Love Is a Weak Defender
8 8. Win-Now Mentality Has Cavaliers Mortgaging Their Future
7 7. Cavs Are Weak Defending the Perimeter
6 6. Anthony Bennett Still Has Plenty of Upside
5 5. Wiggins and LeBron Would Have Complemented Each Other Nicely
4 4. LeBron’s Career Minutes
3 3. Love’s Skills Are Not Being Properly Utilized
2 2. Keeping Wiggins Would Have Preserved Long-Term Health of the Franchise
There is the distinct possibility that LeBron’s signing with the Cavaliers was contingent on the team bringing in Love, so perhaps the Cavs simply had to make a choice between LeBron or Wiggins. Had they been able to keep Wiggins while bringing in LeBron, the long-term health of the franchise could have been secured for many years to come. The Cavs would have leaned on LeBron and Irving while Wiggins developed, and then could have turned to Wiggins as a primary option as LeBron aged. It would have been almost too good to be true: LeBron would have been exiting his prime just as Wiggins was entering his. The presence of one would have directly benefited the other, and the Cavs would be a much better franchise in the long run.
1 1. Wiggins Looks More Like a Franchise Player Every Day
Anyone who has seen Wiggins play recently knows there is little doubt that he is the real deal. With his combination of skill and athleticism, it looks like the player nicknamed “Maple Jordan” is going to have a very long career as a franchise cornerstone for a rebuilding Timberwolves team. In the coming years, the trade that sent Love to Cleveland will come to be known as the “Andrew Wiggins Trade” instead of the “Kevin Love Trade,” and Wiggins’ continued development is going to haunt Cleveland fans for many years to come. Wiggins’ future is very bright in the NBA and Flip Saunders may ultimately be lauded for pulling off one of the NBA’s greatest heists.
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