In a piece for ESPN Insider today, Kevin Pelton argued that Kevin Love is "a top-five player in the NBA and one of the most valuable to ever hit the trade market."
One of the main reasons that Pelton gives is Love's elite scoring ability:
Love is not just a good scorer, he's a great one. He has managed to expand his perimeter game without sacrificing his interior scoring and trips to the free throw line. Last season, Love was one of four players in the league to average at least two 3-pointers and six free throws per game. (Love, who averaged 2.5 3s and 6.8 FTs, cleared both marks with ease.) The rest of the group, per Basketball-Reference.com: Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and James Harden.
The fact that Love shoots so well from the outside would make him incredibly valuable in David Blatt's offense. He'd definitely help open up space so that LeBron James and Kyrie Irving can get to the basket. And his inside scoring ability has perhaps become underrated. The Cavaliers have not had true scoring threat from the post in a very long time.
Pelton also argued that Love isn't nearly as big of a defensive liability as some have argued. This is due primarily to his rebounding ability:
For individual players, defensive rebounding is not as valuable as offensive rebounding because many defensive rebounds are discretionary -- another defender will get the rebound if one individual does not -- but it's still part of defense, and the Timberwolves have had a better defensive rebound percentage with Love on the court every season of his career. Last season, per NBA.com/Stats, they rebounded 75.3 percent of opponents' misses with Love and 72.4 percent when he was on the bench.
As a team, the Cavs ranked sixth in the NBA in defensive rebounding rate last season, thanks in large part to the efforts of Anderson Varejao. A frontcourt featuring Love and Varejao would be unstoppable on the defensive glass.
I agree with Pelton's take that Love is clearly an elite player. There really isn't a reasonable argument to be made to the contrary. The notion that Minnesota's record is an indictment of Love is not something that is supported by the numbers:
Last season, the Timberwolves outscored opponents by 4.4 points per 100 possessions with Love on the floor, a mark similar to the Miami Heat with Ray Allen, for one. They were done in by their poor bench -- exacerbated by Adelman playing his starters together, which inflated their ratings at the expense of reserves -- and a historic inability to win close games. Minnesota finished with the league's 10th-best point differential, which would have ranked fourth in the East.
The Timberwolves weren't bad because Love isn't great, they were bad because Love didn't have much help and they played in a very tough conference. Also, going 40-42 in the West isn't actually even "bad."
The only valid argument for keeping Wiggins over Love, in my opinion, is that Wiggins's rookie contract will allow the Cavs to maintain more financial flexibility over the coming seasons. Perhaps having the ability to add pieces around LeBron and Kyrie is more important than adding a third superstar.
But in terms of basketball talent, the chance to add a piece like Love is extremely rare, and the Cavs should probably do everything they can to make it happen.