It has been impossible to escape the trade rumors. The Cleveland Cavaliers want Kevin Love. The Minnesota Timberwolves want Andrew Wiggins. And so here we are. Last night, I spoke to Eric from the Wolves blog Canis Hoopus about Love, Wiggins, Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett, and other stuff.
As you will hopefully see, our conversation was quite civil. I respected his opinion, he respected mine. Let's please try to take a similar approach in the comments here, and over at Canis Hoopus if folks from our community venture over.
Eric: If the Cavs wind up making a trade that is in outline Wiggins and Bennett for Love, where will you be on the happiness scale, with 1 being so angry you are tempted to burn down the arena, and 10 being just won the lottery giddy?
Mike: If that trade goes through, I would probably be a 9. I think that Love is an incredibly talented player, and any talk about him being overrated is kind of silly. He would instantly make the Cavs a championship contender, which I don't think they are without him. The only reason I wouldn't be a 10 is that I do like Wiggins a lot, and I think that he will end up being very valuable player on a rookie contract. I also still have some hope for Bennett, and it would be a bummer to see him figure it out somewhere else after all he went through here last season. But I'd get over those issues pretty quickly and be thrilled at the idea that LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love would all be on my team. Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that.
Where would you be on that scale? And what's your take on Love? Overrated, properly rated, or underrated?
Eric: I would probably be a four. Look, it sucks to lose a superstar, as you know. It's painful and it just feels like the cycle won't ever end. The Wolves have been crap for a decade, and ever since Love has emerged, they have failed to build around him properly. They also failed to give him a five year deal, which means he is gone even earlier. The deal for Wiggins and Bennett (which I actually think is going to happen) is not a bad one as these things go, though obviously it pretty much depends on how you feel about Wiggins. I'm not totally sold, as there are real areas of weakness that aren't certain to get better. Still, he obviously has talent, and if he becomes a star, then the trade is less painful. I am also intrigued by a deal with the Bulls if the right pieces are offered, but it looks like the Cavs deal is the focus right now.
Love is tremendous. An absolute force who does almost everything you want done well, except help defense. I know this is a sticking point for many, but he is not a bad defensive player. He's pretty good on the ball, but does not rotate or alter shots on the weak side. Other than that, there is nothing he doesn't do. And while obviously LeBron James is going to be awesome in any situation, it's hard for me to think of a better pairing than James and Love.
I know a lot of folks on FTS would not give this a 9 on the happiness scale...can you change gears and present the anti-trade argument as best you can?
Mike: You are correct that many people in our community are opposed to trading Wiggins for Love. I don't want to speak for anybody else, but I do think they'll come around if it happens, because, again, the Cavs would have LeBron, Kyrie, and Love ON THE SAME TEAM.
But here's the argument against it: Love can obviously become a free agent next summer, and no matter what leaks about him wanting to play with LeBron, I doubt that he's going to make any guarantees about staying in Cleveland. If for some reason things go badly this season, he could be gone. If he does re-sign with the Cavs, they will be in an extremely inflexible position going forward. Irving just signed a max extension, and LeBron has made it pretty clear that he wants max money for the rest of his prime. Giving Love his own max (or something close to it) would make it really difficult to field any key role players around those three guys.
Wiggins is raw, but he has the talent to become an All-Star and an elite defender. His defense could help save LeBron, who won't have to guard the opponent's best player on every possession. And he's cheap. If he starts to figure it out in a couple of seasons, he'll be a really nice piece alongside Kyrie and LeBron, and he'll still be on his rookie contract.
So that's the argument against it, from the Cavs' perspective. It's not a bad argument. But at the end of the day, I just think that if you have a chance to add a superstar in exchange for a relatively unknown commodity, you have to do it.
Eric: It's funny. As a Wolves fan, I am all about the worst case scenario. If it's bad, it's gonna happen. But the central point of that argument--that Love might not re-sign, strikes me as incredibly unlikely. I just can't see it, unless LeBron also makes a u-turn and opts out to go elsewhere, which obviously isn't going to happen.
From my perspective, I'm shocked that so many Cavs fans are against this. I suspect people would have similar reactions to some of the positions I hold about the Wolves; there are good and bad things about being so close to a team. You know the ins and outs better than anyone, but I wonder if sometimes we don't lose perspective by getting too close. To me, it's a no-brainer. You just signed the best player in the world, who is turning 30. In four years, he's still going to be a great player almost certainly, but is unlikely to be the best player anymore. You have to cash in now. Having Love with LeBron and Irving gives you your best chance to win while LeBron is a singular force, and is frankly a pretty ideal age range as well, with Love being 25.
Meanwhile, the Wolves are going to try to walk a very thin line of trying to acquire young talent without going full-rebuild. Which is tough, and I'm not sold they have the chops for it, but I applaud the attempt. I'm not really a title-or-bust kind of fan, and back to back 15 and 17 win seasons is not something I want to endure again.
Mike: I definitely understand not wanting to have to endure a full rebuild. There's no way to sugarcoat it, tanking sucks. It also sucks for you guys that the Wolves are in the West, which makes building a playoff team that much tougher.
Let me ask you this (even though I think I already know the answer): Is there any combination of players/picks that the Cavs could offer without including Wiggins that would intrigue you? I know I said I didn't want to speak for other fans, but I think everyone here would agree with me that getting Love without having to trade Wiggins would be the dream. Dion Waiters? Tristan Thompson? Bennett? Anything? The Cavs also have future first-round picks from the Heat and Grizzlies, plus most of their own future picks (with the exception of their 2016 first-round pick).
I've seen a lot of our fans say that Bennett/Thompson/Waiters and a couple of first-round picks is a better offer than Minnesota has on the table from any other team. I don't necessarily agree, but let me put it out there. The Cavs could also throw in Anderson Varejao if you'd like. Why is it Wiggins or bust for you?
Eric: No. It obviously has to include Wiggins; he's the one guy who could actually wind up moving the needle. A couple of points on this: I don't like your other guys as much as you guys seem to. I guess Waiters could wind up OK in a sort of Jamal Crawfordy he-shoots-too-much-but-he-brings-something-to-the-table kind of way. Bennett was historically bad as a rookie. I know there are reasons, but he would just have to be SO much better even to be passable that it's hard to be excited. Thompson is just a guy.
We are fairly confident that the Bulls would give at least Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott, and a pick or two. I would much rather do that than any non-Wiggins Cavs deal. Taj is way better than anyone else being talked about. (Actually, if they would include Mirotic, it becomes very hard for me to decide which I like better between that and a Cavs deal WITH Wiggins).
Even if that Cavs offer without Wiggins was the best offer, I wouldn't take it, and I doubt Flip Saunders would either. At that point, I'd just play it out. See if something better comes around at the deadline, and if not, I can live with making Love walk away from the extra money the Wolves could offer him next summer. I think he would walk away, but that's OK. They can't cave to dealing him to the Cavs without Wiggins.
Mike: Well, I figured I at least had to ask.
Alright then, as we start to wrap this up, what do you think the odds are that Love is on the Cavs by the start of the season?
Eric: 70%. I think it's going to happen. Let me be clear that I do not have sources. I make zero claims to inside knowledge. But I've been around the team and media in the Cities for a long time now, and I get the sense that this is going to get done. I suspect that they have agreed to the parameters already,and are working the edges of it, and seeing if a third team makes sense, as the Wolves are also looking for a power forward.
One thing I'm looking forward to is watching the Cavs with James and Love on League Pass. I think your team is going to be very good and a fantastic watch.
What about you--think it happens?
Mike: I'm right there with you around 70%, maybe even slightly higher. It makes sense for both teams. The Cavs get their best shot at winning a title while LeBron is still in his prime, and the Wolves get the best young prospect they can. We were all told that the Cavs had Jabari Parker at the top of their draft board for most of the season anyway, so I'm not sure that they're as in love with Wiggins as much of our community is.
So I guess we'll see. If Love doesn't end up here, I hope he stays in Minnesota and plays out the season. The Wolves could very well make a run at the playoffs if he's back, and I know it's been a little while for you guys. As somebody who has rooted for a lot of terrible basketball teams since my childhood, I know what that's like. I hope you can avoid having to go back to that place.