Who Won? Looking Back At The Kevin Love-Andrew Wiggins Trade

Credit: Grantland.com

Credit: Grantland.com

If LeBron James had the chance to hop in a time machine and return to August of 2014 do you still think he pushes the Cleveland Cavaliers to trade the top pick of the 2014 NBA Draft, Andrew Wiggins, for Kevin Love? It’s a question I have wrestled with all season and after watching both players this season I have finally come to a conclusion—LeBron would moonwalk in that bitch and rethink that whole situation.

The Trade

Let’s roll the clock back to July 11, 2014. LeBron announces he is returning home to Cleveland in a letter drafted by Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins. He mentions how much he is looking forward to working with all his new teammates—but he ominously leaft out Wiggins and 2014’s first overall pick Anthony Bennett. From that moment the writing seemed to be on the wall.

Now let’s  fast forward to August 23, 2014. The Cavs and Minnesota Timberwolves agreed to a trade that sent All-Star power forward Kevin Love to the Cavs in exchange for Wiggins, Bennett and a protected 2015 first-round draft pick. The Cavs were hot on love even before LeBron jumped on board even willing to give up the first overall pick on draft night had Love wanted to come then.

The trade now gave the Cavs the best three man core on paper in the league and gave the T-Wolves the perfect rebuilding piece. At the time of the trade both teams looked to get an even return for high priced assets, but did the Cavs pull the trigger too soon?

Case for Kevin Love

On paper a core of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love fulfill every need a coach can ask for on the basketball court. LeBron is that generational playmaking facilitator that can only be compared to Magic Johnson. Kyrie is that scoring point guard with insane handles and Kevin Love is a beast on the boards with a great three-point shot and a killer outlet pass tailor made for LeBron fast breaks. What isn’t written on paper are player egos and that has clearly been the reason this big three hasn’t gelled as well as we imagined they would back in August.

The biggest risk of the trade is the possible one-and-done of the big three core. Love is a free agent after the season and an unpleasant experience (spoiler alert: he’s not happy) and no championship ring equal the second dumbest trade since the James Harden heist of 2012.

Case for Andrew Wiggins

Maybe I’m just an idiot, but wouldn’t you want to see the player you’re giving away you know actually play before you ship him off? Wiggins is only 19 years old and the most freakishly athletic player to come out of college since some guy named Kevin Durant. With Wiggins on board the Cavs could have stilled shipped the clueless Dion Waiters out for the same coupe they got (J.R. Smith & Iman Shumpert) and still traded for Timofey Mozgov.

Wiggins’ length and athleticism alone paired with LeBron and Kyrie gave me dreams of watching the greatest fast break on earth. Under the mentorship of a defensive talent like LeBron I believe Wiggins could have been a Pippen to LeBron’s MJ. The offensive side of the ball is why I believe the Cavs ultimately made this move. Wiggins jump shot isn’t exactly great—especially in comparison to Love’s—but I hate to sound like a broken record, but dude is has not even tapped his potential yet.

The ultimate kicker for me however is financial stability. At the minimum Wiggins would have been under contract for four years. A lot can happen for a player in four years—hell even two years, look at Anthony Davis, James Harden or Stephen Curry.

Who Had The Better Season?

If we’re talking individually then it is Wiggins by a considerable margin. Obviously the team with Kyrie Irving and LeBron James will fare better than the team with Zach LaVine, Ricky Rubio and the fossil of Kevin Garnett. So while Love’s team had a superior season, he himself had a down year while Wiggins lived up to hoops fans’ dreams and then some. He has shown his:

1. Lock Up Defense

2. Insane Hops

3. Star Potential

In his inaugural season Wiggins averaged 17 points, 2 assists and about 5 rebounds per Basketball-Reference and the most encouraging part of this all is that he steadily scored more as the months went on. In the final month of the season Wiggins eclipsed 20 points six times in eight games and his biggest scoring game of the year came against….the Cavs when he tossed up 33 points in a duel with LeBron that he ultimately lost. Still, you can see the star potential oozing from him just like Anthony Davis even if he has a year or two to go.

On the flip side Kevin Love saw a steep decline in production. In his first (and possibly last) season on the Cavs Love averaged 16 points, about 10 rebounds and 2 assists—not bad for a power forward right? Well when he averaged 26 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists the season before it ends up looking pretty bad. Now I am taking into account that he is now on a team with two of the league’s top ten scorers, but even Chris Bosh had his nights with the Heat when he went off for 40.

Love’s highest scoring game of the season was his 32 point performance against the lowly Lakers. His highest total against a playoff caliber team you ask? He scored 27 against the Bucks….Yikes. I’m not saying Love should be tossing up 20’s like it’s gravy, but 16 just isn’t cutting it for a player many considered a top five player at his position prior to the trade. Pending a phenomenal playoff campaign Love has left zero imprints on this season other than his Kobe-Shaq like beef with LeBron minus the unstoppable duo part.

The Verdict

With all that has been said I believe the Cavs made a bad deal regardless of what happens during these playoffs. Unless Love morphs into Kevin McHale from now until June I believe LeBron took one potential championship season over a Cavs dynasty. I could be wrong and everything we first imagined a big three of Love-Kyrie-LeBron comes true and Love re-signs with the Cavs this summer. But I seriously I doubt it. Love and LeBron gel as well as water and oil and that’s something that cannot be overlooked. K. Love isn’t the force Shaq was or the play maker Scottie Pippen was and he doesn’t have the heart of a McHale.

That’s the only way these alpha dog partnerships work in the NBA. Kyrie has been able to figure it out and look how dangerous LeBron and him look (just ask the Spurs). I expect Love to sign elsewhere next season with the Celtics, Warriors, Lakers or a dark horse team leaving the Cavs with LeBron and Kyrie—not exactly the worst nucleus in the world. But as Wiggins continues to develop his game LeBron and Cavs brass will watch and dream what could have been.

A couple years from now the Wiggins-Love trade will be the blueprint GMs cursed with a small market team star wanting out of town will use (spoiler alert: Sam Presti and Kevin Durant this offseason). We can call this the Anti-Harden trade because years from now when Wiggins is taking the league by storm Kevin Love will look like Vlade Divac to Wiggins’ Kobe Bryant. Ask the Charlotte Hornets what I’m talking about I’m sure they’d want to talk about it.