Weeks before LeBron James officially announced he was returning to Cleveland, there were rumors that Kevin Love would be joining The King in the city named for Moses. Who among the Cavaliers would be going the other way, to Minnesota? That was the question.
Earlier this week, NBCsports.com reported that replica jerseys for Andrew Wiggins — selected by the Cavs with the No. 1 overall pick in the recent draft — had been discontinued at the NBA’s online store. This turned out to be a temporary glitch, but it fed speculation that Wiggins was part of the package for Love.
On Wednesday, ESPN basketball writer Brian Windhorst, who has been linked to James since their days in Akron, did a tour of radio shows and podcasts and said, yes, there was a handshake deal in place between the Cavs and the Timberwolves, and that Wiggins was part of it.
Yesterday, Yahoo Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski — the best in the business — reported the details of “an agreement in principle.” The Cavs are to trade two former No. 1 overall picks — Anthony Bennett and Wiggins — and a protected first-round pick to the Wolves for Love.
The caveat: Due to some odd NBA rules, the deal cannot be consummated until Aug. 23, at which point Wiggins will have been under contract for one month. Windhorst and Wojnarowski point out that there remains a chance that the trade can unravel, for whatever reason, in the next two weeks, so don’t take it to the bank just yet.
But it is done. The agreement is in place. Point guard Kyrie Irving and James will be joined by Love to form the most explosive trio in the league.
The cost, essentially, is Wiggins, who might turn out to be better than anyone else involved in all of this chatter, with the obvious exception of James.
Is Wiggins worth giving up for Love? The Cavs have vaulted to the front of a weak Eastern Conference, but are they tooled to match up against a Western champion? Seven teams won 50-plus games out West last season. Are the Cavs, with Love and without Wiggins, putting themselves in a position to beat San Antonio, Oklahoma City, the Los Angeles Clippers or Houston in the NBA Finals?
Remember, the Spurs beat James’ Heat in part because they had Kawhi Leonard to mitigate The King. That is why Leonard was the Finals MVP, and Wiggins is in the same mold. He is a superior athlete and gifted defensive stopper, he just needs to work on his jump shot (just as Leonard did coming out of the draft).
James is playing general manager again, and he was not great in that capacity during his last go-around in Cleveland. He is making this trade. Is it the right one? Forget about the East. Would it be better to hang on to Wiggins, let him learn under James’ wing and be a better fit to beat the West down the line? These are legitimate questions.
Let us think on this for a second, but only for a second, because there is no need to linger on the subject. If trading for Love is not a no-brainer, it is close.
Sure, it’s possible that the Cavs will have second thoughts somewhere down the road. Wiggins might be that good — but trading for Love lends legitimacy to immediate championship aspirations. That is what good teams do. They go for it. What else is there?
James is building a resume to become the greatest player in the history of the sport. He will turn 30 in December. He has a two-year contract with a one-year out, and it is apparent he wants to get things done sooner rather than later.
Love is a three-time All-Star who averaged 26 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists last season. He can stick the three. He also might be the best-passing big man in the league. He will be 26 years old at the start of the season.
Throw Irving into the mix.
The Cavs can take their shot. Right now.
Michael Arace is a sports reporter for The Dispatch.