Hindsight is 20-20, but trading the most hyped player since LeBron and other pieces for Kevin Love shortly after the draft was always a gamble. The extremely athletic Andrew Wiggins didn’t decimate the competition during his 1 year NCAA stint, but he showed flashes of brilliance at times and would go on to handily win the NBA Rookie of the Year award while dropping almost 17 points per game for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Kevin Love, on the other hand, had a down year (which was expected playing alongside studs LeBron James and Kyrie Irving) and is now out 4-6 months following shoulder surgery. In the wake of Kelly Olynyk practically ripping Kevin Love’s arm off, I can’t help but ask myself if the Cavs would have been better off keeping Andrew Wiggins.
Statistically, even in a down year, Kevin Love is a better player than Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins gets the edge in points per game by a mere half a point, but Love is still one of the most dominant rebounders in the league at 9.7 per compared to Wiggins’ 4.6. All other statistical measures have negligible differences, except PER with Love sitting at 18.89 to Wiggins’ 13.97. Love is clearly the better player now, but his future is uncertain while Wiggins is on the rise.
Although LeBron himself reportedly recruited Kevin Love to come play for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the two seemingly never meshed well on or off the court. While I’ve already explained in a previous post that James only has 3 friends and likely never cared to gel with Love outside of basketball, you’d figure the two stars’ games would have been a perfect fit. With LeBron’s ability to drive and dish, and Kevin Love’s shooting touch and ability to stretch the floor, defenses across the league would be futile in their attempt to stop the Cavs offense (and we haven’t even mentioned Kyrie Irving). Unfortunately for the Cavs, that never really happened. There were a few games during the season where Love went off for big scoring nights, but it was usually against mediocre competition like the Lakers, 76ers, or Bucks. After a few mid-season trades to acquire Iman Shumpert, JR Smith, and Timofey Mozgov, Love’s under-performance was masked a bit by the boost the incoming players provided and the Cavs’ success.
While Love’s inefficiencies were being overlooked, Andrew Wiggins was thriving in Minnesota. Injuries plagued the Timberwolves for the majority of the season, leaving most of the scoring and defensive responsibilities to their prized rookie. Wiggins averaged over 19 points per game after the All-Star break and began to embrace the young Minnesota team as his own. While they didn’t win many games, Wiggins gained value experience as the go-to guy for the Timberwolves who will be adding another high draft pick in the offseason. He’s recently proclaimed that he wants to play for Minnesota “forever”, a great sign if you’re a fan of the young T-Wolves.
Wiggins is professing his love for his team, while the rumor mill spits out possible landing spots for Kevin Love this offseason pretty much every day. They say the Lakers are going after him hard. The Celtics were being discussed as a possible landing spot, although Olynyk would likely have to be shipped off to Siberia in order for that to happen now. Love may still opt in to his existing contract and stay with the Cavs, but none of these rumors seem to be all-telling just yet. If the Cavs had kept Wiggins, they’d have a ton of cap space and know for sure where he’d be next season.
It may look like I’m suggesting the Cavs should have kept Andrew Wiggins instead of going after Kevin Love, but at the time of the trade I was all for it. The window for championships is so small that you have to go with the sure-thing instead of hoping a highly touted rookie lives up to the hype. The Cavs swung and missed with Anthony Randolph, and they couldn’t let that happen again if they were seriously hoping to contend for a title this year. In the long run, I think the Cavs will be kicking themselves for letting Wiggins go, but it was the right move at the time.
What are your thoughts? Do you think the Cavs should have kept Wiggins? Leave your comments below.