LeBron James is going home, to Cleveland, a young, deep team brimming with talent. For all the youthful potential that Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson possess, they also are woefully inexperienced. The Cavs haven’t sniffed the playoffs since LeBron left.
But you know what the best player in the NBA means – Cleveland instantly becomes the favorite in the woebegone East – even moreso if Chris Bosh goes to the Rockets and Carmelo Anthony backtracks and picks the Lakers or Bulls. The oddsmakers have already made the Cavs the favorites … to win the NBA title.
I love the idea of the Cavaliers pursing one of the best power forwards in the NBA … but not at the expensive of giving up Andrew Wiggins, a 19-year old on a rookie contract who will provide immense help to LeBron defensively on the wing. And did I mention the rookie contract?
James, who turns 30, has been to the Finals five times in his career, winning two titles. if Cleveland makes the right move here – acquiring Love without parting with Wiggins – it could set up LeBron for 2-3 more titles. Why is Wiggins so important? Perimeter defense, and the ability to extend LeBron’s career because he’s a wing defender capable of guarding the opponent’s best player. That won’t be the case as a rookie, but by next season? Certainly.
In Miami, LeBron had to defend the opponent’s best player (Paul George) or its offensive cog (Tony Parker) and then come down and be the focal point of the offense. The ability to have Wiggins chase Kevin Durant or Brad Beal or whomever around is a luxury James has never had.
How will the Cavs pull this off? That’s the question. Will Anthony Bennett and two 2015 1st round picks do it? Will Bennett/Waiters and a 2015 1st round pick (Miami’s?) be sufficient? It really depends how high the Warriors are willing to go and whether Minnesota craves creating cap space and shedding Kevin Martin’s contract or building through the draft.
Perhaps LeBron will be reminded of how his Heat were annihilated in the Finals by the younger, deeper Spurs, and came to the conclusion that inexperienced, cheap, young players – Patty Mills, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard – meant more than having a bench of guys in their 30s, which is what he was looking at in Miami because so much money was tied up in the “Big 3.”
The key word to building anything like what the Spurs have? Flexibility. It’ll be extremely difficult to maintain flexibility for the next 3-4 years if you trade Wiggins in a package for Kevin Love and then give him the max deal he’ll inevitably seek. Because Kyrie Irving just got paid, and LeBron got a max deal, too.
Inevitably, you’re going to have to pay Tristan Thompson. Reminder: He shares an agent with Rich Paul, who represents LeBron. It seems unlikely that they cast him aside after Paul helped deliver LeBron back to Cleveland.
Try everything you can to acquire Kevin Love – wait if you must, remember, you can grab him next summer – but don’t part with Andrew Wiggins.