LOS ANGELES, August 4, 2014 — If we’ve learned anything at all last Finals, we learned the era of “The Big 3” is in fact over. If you combined the success of both Miami and Boston it only accounted for a total of three NBA titles over the last seven years. Decent results, but not exactly dominant by any means.
Teams are getting smarter, and deeper now, while staying flexible under the salary cap to make upgrades in the off-season. Also, going forward with the new cap rules, it will be much harder for franchises to simply buy their way to a title by pairing up a trio of All-Star caliber players. You have to have a bench now. That formula is practically dead. San Antonio has, in essence, laid out the new blueprint on how to win now in today’s NBA.
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Aside from keeping your core players, you have to draft well, and constantly develop young talent. It is not exactly as simple as that, but it is the direction a small-market team must go these days in order to consistently stay competitive.
Cleveland has that right now. The talent on this team is not only capable of competing for a championship this year, but possibly, if developed properly, for the next five or six years straight, and possibly well after LeBron has retired. It is an NBA Franchise’s dream scenario that teams rarely get to realize.
If you’re Cleveland, why be in such a rush to make this move? Sure, there are no guarantees Wiggins will be an NBA superstar, or even an All-Star for that matter, but there certainly is no proof Kevin Love will be that missing link to finally get Cleveland over the top either.
If this trade goes down, Cleveland would essentially have zero depth coming off the bench. If you’re a GM you have to look at the big picture here. By trading for and signing Love, you’ve now locked up the majority of your cap space into three players with no cap flexibility to bring in the kind of role players you’ll need to go up against the stacked teams from the West.
If the Cavs don’t win over the next two years, then what? You’re extremely limited in what you can do to bring in talent going forward, LeBron ends up leaving, and now you’re back to square one.
One would have to believe Love’s trade value diminishes once signed after a trade, as no one would be willing to trade for him with an oversized contract. You’re left with no LeBron. And no Wiggins. If you think there is a possibility that Kevin Love will want to stay in Cleveland if LeBron leaves, then there is some beachfront property for sale in Arizona for you.
By the Grace of the NBA Gods, the Cavs are in a position. They must be smart about the moves they make going forward. Winning now should be an obvious priority, but not at the cost of severely crippling your franchise for the next five years.
Kevin Love is not a proven winner in the NBA. Putting up elite level stats on a terrible team should not equate to being considered a max player; see Tony Romo. Now, I understand the difficulty small market teams have in attracting, and keeping, their star players, but how often do we see those same teams overbid just to keep their free agents? Quite frankly, it is more often than not.
Let’s just play hypotheticals here. If Cleveland were to land Kevin Love, do you realistically think he would be the second or third option on that team? How would his game mesh with LeBron’s style of play? Sure, he gets to take all the shots in Minnesota with no pressure, but with the Cavaliers, the pressure along with expectations will undoubtedly be much greater. Can he handle playing under that type of scrutiny? Possibly, but it’s something we have yet to see, which is why Cleveland should be hesitant to give him a long- term deal right away after trading for him. Yes, he puts up great stats on a bad team, but let’s remember he has never led his team even to the playoffs. LeBron took Cleveland to the Finals before bailing for Miami.
NBA trade restrictions aside, Wiggins’ pure potential alone is enough for a straight up trade for Love. The only knock on Wiggins is that he has not developed a consistent jumper and his dribbling is suspect. Sound familiar anyone? Russell Westbrook had neither coming out of UCLA. Westbrook did not in even start in college. Yet, based on his pure will, determination and athletic gifts, he became a superstar by his second NBA season.
Contrary to popular belief about Wiggins, guards and forwards are a lot easier to develop, and typically tend to have a much smoother transition from high school/college to pro.
Critics often make the grave mistake of judging players off how they perform in college, but that system is completely different as compared to playing in the pros. In college you cannot completely focus on your craft because you have practice restrictions, and academic requirements to meet. The college game is also much more restrictive to a player’s abilities because you will usually have less time to develop, and will have to sacrifice your game in order to fit into a coach’s system.
This is evident by how many players have gone on to have successful NBA careers despite not doing much in college, such as Westbrook. It is understandable that there will be some busts along the way, but those cases, especially with guards, are few and far between. Plus, one has to believe that Adidas did not decide to invest $180+ million in Wiggins to watch him become the next Bruce Bowen.
Worst-case scenario, Wiggins fails to live up to expectations as a potential superstar, but still becomes a serviceable player based on talent. Best-case scenario, he is the next Kobe or LeBron or Durant, and you now have the best NBA back court for the next four or five years.
Cleveland should not make this trade.