MINNEAPOLIS – LeBron James says trades cause a ripple effect in the NBA, which makes it difficult to go back and look at a one-for-one swap, like the Kevin Love-Andrew Wiggins deal the Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves made in the summer of 2014, and settle on a simple outcome declaring one team a winner.
"It’s a lot of things that goes into a trade, and everyone always kind of focuses on the first tier of it,” James said before the Cavs held their shootaround Friday morning. “They just focus on Wiggins for Kevin and how the teams match up. There’s so many things that happen throughout the course of a season.
“Without Andy [Varejao] going down and being injured, do we get Timo [Mozgov]? And do we make the trade for Shump [Iman Shumpert] and J.R. [Smith]? So, so many things happen throughout the course of a season. I think if both sides are happy with what happened -- we’re happy with having Kev and I know they’re happy with having Wiggins -- so, that’s all that matters."
To James’ point, if the Timberwolves had held on to Love, who knows if they would have bottomed out like they did and ended up with Karl-Anthony Towns in the draft last summer? And if the Cavs had held on to Wiggins, who knows if they would have found the groove in the second half of last season that propelled them to an eventual Finals run?
Love, who began his career by hearing constant comparisons to O.J. Mayo after being traded from Memphis to Minnesota for the shooting guard on draft night in 2008, said it has been unavoidable seeing what Wiggins is doing for the Wolves.
"I think, regardless, he’s making everybody kind of pay attention,” Love said. “Between him and Towns, that young core, like my UCLA guy, too, [Zach] LaVine, they’re tremendous talents, guys that are going to get better throughout this league. I think it’s one of those trades that probably will always, always be looked at."
Wiggins is enjoying a solid sophomore season, averaging 20.1 points, but his averages in rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and his percentages from the field overall, 3-point line and free throw line have all dropped from his rookie campaign. Love’s averages this season -- 16.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists -- are pretty much on par with his first year in Cleveland. Love, however, has a player efficiency rating of 20.03, which ranks 40th in the league. Wiggins’ PER of 15.15 is tied for 126th.
While the Cavs -- winners of five straight -- are hot coming into the Wolves game, Love is in a bit of a cold spell, averaging just 11.3 points on 37.2 percent shooting in his past seven games. Yet he seemed positive when asked about his place with Cleveland now, before his second game back in Minnesota since the trade, versus last year.
“Just a lot more comfort, especially knowing the city as well,” Love said. “Getting to the arena, getting to the practice facility, getting work in with different people on the team like you saw this morning. Our training staff, our coaching staff, so, as far as that goes, definitely a lot more comfort.”
Love was one of the first people to arrive for the shootaround Friday morning, putting up extra shots alongside James and Kyrie Irving, before most of their teammates arrived. Last season, if Love was in the type of slide he has been in heading into a reunion with his former team, especially with him being benched in the fourth quarter in Washington on Wednesday, it would be a big deal. This year, the focus is on the Cavs’ success, however.
“Just familiarity,” James said when asked what has changed for Love. “That’s all. I think the more games, the more film sessions, the more days, the more travels, we all continue to get to know each other better and better. I think in Year 2, he’s just more comfortable and more assertive as well. More talkative. And he’s a great piece for us.”