Exploring a Wiggins-for-Love deal
After originally keeping No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins out of trade talks, the Cleveland Cavaliers are now offering the 19-year-old in attempts to trade for Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star forward Kevin Love, according to a source.
Should the Cavs deal Wiggins for Love? How far would LeBron & Co. go with Love in the mix? Our panel of experts breaks it down.
1. Should the Cavs be willing to trade Wiggins to land Love?
Amin Elhassan, ESPN Insider: I suppose they should be willing in the sense that any player should be in play for trade opportunities. But I think the Cavs should strive to keep him out of any deal, as he's got the potential to develop into the type of two-way talent who can provide a bridge to the future, like Tony Parker was for the Spurs as a 19-year old point guard.
Zach Harper, TrueHoop: Absolutely. I don't fault them for hoping to keep Wiggins while also trading for Love, but if their goal is to win titles with LeBron James, this is the way to go about it. LeBron turns 30 at the end of this year and has maybe five more years of prime play left. Wiggins will be great someday but not as good as Love is right now -- or will be over the next five years.
Kevin Pelton, ESPN Insider: If they've concluded Minnesota won't accept any package that doesn't include Wiggins, absolutely. Because he is worth more than a maximum contract, Love is one of the league's best values -- better even than Wiggins' rookie contract.
Ethan Sherwood Strauss, ESPN.com: Yes. James will be turning 30, and Wiggins is 19. Their window is probably now, and it's difficult to trust that LeBron will stay in any one place for so long. I acknowledge that trading Wiggins is a risky, scary move, but I lean toward flanking James with another star -- Love -- who's in his prime.
Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com: Yes. He's an ideal player to put next to James. But they have to get Love to at least pick up his option for next season as part of the deal. Otherwise, the risk seems too great.
2. Would Love be better off on the Warriors or Cavaliers?
Elhassan: The Cavaliers offer a quicker path to the Finals, as the Eastern Conference is still a wide-open race. The Warriors are perhaps a better basketball fit, given the abundance of defensive subsidizers, and he'd definitely have a better chance of continuing his gaudy stat lines.
Harper: A pick-and-pop big can be pretty successful alongside James. Just ask Chris Bosh. Now imagine that big man being Love, who is a better shooter than Bosh. Also, you're putting Love in a weak Eastern Conference, where it will be relatively easy to be the Finals team, as opposed to playing in the loaded West. The Warriors would be fun with Love, but the Cavs are the better situation.
Pelton: The Warriors would probably be a better fit for Love's skills, given that his ability to create shots would hold more value on a team without Kyrie Irving and James. But he's got the better chance to win in Cleveland.
Strauss: He'd be an excellent fit on both, but I lean Warriors because I trust Andrew Bogut's rim protection over Anderson Varejao's. In general, the Warriors have a better defense to compensate for what Love lacks on that end of the floor. That said, Love and LeBron would be instant favorites to win the East, even if the Cavs would be a little shaky defensively.
Windhorst: Cavs. It's a fantastic question, and there probably isn't a wrong answer. But Love is an upgraded version of Bosh in some ways, and Bosh has been the best complementary player James has played with in his career.
3. Will Love or Wiggins be the better player in five years?
Elhassan: I hate comparing players who play completely different positions, but if I have to choose one, I'm going to go with the guy who has a chance to make an impact on both ends of the floor: Wiggins.
Harper: It'll be Love. Wiggins should be knocking on the door of surpassing Love by then, and his defense will obviously be better, but being better than Love on the boards and on offense will be a tall order. Wiggins won't be a better passer and is unlikely to be a better shooter than Love, who's been one of the league's best scorers for a couple seasons now.
Pelton: Love. He'll be 30 then, just in the tail end of his prime, and for Wiggins to reach the level Love is already at (a top-five player in the league) would require him to develop his skills dramatically. That's a best-case scenario.
Strauss: Love. Shooters age well, and Love should be entering the end of his prime. Wiggins is a good prospect, but I'll side with the known quantity over the player with potential.
Windhorst: I wish I could tell you; I just don't know. It's really a Wiggins question: Does he develop skills to match his athleticism? It's hard to predict that. What I think I can say is he's not a sure thing, and Love is a finished product.
4. Would Love be the best teammate LeBron has ever had?
Elhassan: No, I think recency bias is making us forget just how brilliant Dwyane Wade and Bosh were as individual talents.
Harper: Wade was a much better player and teammate than Love would likely be. But maybe Love can be the best player over an extended period of five years? Love still has a lot to learn and prove on defense, and Wade was legitimately one of the top-five players in the league when LeBron joined him.
Pelton: Yes. By the time James teamed up with Wade, Wade was already starting to (gently) decline. Love is just entering his prime as a player.
Strauss: Nobody beats 2010-11 Dwyane Wade, a player who would have won 2011 Finals MVP if James had played just a little bit better. Love is excellent, but prime D-Wade was transcendent.
Windhorst: Love has a chance to be the best-suited teammate James has ever had. But LeBron won two titles playing alongside Wade. I'd think that would be his answer if you asked him now.
5. How far would the Cavaliers get in 2014-15 with Love?
Elhassan: A lot of that depends on how much they have to give up to get him, but I think an NBA Finals appearance isn't out of the question. That said, I don't think they'd have enough depth or defense to topple the Western elite.
Harper: I think they'd get to the NBA Finals. I don't think they can win the Finals until they fill out that roster a little bit better, but can you legitimately say with confidence another team in the East will be better than them? The Pacers look like a shell of themselves, the Bulls don't know if Derrick Rose will be his former self, and the Heat just lost a pretty key player in Michael Beasley -- oh, and LeBron.
Pelton: They'd be the favorites in the Eastern Conference but would have a tough time beating the West's representative if they got to the NBA Finals.
Strauss: I'd have them going to the Finals and getting beaten by a good Western Conference offense. So basically, I'd expect what just happened to the Heat to happen for the Cavs -- right down to LeBron leaving in the offseason. Kidding, Cavs fans!
Windhorst: I'd probably pick them to win the East and then wait and see on the Finals matchup.