In the summer of 2014, LeBron James made his triumphant return to Cleveland. He wrote an article in Sports Illustrated, providing various reasons for this decision. The King mentioned key teammates whose potential he planned to help maximize. These names included Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, and his old teammate Anderson Varejao. The problem with this article was that there was no mention of the first overall pick of the 2014 draft, Andrew Wiggins. Clearly something was wrong. LeBron had the mindset that he wanted to help mentor these young players, but he still wanted to be a contender. After LeBron left Wiggins out of his article, not many fans were surprised when Wiggins was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for All-Star Kevin Love.
Not living up to the hype
This team made so much sense on paper. You have one of the best passers of all-time feeding the ball to Love and Kyrie, who are not only All-Stars, but 3-Point Champions as well. With that being said, many people have forgotten that defense is a factor in sports. Love and Kyrie have a history of playing poor defense, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Cavs rank 21st in defensive efficiency via Hollinger Team Statistics.
Meanwhile in Minnesota
Andrew Wiggins is the clear-cut favorite for Rookie of the Year, exceeding many analysts’ expectations. It’s important to note that the other two rookies who would have competed for this award, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid, have both been out with season ending injuries, but that should not overshadow what Andrew Wiggins has been doing this season. Going into the NBA, we were already aware of his freak athleticism, which is reminiscent of LeBron, but Wiggins is a lot more fundamentally sound than many would think. He has a good understanding of when to rely on his quickness, and when to overpower smaller players on the post.
I can’t name many 20 year olds with such a solid post game. There’s no denying that Wiggins is going to be a special player, and the worst part about it for Cleveland is that he would have fit their team much better than Love.
Is Kevin Love being used properly?
Kevin Love has become Steve Novak in this Cleveland offense. He sits in the corner and is relied on to hit open threes off of LeBron and Kyrie feeds. Love has proven throughout his career that he’s one of the best post up players in the league, and can take advantage of various mismatches. However, Kyrie and LeBron have proven that they are ridiculously good at getting into the paint. It’s tough to combine both worlds, because the more you camp Love in the paint, the more difficult it is to create offense off of Kyrie and LeBron due to clogged lanes. Still, that does not excuse how Coach David Blatt is implementing Love in this offense. I don’t understand why Blatt doesn’t run a LeBron/Kyrie Love pick and pop more often. That would allow Love to be more involved in the offense, and LeBron/Kyrie would still have various shooters on the wing, only having Mozgov or Thompson in the paint.
Kevin Love is making a little under $16 million this season. Andrew Wiggins is making a little under $6 million this season. That $10 million could have gone a long way once the salary cap rises. If LeBron included Wiggins in his sacred article, there’s no questioning that their defense would improve exponentially. Now LeBron is playing in a starting lineup consisting of Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith, Kevin Love and Timofey Mozgov. Imagine LeBron and Wiggins pestering various players on the wings, and then running a fast break alongside Kyrie, that’s a scary thought.
As far as dealing with Love’s absence, Andrew Wiggins will never be a 3-Point Champion, but he’s not a bad shooter, and he is obviously going to improve season by season. Wiggins is shooting .336%, while Kevin Love is shooting .364% from three this season. Even though Love gets much cleaner looks, their percentages are not that far from each other. Would you be willing to take that small of a drop in three-point percentage for a game-changing player on the defensive end, plus save $10 million dollars?
Kevin Love is still an All-Star, but in this wacky situation he is a role player being paid All-Star money. The good news for Cavs fans is that LeBron took a two week hiatus and is back to his dominant self, and the Cavs are benefitting both from that, and this guy:
Love is clearly not happy with his situation. In a recent interview, Love said, “I’m a post player who can shoot. Right now I’m just doing what I’m called to do. For good, bad or indifferent, I’m playing my role and doing what’s asked of me. Tonight, I stayed out on the perimeter.”
I would not be surprised if he opts out of his contract and looks to play elsewhere next season. Regardless, Cleveland is still a contender due to how weak the Eastern Conference is. Their only true threat is the Atlanta Hawks, who will give Cleveland trouble in the playoffs due to their ability to tear up poor defenses.
Even if the Cavs kept Wiggins and he butt heads with LeBron, the Cavs still could have traded him. The fact that the Cavs didn’t give Wiggins a chance is astonishing, and it will bite them in the ass one day.