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NBA AM: Do You Trade Wiggins For Love?

A deeper look into the potential trade of Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for a package centered around Andrew Wiggins… Debunking Josh Smith rumors…

Steve Kyler profile picture
Updated 12 months ago on
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Do You Trade Wiggins For Love?:  If all that’s standing in the way of the Cleveland Cavaliers obtaining Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love is rookie swingman Andrew Wiggins, do you trade one of the most promising players in this year’s draft to get arguably one of the best power forwards in the game?

The short answer – absolutely. The long answer has several caveats.

Let’s start with this one. Love is likely going to be a free agent in July. It makes the most sense monetarily for him to opt-out of his contract and sign a new one in July. Love is now eligible for a new max contract worth 30 percent of the salary cap, which is expected to be north of $66 million. So for the sake of putting a number to the concept, in July, Love can sign a new deal with a first year salary of $19.8 million. If he were to stay in his existing deal, he’d earn $16.744 million. The quick math says Love loses $3.05 million opting into his deal.

The next issue is as much as we think we know about what Love wants, we really don’t and neither do teams. The Timberwolves have not granted anyone permission to talk to Love directly. There are clearly some back channel things happening, but do you really give up a potential star in two or three years without talking to Love and understanding what his goals are? The likely answer is no.

Think about some of the so-called dream teams. The 2012-13 LA Lakers were supposed to be world beaters, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant, that team wins 82 games right? Throw three really good players together and magic is supposed to happen. The 2010 Miami HEAT is another example; the Big Three were supposed to run through everyone, however they struggled a lot in that first season to make it all work.

What often looks great on paper doesn’t always work out on the floor.

LeBron James is going to get the volume of the offense. Where does Kyrie Irving fit in and is Love going to put his personal goals in his pocket in a contract year? Do you know that today?

The Cavs bickered among themselves all year last year and were a model of dysfunction. James will calm a lot of that and a new head coach in David Blatt will help too, but do we know for sure that Irving, James and Love are compatible on the court? For a Big Three to work someone has to be the third guy. Is Love willing to do that? How about Irving?

Lastly, as important as adding a third star might seem on the surface, is trading away depth and youth worth it?

If Love could be obtained from the Wolves for some combination of Anthony Bennett, Dion Waiters and additional assets, maybe. Those guys no longer fit with James on the team. If including Wiggins is the lynch pin to a deal, maybe you have to think about it simply because you have the threat that Love may not be happy in Cleveland. Love may not enjoy playing the third fiddle. There are hundreds of variables when it comes to people fitting together that you won’t know until they are on the same team playing together.

Howard said all the right things when he started his Laker career, but by mid-season he was miserable and by season’s end he was packed and looking for the door out of town.

That is a real threat for the Cavs, mainly because it’s in Love’s best interest to opt-out.

Sources close to Love have said if opting in is required to get a trade to a contender he would be open to that, however hitting free agency and talking with his new team about that remains the first option.

Unfortunately for Cleveland, this isn’t a one horse race. The Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics are both very much in the mix for Love and the Timberwolves are wisely playing everyone against each other in an effort to drive up the price.

The Wolves’ stance on trading Love is pretty straight forward. They view themselves as a playoff contender with Love on the roster. Moving him has to return players that keep them where they are or make them better.

Nothing that’s been talked about expires. The Warriors will be at the table until Love is traded. So will the Cavs. Those suitors are not going anywhere. In fact, in December a whole new series of suitors will have players eligible to be traded. The Lakers could move the guys they signed this summer. The Rockets can get in the mix as could the Miami HEAT or Chicago Bulls.

What is the hurry? Sure, the Warriors and Cavs would want Love in training camp. They’d like to integrate him into their marketing and team’s offseason changes, but does that matter to the Timberwolves?

At the end of the day the Wolves know that what they are being offered today will be there in August. It will be there in September.

Sure it’s possible that someone on the other side gets miffed and walks away, but that’s not something the Wolves are overly concerned about. They are not in love (excuse the pun) with anything they have been offered, so there’s no hurry to take a bad deal.

If the net result in moving Love is returning less than an ideal package of players why hurry into that? Minnesota knows exactly what they have with Love on the roster. They can hold him as long as they want to, even up to the February trade deadline.

There isn’t an artificial clock. There is no “take it or leave” demands. There is absolutely nothing pushing this issue to conclusion beyond maybe some reporting in the media and some impatience from the fan bases involved.

So what’s the hold-up? Minnesota. They just haven’t had their skirts blown up by an offer, and if they are going to settle, they will settle when it’s beneficial to them.

The Pistons And Josh Smith:  Sometimes in this business there are storylines that take on a life of their own in the twittersphere. As soon as Stan Van Gundy was named team president and head coach of the Detroit Pistons there was this sense that forward Josh Smith had to go.

What is amusing about this is that Van Gundy has never indicated anything but a desire to sort through what works and what does not work this season, starting with training camp. While Van Gundy and his staff have crunched game film from last season and have identified things they like and don’t like, there is a sense that everyone is going to get a fair shake to be on the team next season and play a bigger or better role than they did last season.

So what’s real with Smith?

Prior to the NBA draft the Sacramento Kings and new Pistons GM Jeff Bower had some conversations surrounding Smith. The Kings were willing to take on Smith’s ugly contract in exchange for the parts in Sacramento that no longer work, namely Jason Thompson and Jason Terry. The concept got some serious consideration and was ultimately floated up the flag pole in Detroit and killed by Van Gundy.

Recently reports surfaced that the Kings renewed talks with the Pistons, however as Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported those talks really didn’t go anywhere and the Pistons have moved on. So much so that Van Gundy has reached out to Smith to assure him he’s not being shopped and that the team is expecting him in training camp.

That’s not to say the Pistons are ‘all-in’ on Smith; that’s likely not even remotely true, but what they are trying to understand is who can play for Van Gundy. That starts with who comes to camp in great shape, who buys into what he expects defensively and who can run his system. Once those questions are answered, those players that don’t fit will likely be traded.

It would also help Detroit’s cause if the last game film teams see of Smith is better than his last few games in Detroit last season.

There is no value gained in selling low and moving Smith now would be selling low.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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