It’s been a peculiar start to Andrew Wiggins’ professional career. As news of LeBron James’ prodigal return to Cleveland caused a ripple effect throughout the league during the height of the free agent frenzy, it also unexpectedly rendered Wiggins’ future with the team that drafted him number one overall increasingly uncertain.
Given another set of circumstances, the timing of LeBron’s stunning announcement seemed serendipitous as it unfolded just as the Kevin Love debacle in Minnesota was reaching its nadir. For more than week now, rumors about a Wiggins-for-Love swap have dominated the news cycle, but after much speculation, a recent report from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst indicates that the Cavs will sign Wiggins to his rookie contract sometime in the coming week, which means he cannot be traded for another 30 days. This despite the fact that Cleveland had supposedly consented to include Wiggins in the proposed deal for Love after initially refusing to do so.
The general consensus among the basketball intelligentsia seems to be that the Cavs should jump at the opportunity to land a player of Love’s caliber, even if that means letting go of a potential superstar.
However, the question that no one seems to be asking is whether it makes any sense for Minnesota. Billionaire owner Glen Taylor and retread GM Flip Saunders don’t seem so sure about that; otherwise, they would have pulled the trigger on it days ago when Cleveland revealed that they had softened their stance on Wiggins.
Taylor spoke about the recent rumors in an interview with NBA TV during the Las Vegas Summer League last Wednesday:
“My preference is that Kevin will come to [training] camp — and I’m sure he will — and play with the team,” Taylor said.
“We are going to look at everything that makes sense that would make our team better,” Taylor told NBA TV. “But we are not going to move a superb player like [Love] without getting equal or more value back.”
Conventional wisdom says that you never trade a dollar for four quarters, and if Love is, in fact, the superior player in this scenario, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for Minnesota to swap him out for a speculative talent like Wiggins or even a smorgasbord of young players that could potentially include Anthony Bennett and perhaps even Dion Waiters, if the recent rumors are to be believed.
To complicate matters further, the ‘Wolves are in an eerily similar position to the one they were in back in 2007 when another disgruntled power forward named Kevin forced a trade that ultimately gift-wrapped the Boston Celtics an NBA Title and two trips to the Finals in a span of three years. The Wolves are still trying to sift through the carnage left behind by former GM David Kahn, who was so spectacularly inept during his reign of terror from 2009 to 2013 that the franchise can hardly afford to make another high-profile faux pas by being tacitly responsible for the creation of yet another Eastern Conference juggernaut.
Even a theoretically more attractive offer from the Golden State Warriors that would include Klay Thompson (and perhaps David Lee) doesn’t seem to move the needle very much for Minnesota. It also bears mentioning that the Warriors have been reluctant to trade Thompson because of his abilities as a perimeter defender, which just so happens to be Wiggins’ number-one strength at this stage of his development as well.
Which points to another sticky area of this discussion: Love’s presumably bad defense. In fairness to Love, his liabilities as a defender have been somewhat exaggerated. As the saying goes, a defensive stand doesn’t end until somebody secures the rebound, and Love is one of the best in the business in this department. His plus/minus numbers are likewise not a very good indication of this as he has a plus-4.4 net rating, but the Wolves as a team were positively ghastly on defense and finished 26th in points allowed per possession last season. Additionally, there’s a general perception that Love is simply not a very good one-on-one defender at his position and offers little-to-no rim protection. Whether it’s accurate is ultimately irrelevant given that it has been something of a stop-gap in both potential trade scenarios. If the Warriors are concerned about losing Thompson’s perimeter defense, the Cavs should be too considering they also have a big question mark in the middle that Love doesn’t sufficiently answer.