A popular sentiment offered by league executives, agents, and analysts at Las Vegas Summer League: “David Griffin might be GM of the Cleveland Cavaliers, but LeBron James is calling the shots.” With news that James has reached out to Kevin Love to express his desire to play with the Minnesota Timberwolves’ stranded superstar dominating headlines, it seems only a matter of time before the Cleveland Cavaliers have their new Big Three. And though playing with an athlete like the mouth-wateringly tantalizing Andrew Wiggins has obvious benefits, it’s still abundantly clear why LeBron has dreams of teaming with Love.
Cleveland initially balked at parting with Wiggins in any deal for Love, but a report surfaced yesterday that the Cavs have included the number one pick in their discussions with Minnesota. Shortly after that revelatory intel made waves, Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski created even bigger ones.
LeBron James has reached to tell Kevin Love of his desire for them to play together with the Cavaliers, front office sources tell Yahoo.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 17, 2014
Later reports refuted the claim that Cleveland has made Wiggins available in talks for Love, but that chatter has been drowned out by James’ desires. The King has spoken, and he always gets what he wants. This is hardly some foolhardy wish, either.
The public seems split on whether or not the Cavs should trade Wiggins for Love. A case is easy to make either way.
Wiggins is a truly transcendent athlete, one of the few players in the world whose natural physical prowess holds a candle to LeBron’s. His defensive disposition would ease the four-time MVP’s burden on that end, and that Wiggins is comfortable playing off the ball as an opportunistic, ancillary scorer is a perfect fit on a team that features James, Kyrie Irving, and Dion Waiters. LeBron would serve as the perfect mentor to the 19 year-old Wiggins, too, acting as Tim Duncan to the younger’s Kawhi Leonard. And who wouldn’t want to watch James and Wiggins playing passing lanes, blocking shots, dunking everything, and wreaking incredible havoc all across the floor?
However, that perspective ignores perhaps the most crucial aspect of this debate: The Cavaliers will have a better chance of winning a championship this season and likely the succeeding two if Love is wearing wine and gold.
Timelines are of utmost importance in team-building. At 29 years-old, James has finally reached the peak of his career arc and begun to slowly trend towards retirement. That’s faraway talk for a player of his presently unmatched dominance and historic caliber, obviously, and something Cleveland need not consider for several more seasons. But LeBron knows there’s a finish line coming nonetheless, and the Cavaliers are a decidedly youthful group even before considering their precocious teenager.
Adding Love, firmly in his prime at 25 years-old, splits the career curve between James and Irving. When LeBron inevitably begins to fade in coming years, Love and Irving will still be in the thick of what should be the best basketball of their careers. Instead of pushing past new limits with the Cavs on his aging shoulders, James could gradually cede control of his hometown team with the confidence that Love and Irving are ready for the responsibilities of which he’s no longer capable.
The same can’t be said of Wiggins. The Canadian sensation won’t even be in his mid-20s by the time LeBron’s decline begins, still seasons away from reaching his seemingly limitless ceiling. And as he’s exhibited throughout Summer League, Wiggins is still very green.
Championships are the end-all be-all for James, and the knowledge that he’ll be playing with two other superstars when he’s still sitting on basketball’s individual throne makes his preference easily justifiable. That The King is all but assured chances at additional titles with Love in tow once he’s finally stepped down is just as important.
One more thing: Love is great; Wiggins could be. If a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, the current caliber of the former usurps the potential caliber – no matter how high – of the latter.
As written so movingly in his letter for Sports Illustrated, LeBron is ready to accept the challenge of returning to Cleveland. We don’t doubt that. But with Love playing in Northeast Ohio that challenge becomes less immediately daunting, and makes sacrificing Wiggins something close to tolerable.
Do you think Cleveland should trade Wiggins for Love?
Follow Jack on Twitter at @ArmstrongWinter.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.