Friday, July 18, 2014

Love, Wiggins and Front-Office buffoonery

Rumors emerged last night that the Cleveland Cavaliers have finally agreed to include Andrew Wiggins in any Kevin Love proposal. As a Wolves fan, this is the best case scenario assuming Love won't stay in Minnesota.

Receiving a high-ceiling #1 overall pick, along with other young players and/or draft picks, gives the Wolves the best chance at building a consistent winner over the next few years. However, let's be clear here: Kevin Love is an elite player in basketball. If he were willing to resign with the Wolves rather than demanding a trade, he would't even be available. Cleveland wouldn't be close to landing Love with their Wiggins, draft picks and young busts offer that will probably end up landing him.

Seeing so called "experts" rail against Love is getting annoying. Yes, I'm not a fan of him because he's clearly been counting the days to leave Minnesota since he signed his second contract. But to suggest he's simply a stat stuffer is unfair and quite honestly terrible reporting.

At first glance, I understand why people aren't as high on Love as they should be. He's never made the playoffs, and because the average fan seems convinced a great player can lead his team to the post-season on his own, Love is considered overrated. But he isn't. Not by a long shot. He's the third most efficient offensive player in basketball, behind only James and Durant. Yes, his defense is poor and he can get lazy and whiny at times on the court. That doesn't matter. His offense is so elite the Cavs would almost certainly finish with the league's best record, and despite ESPN talkingheads consistently saying the Western conference representative would beat Cleveland in the finals, that seems unlikely. Miami managed to win 2 championships in 4 years with a big 3 that simply put isn't as good as a LeBron/Love/Irving big 3 would be at this point in their careers.

San Antonio may have embarrassed Miami this summer, but let's not forget Miami did defeat them in 7 games the year before. The Spurs were determined not to let that happen again, but to just assume the Western conference team is going to be great as San Antonio was this summer is silly. Even San Antonio is unlikely to be close to as good as they were in the playoffs.

Cleveland with Kevin Love, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and a bunch of veteran ring chasers will be the favorites.

As far as Wiggins goes, his potential may be slightly overstated after being a hyped up high school product. He's long, he's young, and he's extremely athletic. If he can turn his tools into production, he could be a very good if not great two-way player. However, the chances he becomes even 90% of the player Kevin Love is are slim. If it takes him 3-4 years to develop into that kind of player, which most expect it will, LeBron James will be 33 years old. Sure, James may still well be the best player in basketball at that time, but everyone ages at some point. What if James and Kyrie can't get past the Western conference over the next few seasons while the team waits for Wiggins to develop? If Wiggins fails to become a star, and ends up as a Rudy Gay clone, (an actual overrated stat-stuffer, unlike Love) the city of Cleveland may continue to be without a championship for another 50 years.

Sure, there's a chance Wiggins develops quickly and as soon as next season is an above average player that helps the Cavs win the title, but it's not a good one. Wiggins looked overmatched at Kansas as a freshman at times. That's to be expected from an 18 or 19-year-old kid playing on the biggest stage in college basketball, but let's not act like Wiggins is an automatic franchise changing player. He's certainly not the next LeBron James, a man who averaged 20 PPG in the NBA at the same age Wiggins played at KU.

And despite Bill Simmons hatred of Minnesota clouding his judgement, Wiggins is not going to become Scottie Pippen to LBJ's Jordan. He just isn't. Pippen is probably a top 15 player of all time, he just doesn't get the credit because he spent basically his entire career being second fiddle to MJ. Simmons basketball knowledge makes me actually glad the Wolves hired Kahn and didn't let Simmons little public plea for the job gain any traction. Simmons actually seemed to take it personally, going from praising the Wolves in nearly every article to criticizing even the smallest moves.

Not trading Wiggins for Love would be a colossal misstep by the Cleveland front office. Fans and league executives around the league are simply showing their stupidity when they say Wiggins shouldn't be offered in a deal for Love. To be honest, Love likely isn't getting the respect many lesser players have received (namely, Carmelo Anthony) because he's white. Some people, for dumb reasons I can't explain, always assume what they see  live is better than stats. He looks terrible running up and down the court, he's never been to the playoffs, and he plays like a white guy. He shoots well and plays below the rim. His best skills, rebounding and outlet passing, are glorified in old men's pickup games moreso than the NBA. But he scored 26 points a game, shot 38% from 3 and 82% from the free throw line. Kevin Love, contrary to popular belief, is a superstar. That's hard to admit as he packs his bags and gets ready to leave Minneapolis, but it's the truth.

Thankfully, Steve Kerr and Jerry West seem to think Klay Thompson is Kobe Bryant, so it looks like Cleveland is the only viable trading partner. A Wiggins based package is much better than a Thompson based package, so here's to hoping Kerr continues to prove he's one of the worst executives in NBA history. How he got a coaching job after running the Suns into the ground as a GM is beyond me, but letting him have any say in personnel matters is even sillier. Steve Kerr can't judge NBA talent. That's been proven.

Ideally, the Wolves and Cavs will agree to a trade in the next few days, so we can put this Kevin Love hoopla behind us and get back to losing 55+ games a season--a franchise tradition. Now we'll have to wait and see if Rubio follows in the footsteps of Marbury and Love, or if he can remain loyal to the organization that brought him in. With Glen Taylor and Flip running the show, even Rubio's extension might be a mess. But at least it's not Kahn, or worse, Bill Simmons, doing the negotiating.

Have fun in Cleveland, Kevin, they'll Love you there.