In wake of LeBron James’ departure from Cleveland in 2010, the Cavaliers hit a number of road bumps on their journey to rebuild the team. However, even after a number of mistakes (ranging from drafting Dion Waiters over Andre Drummond and Damian Lillard, to the firing of Mike Brown on two separate occasions) a number of things have gone their way this summer. First, Kyrie Irving inked a max contract, guaranteeing that he’ll be on the team for at least another six years. Shortly after that, they successfully lured the Euroleague’s best coach, David Blatt, away from Israel, and drafted college basketball’s top prospect, Andrew Wiggins. And for the icing in the cake, LeBron made his decision last Friday that he’s returning home to Cleveland.
With all that in mind, their future is finally on the up and up. But, while the addition of LeBron makes any team a title contender, the Cavaliers’ roster as it current stands doesn’t have the makings to win a championship next season. They’re young, inexperienced, and have a lot of developing to do before they come close to maximising their potential. If they want to, though, the opportunity to trade in a big bulk of that potential for a surefire hit is on the table.
According to several reports, the Minnesota Timberwolves are open to parting ways with Kevin Love as long as the right package is being offered, and Love has made it known that he would welcome a trade to Cleveland now that LeBron is back in the wine and gold. But for the Cavaliers, it appears as though that dream will only come to fruition if they put together a deal revolving around their number one pick, Andrew Wiggins, yet they’ve made it clear that they are not willing to part with him just yet.
Andrew Wiggins will play in summer league tonight for Cavs. They have no plans to include him in trade talks for Kevin Love, sources said.
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) July 11, 2014
Kevin Love is a unique talent, there’s no question about it. He averaged 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game last season while knocking down a total of 190 three-pointers, something that has never been done in the NBA’s illustrious history, according to CBS Sports. For that reason, the addition of his truly would place the rebuilding Cavaliers on a fast track. Love, 25, would be a fantastic second option for the Cavaliers, however, for the sake of the team’s future, they’re doing the right thing by standing their ground and not budging on Andrew Wiggins, even if it means their chances of acquiring the three-time All-Star are squandered. The reason why is simple: this time around, the team led by LeBron James in no rush to win a championship.
When LeBron joined the Heat four years ago, it was with the intentions of winning at least one title. He had been ripped to shreds by the media for never getting the Cavaliers over the hump (even though he never had the right supporting cast) and heading to Miami was his opportunity to finally play alongside a pair of competent players, ones that could help him achieve his number one goal. Four years later, he has two titles to show for it, not to mention four straight trips to the Finals — something only three teams in NBA history have done — and a pair of MVP trophies.
He’s 29 years old now, and while he’s in the midst of his prime, he’s set himself a different challenge this time around. He isn’t promising a championship because he’s learnt his lesson and he’s being realistic — this roster, right now, isn’t built to win a title. LeBron wants to bring a championship to Ohio, eventually, and he knows that adding more titles to his name would only boost his credibility as one of the NBA’s all-time greats. Nevertheless, he’s preparing himself to be the old head by mentoring a young group of players and helping them reach their untapped potential; something he admitted in his letter that he gets a “thrill out of.”
It’s going to take time for the Cavaliers to become the powerhouse they want to if they keep together their current core intact, but being patient will be worth their while. Andrew Wiggins’ potential is well documented, and learning under the tutelage of this generation’s best player and someone who has dominated his position for so many years is only going to help him reach his ceiling. And even if he only begins to scratch the surface in, say, three years, the Cavaliers could surround LeBron with one of the best point guards and small forwards in the league – a combination nobody else in the Association could match. To go along with that would be a myriad of role players, the type LeBron has been reeling in ever since he became the star attraction. That includes the likes of Anthony Bennet, who, even in wake of a disastrous rookie season, could develop into a complementary stretch four, a piece David Blatt will be looking to add; a double-double machine in Tristan Thompson; and a score-first sixth man in the form of Dion Waiters. In addition to that, the likes of Mike Miller and Ray Allen have, allegedly, shown interest in joining the Cavaliers now that LeBron is back in town.
There’s another caveat to all this, though, and that’s the hit bringing on Kevin Love would have on the salary cap. Love is set to make $16.7 million next season, and with that the front office would have a much harder time building up the rest of their roster. Wiggins, however, is expected to sign a deal worth $5-$6 million in his first season, leaving plenty of room for the team to sign another free agent to a lucrative contract or even a handful of role players. The Cavaliers will have some tough decisions to make eventually, such as when Wiggins’ rookie contract expires, but they have time to iron out those wrinkles and, most importantly, plenty of flexibility to make it work.
The Heat were expected to win championships right off the bat, and with that came some problems. Because of the construction of the roster — Wade, LeBron and Bosh each signing for a shade under the max — the team was only going to go as far as that trio took them. While it was highly successful, it was an unsustainable plan, one that was clearly due for a change in wake of their five game loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. The Cavaliers are in a different boat, though — LeBron finally has the opportunity to mold a team around him in the exact way he wants. Before The Decision, the Cavaliers’ front office didn’t surround him with enough help. Following The Decision, the Heat didn’t have the cap room to supplant Dwyane Wade’s fading starlight and it led to the Heat losing a big step. Now, following The Letter, LeBron is with a team that has cap space, plenty of assets and the time to let all the pieces fall into place.
The Cavaliers are in this for the long run now and trading for Love would only disrupt that plan. Giving up two or three assets for him, which would, presumably, include the likes of Wiggins, Bennett and Waiters, would rid them of a number of team-friendly contracts, as well as players who still have so much developing to do. Even for Kevin Love, one of the best players in the league today, it’s not worth throwing all that down the drain.
It would be easy for the Cavaliers to fall into the allure of winning right now by trading away youth for a proven star, but for the sake of the franchise’s future and LeBron James’ long-term happiness, it would be best for them to stick to their guns and ride this one out. This is an opportunity to build a team that maximises LeBron James’ strengths to perfection, and it’s an opportunity for him to take on a lesser load and compete for championships as he grows older.
The pieces are in place for them to make that dream come true, so why disrupt it before it even gets started?