I had the opportunity to attend three days of Las Vegas Summer league this week. I got to see a lot of basketball and a lot of great prospects. Just a quick plug, in addition to the games I watched I was able to attend the first TPG Pro Scout School. It was a great experience that gave a lot of insight into the inner workings of a front office, what goes into scouting potential draft picks and free agents, and advance scouting.
The road trip was long to say the least. My friends and I spent two days driving from Des Moines to Las Vegas and tried to have as much fun as a young adult under the age of 21 can in Sin City. The drive back was a hellish experience. We spent almost a full day on the road. We drove through a thunder storm in the mountains of Colorado to get to Cheyenne, Wyoming at 10:30. After arriving in town we discovered that the biggest rodeo in the country was starting the next day so the entire town was booked. We decided to just keep driving. Well, we encountered fog, construction, and worst of all Nebraska on the way home, but we made it. Summer league was a great experience and I can’t complain after getting to watch three days of basketball. That is beside the point however since I am writing to talk about the Cleveland Cavaliers next big thing, Andrew Wiggins, and their brewing Love affair.
The Cavs had the most popular player in the summer league on their team. The hype surrounding Andrew Wiggins in Las Vegas was unreal. The gym was packed whenever Cleveland played and there were quite a few Kansas jerseys in the stands. Don’t get too sucked into the hype about Wiggins however. You probably saw a lot of dunks from the highlights but he was far from the transcendent player some seem to be hyping him up to be.
Wiggins is a tremendous talent but he still has tons of room for growth. He has great defensive instincts and had a good understanding of team defense from what I saw. His athleticism and speed are second to none. He would blow by defenders with an amazing first step. The next part of the equation was harder for Wiggins. Unless it was a dunk or a free throw he struggled to get the ball through the hoop. His shooting and finishing ability, while not horrible, were sub-par for a number one overall pick. He only had a 40.5 FG% and had a 15.4 3PT%.1 This has been something several scouts have expressed concern about.2 He did get to the line a LOT (14.1 FTA Per 36) but he won’t have many games where he goes to the line 20 times in the NBA. Throw in the fact that he has to play against Roy Hibbert, Joakim Noah, Larry Sanders, and Andre Drummond sixteen times and things start to look worse.
Another thing that really stood out to me was what almost seemed like a lack of effort or caring on Wiggins’ part. He just seemed too laid back on the court and lacked the alpha demeanor that you expect from a star. I’m not trying to say Wiggins doesn’t care. On the defensive end he almost always has his head in the game. On the other end however, he seemed disinterested when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands. With just minimal effort he was able to use his superior athleticism to make plays but he was not consistent. Wiggins will make an immediate impact as a defensive player and if he plays with hustle he will get countless offensive rebounds, steals, blocks, etc. His offense looks like it will be a question mark and unless he improves his shooting, and becomes a better finisher, he will not be a 20 PPG scorer in the NBA. He does have the potential to be a great player, but I would not be surprised if he doesn’t play in an All-Star game before his qualifying offer. Still though, his ceiling is amazingly high and he could be a star.
The big question about Wiggins is whether or not he will suit up for the Cavs next year. Ever since LeBron James came back to Cleveland it has been known that the Cavs are interested in trading for Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love. The Cavs were reportedly apprehensive to trade Wiggins, but there have been several conflicting reports (as of July 18, 2014) that Cleveland is now willing to include Wiggins in trade talks.
Cleveland Cavaliers now willing to include Wiggins in Kevin Love trade offer http://t.co/X5I1fpcNaM
— Bob Finnan (@BobCavsinsider) July 17, 2014
If Cleveland is willing to trade him they need to make a decision. Do they want to win a ring or build themselves for long term success? LeBron signed for only two years and if the Cavs show no sign of winning, will he stay? I know it seems crazy to think that LeBron might leave Cleveland broken hearted again, but no one thought he would break their hearts the first time, and two years ago no one thought he would go back home. Maybe Wiggins can have enough of an impact to guarantee Cleveland a spot in the finals, but right now that seems hard to believe.
Kevin Love Trade
Kevin Love is a star now, while Wiggins merely has potential to be a star. Last year Love had 14.3 Win Shares3 good for 3rd in the league. No number one overall pick in the last 20 years has had more than 10 Win Shares in their rookie year except for Tim Duncan (Blake Griffin had 9.8) and he was a four year college player, three time college Defensive Player of the Year, two time First Team All-American, and got to play with David Robinson in his first year. Simply put, Love is worth trading the number one overall pick in terms of their first year value.
Granted there are two very big ifs. What if playing with LeBron speeds up Wiggins’ development and he puts up great numbers next year? He is not close to being as developed as Duncan when he entered the league, but you never know. What if he struggles this year but begins putting up All-Star numbers very soon? Just an example, but LeBron only had 5.1 Win Shares in his rookie campaign, after that he never had less than 13.7 Win Shares.4 These are big if’s, and both scenarios seem unlikely, but the Cavs definitely have to think this out.
Even the salary situation is not a clear cut pro or con for Cleveland if they make this trade. Let’s say in terms of players they trade Wiggins, Bennett, Brendan Haywood, and either Carrick Felix or Matthew Dellavedova for a total salary of $13,186,270 (note – this is using $4,582,200 as an estimate for Wiggins’ first year salary). They would take on $15,719,063 in salary from Love, so around $2,532,793 increase in salary. This isn’t too bad for next season, but Love is going to want a max or close to max extension. When paired with LeBron getting paid again and Kyrie Irving’s new contract it leaves the Cavs with little flexibility. Granted, Tristan Thompson’s, Dion Waiter’s, and Bennett’s salaries are going up and they will need extensions eventually so the Cavs might be better off just paying Love. The Cavs have to think this out and decide; do they want young and cheap (at the moment) depth or an expensive star?
The great thing for the Cavs is if they offer Wiggins for Love every other offer is blown out of the water. If the Timberwolves add Wiggins and a combination of Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, Dion Waiters and draft picks, they get a great combination of current and future talent. The Warriors offer, though tantalizing, is not even close to Cleveland’s. Klay Thompson is a great shooter and defender but will never be the first or even second option on a championship team and David Lee, while a great player in his own right, is overpaid and most likely on the downhill part of his career. A potential offer from Boston isn’t that enticing either, as Marcus Smart is their best asset and Sullinger and/or Olynyk will hardly be compensation for Love. Even if they throw in a bunch of draft picks it is likely none of the Brooklyn picks will be that great and if Boston keeps Rondo and adds Love, their picks probably won’t be great either. Plus, Boston might not be able to do it without including a contract like Gerald Wallace in the deal.
David Griffin has one of the toughest decisions any General Manager has to make. He has to decide to take a top 10 player in the NBA or keep the number one overall pick in one of the most loaded drafts in recent memory. The decision is far from clear cut. If they make the trade they lose a lot of young talent and don’t solve their biggest need which is interior defense and don’t necessarily guarantee a ring. Maybe they could try to acquire Gorgui Dieng in the trade but I have a feeling the Timberwolves really don’t want to give him up. If they keep Wiggins will they have enough to win now, and keep LeBron in Cleveland? The decision is theirs to make, and as long as they get a ring they will have made the right one.