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To trade or not to trade Wiggins



Published: Sun, July 20, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

I don’t want the Cleveland Cavaliers to trade Andrew Wiggins.

Wiggins, the No. 1 pick in the recent NBA draft out of Kansas, has been called the closest thing to LeBron James to come into the league since, well, LeBron did in 2003.

This kid is just 19 years old. Barring injury or something else unexpected, he is going to be a star in the NBA for 12 or 15 years.

Wiggins can go to the basket and finish with force. His performance in the recently concluded summer league already has Cavaliers fans excited about the possibility of putting him on the floor with James, Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and others.

The Cavaliers haven’t been relevant since James left for Miami four years ago, but he’s back and they’re back and Cleveland looks to be on the verge of something special again.

This isn’t the 2009-10 Cavaliers, otherwise known as LeBron and some spare parts MacGyver couldn’t have fashioned into suitable weapons. Simply adding James to a young and talented group means Cleveland realistically should expect 50 wins and a playoff run next season.

Watching Wiggins develop along the way will be a bonus ... if the Cavaliers keep him. I want them to keep him.

Anthony Bennett may or may not ever live up to being selected No. 1 overall in 2013, but there is no reason to think Wiggins will be the huge disappointment Bennett was last season.

Wiggins’ shooting isn’t great, but that will come. Right now, he has the quickness to be a force at the other end of the court by shutting off passing lanes and playing the kind of defense nobody on the Cavaliers’ roster has played since James booked a flight for South Beach in 2010.

I don’t want the Cavaliers to trade Andrew Wiggins.

But the Cavaliers probably should trade him.

If they can package Wiggins and a couple of spare parts (not Bennett and a first-round pick next year) and bring Kevin Love to Cleveland for a long-term stay — let’s say the rest of the prime of James’ career — the Cavaliers instantly become the favorite in the Eastern Conference.

Nothing is guaranteed — this being Cleveland after all — but Love is 6-foot-10 and averaged 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds for a middling Minnesota Timberwolves team last season. And he made some 3-pointers.

Only one other player in NBA history ever averaged that many points and rebounds and made a 3-pointer. Moses Malone did it with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1980-81, when he averaged 27.8 points and 14.8 rebounds ... and made one 3-pointer.

That’s right. One.

Love didn’t just make one 3-pointer. Or even a few. He made 190 of them.

One of the reasons the Cavaliers didn’t win a title in James’ first seven years in Cleveland was that they lacked other impact players.

Irving is one now. Waiters can be one when he wants to be. Wiggins looks like he can develop into one for years to come.

The Cavaliers figure to be a very good team with Wiggins, but Love is an impact player right now. Add him to this team and the Cavaliers can be become not only a force in the Eastern Conference, but perhaps good enough to win a title.

Not in two, three or four years, when Wiggins gets into his 20s. LeBron is 29 today and in his prime. Love is 25 and in his prime. Put those two on the floor with Irving, Waiters and, say, Anderson Varejao or what appears to be an improving Bennett and mix in some of the role players the Cavaliers have already added and Cleveland is measurably closer to the title LeBron returned home to chase.

I don’t want the Cavaliers to trade Wiggins.

But I want them to win a title while the window of opportunity is open at its widest. That figures to be now, while James is at his peak and if Love is committed to a long-term stay in Cleveland.

Not when Wiggins is 24 and LeBron is 34.

It will hurt if Wiggins goes to Minnesota and becomes one of the best players in the league. But there’s a good chance Cavaliers fans will be able to mitigate that pain with an NBA title or two.

With apologies to the Cleveland Crunch of the old Major Indoor Soccer League, the city’s title drought is at 50 years and counting.

Win while you can, Cleveland.

Make the trade ... before I change my mind.

Write Vindicator Sports Editor Ed Puskas at epuskas@vindy.com and follow him on Twitter, @EdPuskas_Vindy.


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