Very few sports figures can deliver the summer blockbuster movie drama like LeBron James. In his latest iteration, of the "Traveling Man," King James has decided to take his talents back to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Yes,that LBJis not a misprint. Faster than you can say, haven't I seen this movie before, questions abound over the reunion of James and Cavalier owner, Dan Gilbert. Gilbert, is better known in some circles as the author of the infamous jilted owner open letter, where he excoriated LeBron and blamed him for everything but the 1929 stock market crash. NBA basketball marriages, as in politics, make strange bed fellows. Grudges be damned when it's about two-time NBA champion, 4-time MVP, home town hero( or villain), and best player on the planet.
Now what? James' arrival has injected hope back to a city still reeling from his soul-crushing departure. James will enjoy oracle status among Cleveland's collage of rising stars. It starts with the super talented, yet fragile and defensively deficient point guard Kyrie Irving. At only 21, Irving has played in 174 out of 215 games in his 3-year NBA career. There are already many question over his durability. Were not even mentioning the college toe injury that saw him play in only 11 games at Duke. You also have 2013 number one pick, Anthony Bennett( notice I have not used the word bust, way too early) and of course this years number one pick, uber-athletic, Andrew Wiggins. Sprinkle in under sized power forward, Tristan Thompson, wily veteran center, Anderson Varejao, and swing man Dion Waiters, 3 first round draft picks in 2015, and you have the framework of something special-albeit with a rookie coach. But with so many alluring assets, and the specter of a new " Big Three, " the trade machine is now operating at full throttle. Enter Kevin Love.
Kevin Love, the offensively prodigious, rebounding machine, and 2015 unrestricted free agent has already mentioned if traded to Cleveland he would consider signing an extension. Ya think! Do the math! LeBron, Kyrie, and Love? Toss in a few key rotation players, and you will have an extended run at multiple NBA rings. Hoops media is already ablaze with potential trade scenarios involving top pick Andrew Wiggins. The Cavaliers are already saying there is no way Wiggins will be traded in any package for Love. Notwithstanding, the stroke of brilliance in the return of the prodigal son, James, no one is confusing Cleveland with being a Spurs East. This is a team with a meddling owner and a marginal front office. Let's not confuse luck with exceptional competence Wiggins for Love, in any package is a no-brainer.
Although supremely athletic and very talented, Wiggins has already been miscast as a franchise-altering talent: he is not. This has been presciently pointed out by the absurdly talented NBA analyst and writer Jonathan Tjarks, Wiggins has a number of holes in his boat. Applying a universal baseline devised by Tjarks similar to the five tool metric in baseball, and you get a qualitative measure for evaluating NBA talent. The five measures are: creating your own shot, creating shots for others, shooting off the pass, rebounding, and defense.
Looking at the surface, it's easy to get viscerally excited over Wiggins. 19 years old, 6-8, 200 with a 7- foot wingspan. But with further scrutiny. Wiggins projects to be a taller Andre Iguodala( an elite rotation player).Wiggins is not a particularly skilled ball handler, passer, or shooter. His demonstrative athletic advantage will be less so in the NBA His already too high assist-to- turnover ratio also shows me a player who is yet to develop the elite hoops DNA to think he game( and see things before they happen). So with our new five-tool baseline, Wiggins grades as very good at not elite.
Conversely, Kevin Love is an ELITE NBA talent. This season he just missed with 12.5 boards of becoming only the fifth player in NBA history to average 26 points, 13 boards and 4 dimes for a full season. Wilt, Kareem, Billy Cunningham, and Elgin Baylor are the four. Love is also coming off a season where he was third in PER and EWA( Estimated Wins Added) behind LeBron and Durant. It should also be noted he is doing this with a second rate supporting cast. Let's also factor in the C word-chemistry. Love is perfect fit with Kyrie and LeBron. Those two excel at breaking down defenses leaving Love with plenty of open looks to knock down perimeter shots on drive and dishes. Moreover, you get positional versatility with Love. Due to his court vision,and superb passing skills, you can run high-low offense with he and LeBron. Love can go to either high post or blocks and so can LeBron.
With Cleveland's three first round 2015 picks, and an abundance of young talent, Wiggins moves the trade needle to get Love from Minnesota. Rule 101, of NBA elite front office management- know the value of your assets. Its simple-Love is an franchise talent, Wiggins is not. The only drawback would be Minnesota insistence of taking back Kevin Martin's bad contract.contract. That is is a no-no. Martin's matador defense with Kyrie's defensive woes would be toxic. To balance out the LeBron, Love,Kyrie "Big Three,"Cleveland will need a long 3 and D 2- guard, and an athletic rim protecting center who can defer the pick-and roll and cover for Love's porous defense.
Cav fans, welcome back to hoops relevance. Minnesota fans, losing Love is not the end of the world( or maybe it is). Miami, you have two rings, plenty of memories,and great weather. Cavs pull the Love trigger. Remember what I said about luck.