When the Cavs drafted Andrew Wiggins with the first pick in the 2014 NBA draft, they were prepared to build their franchise around him and Kyrie Irving. They had no idea that LeBron James would want to return home. LeBron changed everything. The Cavs knew that LeBron wanted to win, now, so they packaged the players they drafted from their prized first overall picks in 2013 and 2014 and sent them to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for an All-Star, Kevin Love. Although some said that Love would have issues transitioning into playing with other stars, he proved them wrong for the most part. Love’s post defense was bad, at times, but also better than many expected. Its uncertain if Love will opt out of his contract this summer, and it is also uncertain if he will re-sign with the Cavs. This makes many Cavs fans wonder, was the trade worth giving up Andrew Wiggins? We predict was life would have been like if the Cavs kept Wiggins in five different phases. We start with the first phase, personnel on the team.
With Wiggins on the roster, Coach Blatt and the Cavs would have most likely opted for a starting lineup consisting of Kyrie at the point, Miller at shooting guard position, Wiggins at the small forward, LeBron at the power forward, and Varejao as the man in the middle. That would leave the bench consisting of Dion Waiters, Shawn Marion, Tristan Thompson, Joe Harris, Matthew Dellavedova, Anthony Bennett, Brendan Haywood, and James Jones. The Cavs would have preferred to start Wiggins because having him come off the bench would have been a waste of his talents (especially with him being drafted as the number one pick in the draft).
With that being said, either Miller or Waiters would have started at the shooting guard position and this allows for LeBron to start at PF. Although he doesn’t like playing much at the four-spot, he would have a quickness advantage and the Cavs would have had a very solid backup big in Thompson to come off the bench. The second unit would most likely consist of some combination of Delly, Waiters, Harris, Bennett, and Thompson. In this case, the reasoning for having a scoring guard like Waiters come off the bench would be to keep the scoring at a high level even when LeBron, Wiggins, and Kyrie are resting.
You can find the second phase of the Cavs season if they kept Andrew Wigginson the next page
If the Cavs did not make the trade for Love, they would have gone into the season with Wiggins and Bennett on the roster. First of all, it’s a given that Wiggins would be untouchable unless a star were to be suddenly available via trade. Bennett, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. With Wiggins on the team, who is an above-average defender, scorer, and ball handler, the Cavs would have potentially had Delly, Bennett, and Waiters all available for trade. This poses the question: would the Cavs had made the trades for Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, and Timofey Mozgov had they not traded for K. Love? The answer would most likely be yes. Here’s why.
Although Wiggins possesses traits of Shump’s elite defense and J.R.’s knack for scoring, he could only do so much as a rookie with no experience in the NBA. Additionally, the Cavs front office had been interested in both Shumpert and Mozgov for quite some time. It seems very likely that the Cavs would have still traded for Shump and Smith (whom the Knicks packaged together after a troublesome start to the season) to bolster their bench, even with Wiggins on the roster. The Cavs likely would have made a similar trade to the one they made in early January, when they packaged Alex Kirk and Lou Amundson to the Knicks and Dion Waiters to the Thunder, while receiving Shump and J.R. in return.
Had they not traded for Kevin Love, the Cavs front office would have still searched for another big to join Double T. and Andy. Mozgov probably would not have been available at the beginning of the season, but another player that the Cavs were interested in might have been on the trade block: Marresse Speights. Although Speights is more known for his offense, his defense is underrated. Additionally, with Varejao still healthy and Double T on the roster, the Cavs would have only asked Speights to come off the bench and provide good defense and complimentary offense, a role similar to the one he had last year with the Cavs and the one he has now with the Warriors.
A trade of Bennett and a first round pick would have likely sealed the deal. With Wiggins on the roster, Delly could have very likely been included in the trade so the Cavs could balance out the roster a bit. This would allow the Cavs to keep one of the two first round picks that they traded to Denver for Mozgov.
You can find the third phase of the Cavs season if they kept Andrew Wigginson the next page
With Wiggins instead of Love, the Cavs would have only had to worry about Wiggins rookie deal, worth $5.5 million this season and $6 million next season. There would be no concern regarding K. Love’s expiring deal or the $15.7 million owed to him for the 2014-2015 season. There is also a possibility that if the Cavs had kept Wiggins, there was a chance that Varejao would not have gotten his 3 year, $30 mil contract extension at the beginning of the season. The Cavs would have likely preferred to put that additional salary towards a player that could contribute to the team off the bench.
The money saved by not having Love on the roster nor signing Varejao to an extension would be significant to the Cavs. This is because LBJ, Miller, and J.R. hold player options, while Shump and Double T. are entering restricted free agency after the season. The money saved would have made it easier for the Cavs this season and seasons in the future. If the Cavs had kept Wiggins and spent their money wisely, there were reports that they would have been able to offer Love a large contract in the 2015 offseason anyways – thereby acquiring him without giving up a potential a franchise corner-piece in Wiggins, or Bennett, a young and valuable trade asset.
You can find the fourth phase of the Cavs season if they kept Andrew Wigginson the next page
4. GAME PLAN
With Wiggins starting in LeBron’s traditional SF position, LeBron would shift down to PF. This would have changed Blatt’s gameplan significantly. With a bigger, slower defender on him, Blatt and the coaching staff would have had LeBron attack his defender from the high post and driving to the rim, where LeBron’s combination of speed and strength reign supreme against anyone else. On defense, though, is where LeBron would have to exert a lot of energy. Although he is quick, he does not have the defensive ability to guard bigs in the post throughout an entire season. This would make the Cavs very vulnerable in the post. On the perimeter, the Cavs would see a very solid defense with Kyrie, Wiggins, and another G/F in the backcourt. Wiggins would only push Kyrie to get better on the defensive end, and it would pay off. Kyrie and Wiggins would arguably be the best backcourt in the NBA.
Here is where the Kyrie/LBJ/Wiggins led Cavs would get scary- Athleticism. Kyrie, LeBron, and Wiggins are all freakish athletes. Could you imagine the three of them, along with Thompson and Shump running a fast-break? They would be unstoppable. Any of the five would be a threat to score. Back on defense, Wiggins could guard any player from the opposing team from PG to PF due to his 6’11” height and crazy-quick footwork. This would have also given Kyrie an easier assignment, as Wiggins would mainly guard the best player on the opposing team while Kyrie guards the other guard.
You can find the fifth and final phase of the Cavs season if they kept Andrew Wigginson the next page
With a Cleveland team led by LBJ/Kyrie/Wiggins, the Cavs would have probably won more games in the regular season than with Love. Wiggins is a proven scorer and defender, which would have been valuable during the 7 game stretch that LeBron rested. Had Wiggins stayed healthy throughout the course of the season, he would have had a huge impact on the Cavs in the playoffs. Although the Cavs got to the Finals with relative ease, Wiggins could have helped the Cavs win maybe an additional game in the Bulls series.
With Wiggins on the team, opponents would have to focus on a three headed attack in Wiggins/LBJ/Kyrie, and there are pretty much no teams that can shut down 3 great scorers. Wiggins would also give the Cavs an additional piece in the Finals against the Warriors, who boast an All-Star backcourt in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. While the Cavs may likely still win the Finals with LeBron carrying the team, Wiggins would have made it easier. This is all assuming that Wiggins is less prone to injury than K. Love.
With all of this being said, Kevin Love contributed so much to the Cavs success this season. Looking back, the Cavs still made a pretty good trade, in their “win now” mentality. Also, despite losing Love for the postseason and Kyrie for a good chunk, the Cavs still made it to the Finals with ease. Now comes the true test, as the Cavs face the Warriors, led by the league MVP Stephen Curry. This on-going debate of Wiggins vs. Love will go on for years, but no one will really know for certain which route would have been better. For the Cavs, they would have been successful this season regardless of which choice they made.