By: Nick Camino
It’s not very often in any sport that you can justify trading the No. 1 overall draft choice after drafting that player in that same year’s draft. Especially without having seen him play one game.
Franchises often wait years to have the top pick in an amateur draft. Teams consistently try to tank an entire season in hopes of setting themselves up to hopefully get that No. 1 overall pick, yet that even fails at times. The most recent example is the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA.
However, when the Cleveland Cavaliers agreed to a trade last week with the Minnesota Timberwolves, they broke with tradition and took a calculated risk in dealing the No. 1 overall picks from the last two years.
The Cavs and Timberwolves agreed to a deal that will bring three-time NBA All-Star Kevin Love to Cleveland, while Minnesota picks up not one, but two former No. 1 overall draft picks - this year’s top selection Andrew Wiggins from Kansas and last season’s top overall pick Anthony Bennett from UNLV - along with a future first-round draft pick.
Guess how many No. 1 overall draft picks the Timberwolves franchise have since their inaugural season in 1989. Zero, zilch, nada.
In 1995 the Twolves selected Kevin Garnett out of high school at No. 5 overall and more recently drafted Wesley Johnson from Syracuse No. 4 overall in 2010, while taking Derrick Williams out of Arizona No. 2 overall in 2011.
Both teams made out well in this recent trade that will become official on Aug. 23 (30 days after Wiggins signed his rookie contract; league rules mandate that length of a waiting period before a draft choice can be traded).
While the Cavs are adding an All-Star coming off his best season in the NBA where he averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists while shooting 45.7% from the field and 37.6% on three-pointers, Minnesota can begin to build a new foundation with young talented players, while getting value for a player they were never going to be able to re-sign.
If Cavs fans are still upset about giving up a No. 1 overall selection like Wiggins away, they need to first relax, take a deep breath, and then look at the facts.
This deal makes complete sense for Cleveland for one reason only: the return of LeBron James.
Wiggins may end up being an All-Star himself, but the fact is, when James decided to come back to the Cavaliers on July 11, it radically changed the timetable and expectations for a team that hasn’t quite figured out how to win since the four-time MVP and 10-time NBA All-Star’s departure in 2010.
Let’s remember, James is now 29-years-old and will turn 30 this upcoming December. How many more years will he have to play at his elite level? Most experts agree, he’ll have five years of his prime basketball playing career left in him.
Would you honestly want two, perhaps three of those five “prime LeBron years” devoted to the development of Wiggins and Bennett?
It takes time to settle in to the NBA. Bennett has yet to do so. And let’s also remember that it took three seasons for James himself to finally reach the NBA Playoffs and get completely acclimated into playing a new game. Even more importantly, let’s all agree that Andrew Wiggins is not LeBron James.
Again, Wiggins is 19-years old. If James had decided to stay in Miami, Wiggins would seem like the perfect fit to pair up with Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. However, the entire story changed on July 11.
It went from the team-speak being “put the proper pieces in place to succeed in years to come” to “the time to win is right now.”
Could Wiggins and James have coexisted with the Cavs? Sure. But why not land a proven commodity like Love, who we already know can dominate an NBA game?
Are there questions about Love’s defense? Certainly. Some in the NBA have even claimed he “pads his stats.”
However, with the addition of James at this stage of his career, this was the right move. Love fits perfectly into the puzzle. While he’ll be able to help Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson on the glass rebounding, he can knock down three-pointers consistently with Irving while James gets dribble-drive penetration to the hoop.
Love was the only missing piece and James knew that. Multiple reports said James insisted the Cavs make the trade to acquire Love.
Meanwhile, LeBron is the prohibitive favorite for NBA Executive of the Year.
Trades are meant to benefit all teams involved. This recent trade between the Cavs and Timberwolves does just that. Minnesota head coach and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders made it clear he wanted Wiggins - he got him. James, the greatest NBA player on the planet, wanted Love – he got him.
In the NBA you’re either trying to win now like the Cavs or building a team that could have success in the future like the Timberwolves. There really is no in-between, because there lies mediocrity.
If the Cavaliers had kept Wiggins, they would have been in-between trying to win while also trying to develop young talent. That simply does not work in the NBA.
With the addition of Love, the Cavs are sending a message that the time to win is right now. Development is over. James has already said his top priority is to now bring a championship to the city of Cleveland.
Stop worrying about what the Cavaliers may have lost in this trade with Minnesota. Instead, get ready to enjoy what could be one of the most exciting season’s any Cleveland team has had in a long, long time.
- Nick Camino