NBA executives debate hypothetical Wiggins-for-Love trade

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

— One of the most polarizing debates among front-office executives at summer league is what the Minnesota Timberwolves should do with Kevin Love and how aggressively the Cavs should pursue him.

The Timberwolves have made it clear they won’t deal Love to the Cavs for anything less than top overall pick Andrew Wiggins. The Cavs, in turn, have dug in their heels at this point and declared him off-limits.

It’s a July poker game. All of the cards don’t have to be revealed now.

“There’s no reason or cause for worry on his part because Andrew’s not going anywhere, as far as I know and as far as the club has expressed,” Cavs coach David Blatt told reporters recently.

Wiggins was asked if he has any concerns over being traded, but a Cavs media relations official cut off the question and didn’t allow him to answer it.

One rival Eastern Conference executive said it’s too soon to trade Wiggins until the Cavs learn whether he can play shooting guard between Irving and LeBron James.

“LeBron [James] and Kyrie [Irving] will handle the bulk of the scoring,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of trade talks. “If Wiggins can score, leave the other guys like Andy [Varejao] and Tristan [Thompson] to do the dirty work.”

The front-office executive is high on Thompson and likes the way his game has steadily improved. He believes Thompson can overcome his defensive deficiencies and that simply James’ presence will go a long way in teaching Thompson how to defend.

He believes Thompson can thrive this season simply by running the floor and rebounding and thinks Thompson will continue to develop a shooting touch.

Others disagree.

An executive from a different team believes the Cavs made a mistake by choosing Wiggins over Jabari Parker, and if the Timberwolves are open to dealing Love for Wiggins, the Cavs should act quickly.

“He’s soft and he can’t shoot,” the executive said of Wiggins. “Parker is the better player. Make that deal today.”

The Timberwolves are believed to value Wiggins more than Parker, who went second to the Milwaukee Bucks.

One executive predicted the Cavs, as currently constructed, could win 60 games next season simply with the addition of James and the wide-open Eastern Conference. He pointed to the leap the Cavs made when James was a rookie. They won 35 games that year, more than double the 17 victories the season before his arrival.

“[The Cavs] were awful,” the executive said. “[They had] Z [Zydrunas Ilgauskas] and a young [Carlos] Boozer, but look at everyone else on that team: Darius Miles, Ricky Davis, Kevin Ollie. … LeBron carried them to 35 wins as a 19-year-old.”

The Timberwolves, according to sources, are willing to be patient in these trade talks. They believe the teams in pursuit of Love, including the Cavs and the Golden State Warriors, may not be as good now as those teams think they are and will ultimately meet their price — Wiggins from the Cavs or Klay Thompson from the Warriors.

The Cavs discussed a Love trade with the Timberwolves before the draft, but refused to include the No. 1 pick at the time. That was before they knew for certain James was returning. The scenario has obviously changed now.

Another complication in a proposed Love-for-Wiggins trade is making the money match under the salary cap, since Wiggins will be on a rookie scale deal and Love is due to earn nearly $16 million. But no one polled this week in Las Vegas believes that will be a stumbling block. A third team could be included, one executive offered, to make the money work.

Wiggins has yet to sign his contract with the Cavs. Once he does, he can’t be traded for 30 days under league rules.

The wild card in all of this, of course, is James. All executives and coaches polled believe if James wants Love, the Cavs will make whatever deal is necessary to obtain him. Love is only 25, after all, and is reportedly amenable to signing long term in Cleveland now that James has returned.

But James was in Brazil over the weekend for the World Cup and has believed to have had minimal contact with the Cavs since releasing his letter announcing his return home.

For now, the Cavs, Warriors and Timberwolves have formed a triangular staredown that could drag all the way into training camp and beyond.