In sports, teams are typically built to win immediately, or they’re built to win in the future.
Neither option guarantees victory, but if you had to bet who’d win quicker, the former is the obvious safer gamble, but for the real high rollers, the latter option is quite enticing.
Just because a team is built overnight with hyped up free agents doesn’t mean they’re going to win it all—case in point, the Miami Heat. Despite putting together arguably the most talented perimeter tandem we’ve ever seen, Miami only won two championships despite being the championship favorites in every season the highly touted Big Three were together.
On the other hand, teams not necessarily built to win immediately can do incredible things. The 2014 Cleveland Cavaliers are clearly an incredibly talented team, but questions still linger over whether they’re truly ready to go all the way in just one season together. People doubt their ability to win it all, but we can’t doubt the fact that they’re unbelievably lucky.
Right now, the Cleveland Cavaliers are the destitute degenerate gambler that’s struck it rich overnight after placing a 10000-1 bet with a $10 dollar bill.
In one offseason, Cleveland landed the consensus number one overall pick in Andrew Wiggins, and they welcomed back their prodigal son, LeBron James—the most undeniably talented player on the planet let alone the NBA.
They’ve stockpiled talent in recent years via the draft, but now with the potential to land one more powerful piece, do they gamble yet again, or do they stick to their guns and see how their youngsters pan out?
There’s a lot of talk swirling around the league concerning the eventual landing spot of Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love. On paper, acquiring Love by trading multiple assets is a no-brainer; some might even say it’s worth trading a future superstar.
Considering Love has averaged 19 points and 12 rebounds for his career, acquiring a guaranteed 20-point double-double guy for unproven prospect seems like a done deal, but when you look deeper, it’s easy to see why it’s worth gambling if you’re the Cavs.
If you’re Cleveland, don’t be bamboozled by the advanced metrics, stats, and hype surrounding Love.
Granted, he’s a great player, but the fact remains that most of the talking heads hyping up Love have never seen him play. They’re blinded by the numbers, and while the numbers are pretty cool, anyone that’s seen him play knows he’s nothing more than an above average player doing all of the heavy lifting for a tremendously mediocre squad.
Yes, he’s a great shooter; he moves off the ball; he rebounds and puts the ball back in the bucket with deftness, and he sets brilliant screens while making some outstanding outlet passes to trigger the break. However, his defense is deplorable, and the fact remains that if you attempt to acquire him as Cleveland, you’re probably going to have to give up Andrew Wiggins.
Ok, so Love isn’t as good as he’s hyped, but what’s the case for Wiggins?
While Wiggins had a pedestrian year at Kansas, you don’t draft him for the present, you draft Wiggins because of the potential he has to be a superstar. Wiggins greatest strengths are his ability to move without the ball, finishing in transition and off of putbacks, and flexing impressive defensive prowess on and off the ball.
At Kansas, Andrew averaged a respectable 17 points, nearly six boards and almost two assists per game. While he was praised for his aforementioned skills, he was also criticized for his lack of assertiveness and limited offensive moves. However, those who are quick to cut the young man down should keep in mind that the college game and the pro game are vastly different.
Teams in college can pack the paint and play a little more physical—although this past season college officials were calling armbars and handchecks more than past years, it’s still a much more physical game. That means it’s easier to shutdown the paint and force raw players like Wiggins to rely on their jumpers more often than they’d like to. While the number two overall pick, a Duke product named Jabari Parker, was often lauded by many as the most NBA-ready prospect, Wiggins was drafted because of his ability to become a world-class complementary piece rather than the ball dominant scorer Parker is expected to be at the next level.
Thanks to the NBA Las Vegas Summer League, however, we’ve been able to see a little more of Wiggins’ game. Wiggins averaged a respectable 16 points in 30 minutes of time with four boards, one block and one steal per game. These are very, very respectable numbers, and they’re indicative of how great Wiggins already looks. There were times where his defensive presence was absolutely smothering, and because of his versatility, it’s clear as day why Cleveland made him number one.
Despite the summer league games and the brief Kansas campaign, we still haven’t seen Wiggins on the floor with real NBA veterans, and we don’t know how his body will react to the strenuous grind of an NBA season. Despite everything we’ve seen so far, Wiggins is still an unknown entity; he’s still that hopeful wager the Cavs organization is hoping will payout big time.
On the other hand, we know what Kevin Love is. Love is probably going to do the same things he’s always done: rebound, outlet and shoot. He’s not a superstar, but he’s pretty good, but more than that, he’s safer to bet on—he’s a proven commodity.
Right now, Wiggins has all of the tools to be an elite wingman, but the Cavs won’t know unless they gamble and keep him on their roster.
Sometimes it seems safe to hedge your bets—take the guaranteed money; you don’t want risk losing everything on a pipe dream.
Here’s the thing: Wiggins isn’t a pipe dream; he’s a guy with superstar tools that needs a little time to make mistakes as well as the opportunity to make his mark on a league that still doesn’t know him all too well.
It’s time for Cleveland to man up and put the house on Wiggins because if there was ever a time to gamble, this is it.