LeBron James changed the entire landscape of the NBA last Friday when he decided to return home to the Cleveland Cavaliers. James left the Miami Heat after appearing in four consecutive NBA Finals, and winning two of them. There was a lot of speculation James would ultimately return home after the entire Heat roster fell apart in June’s NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs appeared to handle the two-time defending champions with ease.That did not sit well with James, as he had to most of the work when Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh had minimal impact on the series. James looked at this team and then looked to a team that was being built since his departure in Cleveland, and chose the up-and-coming Cavaliers.
Last year, the Cavs had a disappointing season and went 33-49 and missed the playoffs in the much weaker Eastern Conference. However, their disappointment last year led them to winning the draft lottery for the third time in the past four years and taking Kansas highly-touted freshman Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins joins former number one picks Kyrie Irving (2011) and last year’s number one Anthony Bennett. The latter is coming off an awful rookie season. In addition to Irving and Bennett, the Cavs also have lottery picks Tristan Thompson, Dion Waters, and veteran Anderson Varejao, LeBron’s former teammate in Cleveland. They’ve also signed shooter Mike Miller, another former teammate of LeBron in Miami during their two championship seasons. This roster is already very talented and was likely to make the playoffs even without LeBron. Add The King to this young team and there could be magical seasons ahead for Cleveland.
Kyrie Irving was supposed to be the franchise player when he was picked number one in 2011, though it has not panned out that way so far in his career. He’s been productive (18.5 PPG and 5.4 APG), but since he’s been in the league, he has yet to reach the playoffs. Tristan Thompson has talent but has only averaged 8.2 points and 6.5 rebounds, numbers that will need to improve to justify his selection at number four in 2011 (though he was slightly more productive last year). Dion Waiters went fourth in 2012 and did pretty well last season (15.9 PPG) and can provide great scoring ability off the bench. Anthony Bennett will improve because he can’t get worse. There is a lot of talent in this young man, but he was simply not ready for the NBA after one year at UNLV. Then there’s Andrew Wiggins, an incredible athlete who appears to be raw, as there were games at Kansas where he did not live up to be the top recruit in 2013. He can develop a great offensive game, but right now, he is a lockdown wing defender. However, there were games where we were able to see what he could be. The comparisons to LeBron James out of high school were unfair because there is only one LeBron James, and he’s coming to this team.
There is so much talent, albeit young and raw, on this team. Throw in an 11-year now veteran LeBron James, the best basketball player on the planet, and Cleveland may have something really special. Las Vegas made the Cavs the betting favorite going into the season, though LeBron himself believes that’s unreasonable as he alluded to in his great Sports Illustrated letter. There are talks of moving Andrew Wiggins to the Timberwolves for Kevin Love, a double-double machine. Love averaged 26 PPG and 12 RPG though his team failed to reach the playoffs. It’s not unreasonable to see why Cleveland wants him. If he were to come to the Cavs, that could elevate them to a championship team. However, Kevin Love isn’t nearly the defender Wiggins is or will be. Adding Love doesn’t automatically get them a championship. Sure it gives them a better chance to win now, but they need to look at why LeBron left Miami. Just look at the NBA Finals where LeBron was exhausted from consistently defending the opposing team’s best offensive player. Andrew Wiggins isn’t there quite yet at LeBron’s level defensively, but he can be, and who better to teach him than the man himself? LeBron on the floor makes everyone better: his presence will everyone get better looks at shots and no one will get double-teamed when he is in the game. Love makes them more potent offensively, but they can score a lot already, they need to sure up things on the defensive side.
It may be awfully tempting to make the deal for Kevin Love. He’s only 25 and he is one of the most productive players in the NBA. They need to look at what they would be giving up. Andrew Wiggins can be a superstar in this league and that combined with what he can do defensively next year is why he is more valuable than Kevin Love. Keep Wiggins, be patient, let LeBron teach this team, and look to the future Cleveland. It will be more than worth the wait.