Bill Simmons rates Kevin Love’s Value to Cleveland Cavaliers

kevin-love-cleveland-cavsThe Kevin Love trade between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves isn’t officially completed yet. However, the two teams are merely waiting on a league-rule formality, where rookie Andrew Wiggins can’t be traded until 30 days after signing his contract (August 23rd). Once the 23rd hits, Love will be shipped to Cleveland and Minnesota will receive Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a protected 2015 first-round pick.

So it’s almost a done deal that the Cavs are set to boast a Big 3 of Love, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. But is Love the missing piece that will bring a championship to LeBron’s homecoming?

Skeptics point to the fact that the 6’10” power forward has never been on a winning NBA team. Nor does he play good defense or protect the rim, two ingredients that the Cavs could truly use on their path towards an NBA title. So if you’re interested in making a 2014 Cleveland Cavaliers futures bet (they carry 3-to-1 odds at our sportsbook), these are legitimate concerns. However, it’s impossible to look past what Love does bring to the table:

1. Amazing 3-point shooting for a big man (37.6% on 6.6 attempts per game last year).
2. The league’s best rebounder (12.5 RPG last season).
3. Great all-around scoring (26.1 PPG last year).

There’s no denying that Love is a piece that any team would covet on their roster. The only question is if he’s got the resolve and defense to be a champion.

Famed sports writer Bill Simmons recently dove into the polarizing Love debate over at Grantland. In this lengthy column, Simmons examines the good and the bad of this superstar.

One important aspect that he really dives into is just how mismanaged the Timberwolves were during Love’s six years in Minnesota. Infamous GM David Kahn made a number of blundering moves in his tenure, including the following:

– Passing on Stephen Curry twice for two lesser point guards (Ricky Rubio, Johnny Flynn) in 2009.
– Drafting under-performing forward Wesley Johnson with the fourth overall pick in 2010.
– Drafting Derrick Williams, who also plays power forward, with the second overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
– Trading Al Jefferson for two non-lottery picks.
– Blowing cap space on Brandon Roy, Martell Webster and Darko Milicic.

kevin-love-cleveland-cavs kevin-love-cleveland-cavs-1While all of these moves were really bad, they may be trumped by the fact that Kahn avoided giving Love a 5-year extension in 2012 – instead saving it for Rubio. What Love got was a four-year deal with an option to opt out on the final season.

Simmons also points out how Love played with zero All-Star teammates, and two of Minnesota’s best players, Rubio and Jefferson, lost a season due to ACL tears. Based on everything that went wrong in Minnesota, Simmons comes to the following conclusion about Love’s value:

Until I started researching this column, I believed that Love had to be overrated because of his 0-0 playoff record. And actually, he’s underrated. Everything he accomplished on that forgettably broken Minnesota team was BETTER than I thought. It’s all about perception, right? Barkley’s 1989 and 1990 seasons were better than his first Phoenix season, but he stole the MVP from Jordan because WE thought Barkley was better that year. Why did we think that? Because Barkley landed on a futuristic small-ball juggernaut with a devastating point guard (Kevin Johnson) and two terrific long-range shooters who spread the floor (Dan Majerle and Danny Ainge). His subpar defense didn’t matter because that team was built to win offensively. They just played hard and tried to outscore everyone. (And for that one season, they almost did.)

It’s not rocket science. Put a very good basketball player in a great situation and he’s going to thrive. Everyone knows what Cleveland acquired. But was about Love? He acquired the world’s best player, a talented point guard, a heat-check scorer, a decent group of role players and an intriguing twist to the “Uncle Drew” franchise. He won’t have to settle for 24-footers because he’s tired of being double-teamed. He can do what he does best — rebound, play the inside-outside game, throw outlets and rebound some more.

As you can see, there are some Charles Barkley comparisons in Simmons’ article, paralleling how Sir Charles went from a less-talented team/bumbling front office in Philadelphia to an offensively stocked Phoenix Suns club in 1992. Love is going to an even better situation in Cleveland since he’ll be playing alongside the NBA’s greatest player. Plus, Irving, who won the All-Star MVP award last season, doesn’t make a bad third option.

Championships are never a given in the NBA – just look at the 2003-04 L.A. Lakers, which boasted Shaq, Kobe, Gary Payton and Karl Malone, for evidence of this. But with the offseason additions of LeBron and Love, predictions of a Cleveland NBA title are fairly deserved.

Andrew Wiggins Trade Rumors are just that for Now

andrew-wiggins-minnesota-tradeLast week, the biggest news surrounding the NBA was LeBron James’ return to Cleveland. This week, it’s been the constant back-and-forth speculation over whether Andrew Wiggins will remain a Cavalier when the season starts or be shipped to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a trade package for 3-time NBA All-Star Kevin Love.

Initially, new head coach David Blatt said that there was no way Wiggins would be included in any trade. “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,” Blatt said.

More recently, though, it was thought that Cleveland had changed their tune after widespread reports emerged that the Cavs are willing to trade Wiggins for Love. These reports drew upon an article by Cleveland Morning Journal writer Bob Finnan, who wrote the following:

Up until this point, it was assumed the Cavs wanted to hang onto Wiggins, largely because of comments made by Coach David Blatt. However, a source said James wants the 6-10, 250-pound Love on the roster. And, what James wants, he normally gets.

The thinking is that Wiggins is going to be a very good player, a possible All-Star player, in time. But he’s raw. He’s a long way away from reaching that potential. Love is an All-Star caliber player now. The union of James, Kyrie Irving and Love could be a championship in the making.

kevin-love-minnesota-timberwolvesFinnan added that the full deal for Love could include Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a first-round pick. However, it’s worth adding that until anything is made official, the sudden reversal on not trading Wiggins is straight from the rumor mill. In an Associated Press article written by Jon Krawcyznski, two league sources say that Cleveland’s refusal to include the 19-year-old in any deal stands. Here’s a look at an excerpt from Krawcyznski’s article:

But two people familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that the Cavaliers’ position has remained unchanged and that no offer including Wiggins has been made to Minnesota. The people requested anonymity because neither team was publicly commenting on trade talks.

“Rumors are rumors. That’s why they call them rumors,” Cavs coach David Blatt said. “Sooner or later in one’s career, you’re going to have to deal with it. If he has to deal with it now, then so be it. It’s summer league. He’s learning everything as he goes along.”

Original trade rumors had the Cavs offering Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and a number one pick to Minnesota for Love. However, word had it that the Timberwolves countered by wanting Wiggins included in any potential deal.

andrew-wiggins-minnesota-trade-1Assuming what’s been said about Cleveland not wanting to trade Wiggins is true, it’s easy to see why. The Toronto native is currently having a good summer league, averaging 15.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG and 1.5 BPG in four contests so far. He’s also displayed some incredible athleticism on dunks and blocked shots, foreshadowing the dominating two-way player that he could one day become.

However, those who favor getting a Kevin Love deal done as quickly as possible point out that Wiggins is only shooting 40.2% from the field through four games. Furthermore, he may not be polished enough just yet to serve as an immediate star during LeBron’s unknown tenure in Cleveland.

By getting Love, the Cavs ensure that they’re an immediate favorite in the East and potentially to win the NBA Championship. The 6’10” power forward averaged 26.1 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 4.4 APG and shot 37.6% from the three-point line. Love is actually the only player in NBA history to average over 26 PPG, 12 RPG, 4 APG and make 190 three-pointers.

Given his versatility, Minnesota knows that they have a great asset for any team that wants to trade. However, their leverage in any kind of deal may be sliding because Love has announced that he won’t re-sign with the Timberwolves next summer. This leaves the team needing to get rid of Love by the mid-season trade deadline or take a chance on improving as a team and hoping that the star reconsiders his previous statement.

Jabari Parker to Cavaliers at Number 1?

andrew-wiggins-jabari-parkerUp until a few days ago, the general consensus among NBA Draft watchers was that the Cleveland Cavaliers were going to take Joel Embiid number one. Despite lingering questions about his back, the Kansas 7-footer looks like a dream prospect who can run the floor, play defense, score points and even hit the occasional three-pointer. Unfortunately, Embiid’s recent stress fracture has thrown his draft status into limbo because he’ll be out for the next 4-6 months.

So who are the Cavaliers targeting now just days before the 2014 NBA Draft takes place on June 26th? Many experts have went back and forth between Kansas small forward Andrew Wiggins and Duke combo forward Jabari Parker. Wiggins has all of the upside and athleticism in the world, but scouts aren’t sure if he’ll display all of this potential in his first NBA season or two. Parker doesn’t have quite the athleticism of Wiggins, but he’s seen as the safe choice who’s already NBA-ready.

The main thing to remember here is that the Cavs already took a big chance on UNLV’s Anthony Bennett last year. The jury isn’t out on Bennett yet after one season, however, he did play pretty terribly after averaging 4.2 PPG on 34.5 shooting and 24.5% from beyond the arc. Based on his poor play, Bennett even spent significant time in the D League.

andrew-wiggins-not-number-one-1Cleveland isn’t looking to misfire on another pick nor are they content to miss the postseason yet again. And according to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, we shouldn’t expect the Cavs to trade the top pick as Berger wrote:

With Joel Embiid’s foot surgery, and the reported 4-6 month recovery that comes with it, the Cavs are said to be leaning toward Duke’s Jabari Parker with the No. 1 pick. Parker is more NBA-ready than Andrew Wiggins, who would go to the Bucks at No. 2. Rival executives believe it would be out of character for Cleveland GM David Griffin to trade the top pick, and believe Bucks GM John Hammond would be hard-pressed to deviate from the other consensus top player in the draft after Embiid’s injury shook up the top of the lottery.

Once again, the Cavaliers are a team that wants to win now so taking Parker, who averaged 19.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG at Duke, would certainly make sense. But if you’re drafting by position, Parker adds to the logjam that Cleveland already has at power forward. Bennett sometimes plays there, as does Tristan Thompson, who averaged 11.7 PPG and 9.2 RPG.

Parker can play both forward spots, although he may not be quite quick enough to keep up with some of the NBA’s more-athletic starting small forwards. Bennett can also play small jabari-parker-draftforward, but as mentioned before, his upside is questionable at this point. Drafting Wiggins would put the 6’8″, 200-pounder at small forward while still keeping Thompson on the floor as much as possible. Furthermore, Bennett could come off of the bench and continue his development, however far that goes.

Let’s visit our original question of who’s going first overall one more time. The rumors that Berger has heard seem to indicate Parker would go first. However, popular mock draft sites such as HoopsHabit and DraftExpress like Cleveland to take the upside pick in Wiggins. If anything is clear at this point, it’s that nobody really knows what the Cavs will do. Who knows…maybe Cleveland will pull another shocker like they did last year with Bennett by taking Australian PG Dante Exum or even Embiid still. But after the way Bennett’s rookie season turned out, don’t count on a complete surprise.

Don’t expect Cleveland Cavaliers to re-sign Luol Deng this Summer

luol-deng-clevelandFor once this year, the Cleveland Cavaliers are in an enviable position. After a season met with considerable disappointment, they grabbed the number-one overall pick for the second year in a row. Now, Cleveland has their choice between Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, among several other talented potential top selections. That said, the need to sign versatile forward Luol Deng doesn’t seem very high in The Forest City.

According to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal, the Cavaliers haven’t made much of an effort to bring Deng back. Here’s one excerpt from Lloyd’s article:

Yahoo Sports reported Thursday that the Cavs could increase their chances of retaining free agent Luol Deng should they hire Griffin to be their coach, but the Cavs tried trading Deng at the trade deadline three months ago and haven’t expressed much interest in bringing him back.

Why wouldn’t Cleveland want Deng?

luol-deng-cleveland-1Deng is a two-time NBA All-Star who’s averaged 16.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 1.0 SPG over his 9-year career. More importantly, Cleveland was a better team with Deng on the squad as they went 20-20 after the trade that brought him over from the Chicago Bulls. This is quite an accomplishment for a team that finished the season just 33-49, missing the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference.

So why not do whatever it takes to bring a good all-around player like this back? For starters, Deng is going to command a lot of money in this summer’s free agent market. And while Cleveland has cap space to cover Deng’s salary demands, they’re more likely to hold out for another star.

After all, the former Bull has never been the type of player who carries a team and consistently takes the big shot. As we covered before, Deng can certainly make a team far better, as he did in Cleveland. But the Cavs already have very good players in Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. What they’re looking for is another dynamic star to pair with Kyrie Irving.

Given that landing LeBron James is still a possibility, Cleveland may let Deng go without a fight and focus on developing their latest top pick and last year’s first selection, Anthony Bennett. Sure, this doesn’t exactly equate to a banner 2015 season, where Cleveland Cavaliers betting will be a hot trend. But it sets them up for years of future success, especially if they can sign Irving to an extension.

Deng won’t miss Cleveland

adrian-griffin-cavs-coaching-candidateIf the Cavs continue down the road of not paying Deng much attention, don’t expect the small forward to pine for fishing trips and long walks on Lake Erie. He went from a very competitive environment in Chicago last year to a more dysfunctional one in Cleveland.

Much of this stemmed from the lack of control that coach Mike Brown had over the team. Deng was rumored to have told a friend that players were taking their uniform tops off at halftime and threatening not to play, getting thrown out of practice, mouthing off to Brown, and generally not being held accountable. One perfect instance of the latter was when Waiters got kicked out of practice one day, then he got to play his normal amount of minutes the following game.

Taking all of this into account, Cleveland’s current search for a coach will include finding somebody who can control and demand respect from the team’s young talent. As Lloyd reported in the aforementioned article, Adrian Griffin (pictured above) was the first candidate interviewed. Griffin, who played nine years in the NBA, has spent time as an assistant for both Scott Skiles (Milwaukee Bucks) and Tom Thibodeau (Chicago Bulls).

Both Skiles and Thibodeau strongly endorse Griffin as a coach, and it’s possible that hiring him could interest Deng in coming back – provided this door isn’t already closed. Other candidates who’ll get interviews with the Cavs include Los Angeles Clippers assistant Tyronn Lue and ex-Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins.

Sources say Cleveland Cavaliers will take Joel Embiid with No. 1 Pick

joel-embiid-number-one-pickThe improbable happened to the Cleveland Cavaliers when they landed the 2014 NBA Draft’s top pick. Boasting just the ninth best odds (1.7% chance) of getting the number-one pick, the ping pong balls bounced Cleveland’s way and gave them the top selection. This is now the second straight year that they’ll be picking first on June 26th.

Last year, Cleveland didn’t do so well in the draft as they took UNLV’s Anthony Bennett number one. This was an unconventional pick, to say the least, as Bennett was already injured at the time and considered a project. He’s still widely considered a project, having averaged 4.2 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 35.6% shooting, and 24.5% three-point shooting. Given these numbers, Bennett could be years away from being a true NBA contributor.

Now, it’s up to new GM David Griffin to succeed where Chris Grant failed so miserably with the number-one pick. Griffin already has a huge advantage because the 2014 NBA Draft talent pool is much, much stronger than 2013’s crop. Some of the names that have been thrown around for this year’s first selection could’ve easily topped the 2013 Draft. Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Dante Exum and Jabari Parker are all potential top choices.

So who does Cleveland have their eye on with a month left before the draft? Initially, it looked like they could be leaning towards Andrew Wiggins. The 6’8″ Canadian has been on the radar of NBA scouts for the past several years and did nothing to hurt his stock with 17.1 PPG and 5.9 RPG at Kansas. Here’s a look at what ESPN’s Chad Ford wrote a few days ago:

Sources in Cleveland say that Wiggins is the likely choice. The team feels he has the most long-term potential, helps them defensively right out of the gate, can replace Dion Waiters in the starting lineup while adding character to the team.

Interestingly enough, though, Wiggins figures to get some heavy competition from his Jayhawks teammate, Joel Embiid (11.1 PPG, 8.8 RPG). The 7-footer really impressed scouts during a workout hosted by the L.A. Clippers. Embiid was so impressive, in fact, that he quickly made Ford change his tune regarding who’s going number one. Here’s a look at what three different writers had to say on the matter:

 joel-embiid-number-one-pick-1Ford – Embiid quickly re-asserting claim to # 1 pick here. Added muscle, still has quick feet & a beautiful jumper. No evidence of back issues. Just spoke with Embiid. Told me his back is 100 percent. Been working out hard for last 3 weeks. Embiid said he’s gained 15 pounds. Up to 265. Still getting back into shape. Got a bit winded in workout but still looked quick & explosive.

Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports – Watching Joel Embiid in workout for league executives in Santa Monica. Impossible to imagine passing on him at No. 1.

Adam Zagoria, SNY.tv – “I did not see any issues with his back,” one veteran NBA scout on hand at the workout told SNY.tv. “He looked very agile and athletic.”

“He looks great,” a second scout said. “Running, jumping, dunking, bent up like a pretzel in warmups and stretching exercises. Had two ex-NBA bigs [Brian Scalabrine and Will Perdue] banging on him underneath. He passed the eyeball test big time. Move him up. “He helped himself today.”

Cleveland already has some good pieces in place to make themselves a playoff-caliber basketball team. And adding a super-talented big man like Embiid could give them the missing piece to become a postseason lock in the East. But then again, so could adding a shooting guard like Wiggins, who already seems NBA-ready. Likewise, many scouts believe that Parker (19.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG) will also make an immediate impact at the next level.

Another option for Cleveland would be trading their top pick. Since the Cavaliers already have enough young talent in Kyrie Irving, Waiters and Tristan Thompson, they would do well to add a veteran All-Star to the mix. But like the three writers above mentioned, Embiid’s talent and potential may be too much to pass up on.

Will the Luol Deng Trade push Cleveland into the Playoffs?

luol-deng-cavs-tradeOver the past couple of weeks, Cleveland Cavaliers center Andrew Bynum has been the league’s hottest trade commodity. And no, it’s certainly not Bynum’s 8.4 PPG and 5.3 RPG that had teams clamoring for his services. Instead, teams merely wanted to sign him and waive him to save salary cap room.

Well, Cleveland finally found a taker for the disappointing center as the Chicago Bulls gave up two-time All-Star Luol Deng in the deal. In exchange, the Bulls save $15 million in salary and taxes this season by trading Deng and cutting Bynum. They also get a bevy of draft picks from the Cavs, including a first-round pick (via Sacramento), and 2015 and 2016 second-round picks (via Portland). It’s clear that Chicago did a good job of at least getting something in return for Deng, who wasn’t expected to re-sign with the Bulls this summer.

But the immediate winner here is no doubt the Cavaliers. This team came into the 2013-14 NBA season with high expectations. Not only did they sign a former All-Star in Bynum, but they also drafted UNLV’s Anthony Bennett number one overall. These two additions, along with Cleveland’s core of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson, were expected to produce the club’s first postseason bid in years.

Instead, what they’ve gotten so far is a 12-23 record and a top pick who’s averaging 2.2 PPG and shooting 27.8% from the field. But the good news is that it’s not too late to turn things around with Deng on the roster.

luol-deng-cavs-trade-1Despite a .343 winning percentage, Cleveland is just 2 and a half games out of a playoff spot. Their chances of making the postseason look even more optimistic when you consider that only three teams really appear to be locks in the weak Eastern Conference.

It’s also worth mentioning that Deng fills the biggest hole on the Cavs’ roster. Irving (22.8PPG, 6.1APG) is a star at point guard, Waiters (15.2PPG, 3.2RPG) is having his best season at shooting guard, Thompson (11.9PPG, 9.8RPG) is a more-than-solid power forward, and Varejao (8.1PPG, 9.6RPG) is still a serviceable center. But their gaping hole has always been Earl Clark and Alonzo Gee trying to fill the small forward role. Both players are shooting less than 40% from the field, and they’re forced to play out of position too.

Enter Deng, who’s averaging 19.0 PPG and 6.9 RPG from the small forward spot. Getting somebody like this to plug in the missing piece of your lineup is huge. More than that, Deng seems to be the guy who’ll finally make Cleveland into a postseason-worthy team. Of course, there’s just one catch here: Deng could only be in a Cavs uniform for half a season.

He’ll definitely test the free agency waters when his contract is up this summer. And with Deng being a 9-year veteran, he’s likely going to want to play for a title contender. But then again, Cleveland could convince Deng that they’re capable of competing for a championship with him in the lineup. Sure this seems like a stretch now, but sometimes one player can dramatically turn around a team’s chemistry.

Above all, the Cavaliers will have plenty of cap space to sign Deng to a long-term deal. Seeing as how many people think that he’ll fetch somewhere in the neighborhood of the 4-year, $48 million contract that Andre Iguodala signed with Golden State last summer, Cleveland can definitely afford to front this bill.