You now know why Andrew Wiggins was the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA last June. Wiggins is all people expected him to be, a player whose potential dwarfed anybody else the Cleveland Cavaliers could have used that pick on.
Too bad their fans don’t have Wiggins to cheer for, because in all their giddiness over the return of LeBron James, they got caught up in the notion that winning now in the NBA trumped putting together a contender that could compete over the long haul.
As you look at a Cavaliers team with a 20-20 record, you see nothing that suggests it’s competing for anything, aside from another No. 1 overall pick.
The team’s expectations fell victim to impatience, which can be ugly to watch when you look around and see how the Cavaliers mortgaged their future with a bad investment in the present.
That’s what the Cavaliers did when they packaged Wiggins in a deal that brought Kevin Love to town. Now, Love isn’t a bad player. When a person starts counting the stars around the NBA, he will put Love’s name among the Top 10.
For in Love, you’ve acquired a player with double-double credentials, though perhaps his statistics were a bit bloated because he played for a no-account team like the Minnesota Timberwolves before they traded him to Cleveland.
What trading for Love did was cost the Cavaliers dearly.
He cost ’em Wiggins.
Love-for-Wiggins sounded like a good deal, but it never could have been, not when a closer look at Love’s game would have screamed “no, don’t do it.”
Andrew Wiggins, as we’re seeing now, is one of those players who come along infrequently. Those players make a difference; they can turn a maudlin franchise like the Timberwolves or the Cavaliers into one that matters.
Now, Wiggins, 19, is displaying that immense talent, producing big numbers the way Love often did after he burst into the limelight with the T-Wolves. Wiggins is tied to the Timberwolves, unless they trade him, almost until the next century. He brings an electric style to the game that Love lacked.
NBA insiders see the athletic Wiggins as one of the game’s bests for players under 25, and his game should continue to blossom as he gets more experience. What will his game look like when Wiggins hits 25?
What he could be is the next coming of Kobe Bryant, a player whose ranking is still Top 10. That means Wiggins should have a better career than Love ever could, which makes the decision to trade Wiggins a puzzle.
Everything about these Cavs is a puzzle that a man can’t easily put together. The franchise, however, has a history of bad moves, and their inability to temper their zeal to appease the returning LeBron forced them to build for the right now and not for the tomorrow.
The franchise was impatient, as impatience as the Cleveland Browns were with “Johnny Football.” They waited for a quarterback to mature, and they got for their troubles Johnny Manziel, an immature knucklehead.
Neither Love nor Wiggins, one of the NBA’s must-see talents, is a knucklehead. Both can play at a high level. One has experience; one does not, forcing fans to think: win now or win later.
In trading for Love, the Cavaliers made their decision. They picked win now, even if it meant letting the player with the greater upside go elsewhere. From the start, the Love-Wiggins trade carried risks, but it looked like a risk worth taking – till the season started.
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(Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)