Trading Andrew Wiggins is not a dilemma. It’s a mandate. Why would Dan Gilbert, a dreamer who is trying to save a decrepit downtown Detroit and a businessman who flew his private jet to Florida so he could grovel at the feet of King James, not want to trade Wiggins if it meant acquiring Kevin Love?
Gilbert owns casinos. He has had an incredible run of good luck for his poorly managed basketball team, landing three No. 1 picks in the last four years. Why wouldn’t he cash in his chips for the ultimate jackpot, a superteam that immediately would contend for titles? He already has revealed himself as a hypocrite on the superteam front, fighting against the concept in labor negotiations upon LeBron James’ departure from Cleveland and now trying to form such a juggernaut himself. Let him deal with his conscience.
Simply put, if the Cavaliers keep Wiggins and wait for a raw project to grow up, James will struggle to contend for NBA titles in his championship prime. Before he knows it, he could wake up at 35, look out the window at a pea-soup Ohio sky and wonder why he left South Beach. But if they snare Love, who is willing to brave Cleveland winters for the chance to flirt with history, they become the league’s newest juggernaut NOW, not to mention the biggest story in American sports. I realize Wiggins is a better defensive player at 19 than Love ever will be, and that the Cavs beyond James have issues defensively, but that is the only decent argument against the deal. Love is one of the league’s best scorers and rebounders, a double-double maniac, and he’d be a hungrier and considerably more dangerous complement to James in the, ahem, Chris Bosh role. Kyrie Irving is Dwyane Wade in the equation, though a point guard first.
Presto, you have your powerhouse — much younger than the Heat and capable of much more than James ever would have accomplished moving forward with an aging Wade, an erratic Bosh and a piecemeal supporting cast. It is every basketball coach’s wet dream, and who should inherit the gift but David Blatt, who never has coached in the NBA but has earned raves at the international level while armed with a Princeton pedigree. Is this too big a job for Blatt? Very possibly. Might you start hearing John Calipari’s name if the superteam at all stumbles? Very possibly, knowing James’ relationship with Calipari. Might anti-Blatt vibes start developing once people realize HE was the one who said the Soviet Union deserved the gold medal and not the U.S. in the controversial 1972 Olympic final, which upset Mike Krzyzewski and the American basketball hierarchy? Even Gilbert, in an interview with the Times, suggests Blatt might not have been the choice in June had the Cavs known James was coming in July.
“You look at the whole big picture, and that’s certainly part of the debate,” Gilbert said. “The fact that he didn’t have any experience here is something you raise a question about. But the guy has won 18 championships, and he got Russia to a bronze at the Olympics. It’s always a risk doing something different, but based on our interactions, we thought he’s really going to be successful.”
Imagine Blatt coming in cold and coaching LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. That would seem a job for Phil Jackson, yet some have compared Blatt to Jackson. This would have been a cool job for Krzyzewski 10 years ago, but last week, he told me on my radio show/podcast that he doesn’t regret having never taken an NBA job — not that he hasn’t coached America’s very best NBA players to two Olympic gold medals.
The Love drama is the new fixation of a league that no longer has an offseason. With Wiggins now being offered to Minnesota in a package for Love, Golden State could sabotage LeBron’s grand plan by including Klay Thompson in Timberwolves talks that already involve David Lee and Harrison Barnes. Could be the Warriors give Wolves boss Flip Saunders a better offer.
But Gilbert, the gambler, must up the ante. It may be the difference between winning championships and merely sniffing them.