Heat Check – Wiggins or Love?

Wiggins or Love?
The future or the present?
As trade rumors heat up and the Cavs go about putting together a younger Big Three around LeBron, every question and debate seems centered around the simple idea of Wiggins or Love. Do you go for the future and unknown potential with Wiggins (who could be a star but is pretty raw) or Love (a proven star who has struggled as a primary guy but who rebounds, shoots and scores with reckless abandon).

For me it comes down to a relatively simple idea: if you knew Love would become the player he is today and he was in the 2014 draft would he be taken first? Unquestionably he would be. Teams do not pass on a double double machine who averages 25-13 and can shoot 50-40-90 without blinking. Love has always played on teams plagued by bad luck, injuries and completely incompetent management (Khaaaaaaaaan!). Should he have taken a team to the playoffs? Yes, but in the East he would have, and Kevin Love is definitely good enough to win his team a playoff series. He was playing crunch time minutes for the 2012 Olympic Team and hit nearly every open shot he took. Love is an elite player and it is rare that one passes on an elite player, especially one who is only 25.

The argument for Wiggins hinges completely on his unknown potential. Trades for the number one overall pick are exceptionally rare (Penny for Webber) and are usually made on draft day. Wiggins gives the Cavs more defensively than Love does, and will give LeBron an opportunity to take the first three quarters off on the other team’s best player. Offensively though he will give much less – probably just the occasional thunderous alley-oop. Irving and LeBron both thrive with the ball though, and having someone like Wiggins may be better overall for the team and team chemistry. Additionally, in this increasingly tight salary cap era, Wiggins will make significantly less for three years (probably the next four as well) than Love would. Signing and keeping Wiggins would help keep the Cavs under the cap and eligible to sign other pieces as needed to contend (how much longer is Sideshow Andy going to be great?).

Love though, is a star – not to say that Wiggins may not be. If you have a chance to get Kevin Love, you have to take it. Period. He takes a very good team and makes it a title contender, which is why the Bulls are desperately trying to steal him away at the 11th hour. The Cavs will probably make the move and they will probably get Love which will make them the Eastern Conference favorite. LeBron deserves nothing less than a great team, he is not on the Cavs to waste his prime years.

He is there to win a championship for the city of Cleveland.

The Miami Thrice Title Quest Ends

For the past four years I have passionately followed the Miami Heat, committing to the team when LeBron and Bosh went there to sacrifice in order to win titles.  Now, obviously, that has concluded.  Where does a former Heat fan go now? 

Not to the Cavs – while I will actively root for LeBron to get at least one or two more titles in Cleveland – but I cannot really cheer for a team from Cleveland.  So where does one go from here? 

There are a few possibilities: Portland (closest NBA team) / LA Clippers (who I have seen live twice) / Suns (same thing) / Golden State (geographically close) / other?

There are probably three or so teams that are definitely not in contention: Toronto (legally cannot cheer for any team from Toronto) / LA Lakers (no chance) / Celtics (same) / Indiana (detest them). 

So what criteria should be used to pick a new team?  Back during my choosing an EPL team days I broke it down based on good jerseys, geographic location and a solid place to go.  Over the next little while I think that is where I will go.  Times, they are a-changing, evolve or die. 

Time to pick a new team.

 

Heat Check – The End

As it began – on a national platform (albeit a smaller one this time…) – it ends as LeBron James went on SI.com and announced he was going to be returning to Cleveland. 

He says, in the article, that there was nowhere other than Cleveland or Miami where he would play and after a lot of time to think about his family and what is best for them.  The decision this time is obviously about coming home – and winning a championship that means so much more than almost any other. 

However…and it is a big however, he is leaving a team that made the finals 4 straight years to go to one that certainly is not ready at all.  He is sacrificing his chance to win now for a chance to win in the future (if Wiggins / Bennett etc can come along) and playing with a team where the players can actually get better and not simply decline.  Not many players (exception alert: Kobe!) give up sure things.  LeBron wants to win but he is missing an opportunity now.  Who else is going to move with Bron?  Does Bosh go and join him?  Or possibly Kevin Love?  If LeBron wants to win now would Cleveland be willing to sacrifice Wiggins?  Simply incredible. 

So what happens now? 

Bosh likely goes to Cleveland or Houston, Kevin Love may be on the table now, Melo probably goes to Chicago for a chance to win a title next year and Cleveland becomes the place to go for free agents.  Simply astounding. 

Miami and DWade now have the worst possible scenario: this is the end for them.  They are shackled to Wade – who literally did everything he could to try and get LeBron to sign there (even going to Vegas and then his flight to Miami) – and have to give him a deal because he knows where the bodies are buried.  This is probably the end for Wade and there is no way he can possibly carry a team any more at this stage of his career.  Get ready for iso Wade Miami fans as well as a horrific max deal that will give them no flexibility (and keeping Haslem around).  Yikes the future is not bright.

Suddenly Bron opting out was not a sign that the Heat were committed to keeping it all together, but rather the beginning of the end.  Amazing – Bosh does not sign there for any amount of money.  A new day for the NBA and a new favorite may emerge.  How many titles will Durant win or Rose in the interim?  Could the Clippers steal one? 

Once again LeBron has dramatically changed the NBA with his free agency – something Jordan and Kobe can not claim.

 

Heat Check – Free Agency Gambling

Welcome once again to free agency gambling!  So many questions have come up: where will Melo sign?; is Melo going to leave crazy money on the table?; is Bosh willing to leave money on the table when there is no way he should?; what in the world is going to happen with D Wade?; and, of course, WWLD Part II?

The insanity has begun and there are huge prizes out there to win – Melo, Bosh and of course LeBron – and there are some players who are going to hold a salary cap hostage much like Kobe has done to the Lakers (cough, Wade, cough). 

Here is what we know so far, LeBron opted out, forcing the rest of the Big Three’s hands and then, when they were all set to make some big sacrifices, LeBron seems to have decided that the other guys were going to sacrifice while he takes the max.  Here is how he sold it to them, “okay, I will take the max, you guys sign for ten mill a year and we will sign Kyle Lowry or Melo for ten mill a year.  Deal?  Sound good?” 

Except there was no chance Lowry was taking that kind of deal, there is no way Bosh deserves to take that kind of deal and there is no way Wade is leaving that much money on the table (and is not signing with Miami as he literally knows where the bodies are buried).  Meanwhile, the Bulls are quietly building a team to win titles (how much more incredible would they be with LeBron?) with Melo, while Houston is suddenly the best place for Chris Bosh to go and have a legitimate chance to win more titles.  Not to mention the fact that Chris Bosh is one of the best players in the league who rightfully deserves to get max money and be properly appreciated. 

The pieces remain in play because until LeBron signs no one else will.  The reason, obviously, because as long as there is a chance to get him, no one will sign anyone else.  Could we potentially see a LeBron / Melo partnership?  Would Cleveland be the place that happens?  Somehow it seems highly improbable that Ms. Melo would want to move there after loving New York, and given how much of a mess the Cavs are, they may not even give LeBron a chance to win titles. 

What happens to the Heat if Bron returns to Cleveland?  They sign Wade to a max deal, shackling themselves to mediocrity for some time going forward, Bosh goes to Houston and probably has a shot at winning more titles than LeBron or Wade. 

Or…

Wade, Bosh and LeBron sign in Miami and in the magically best case scenario manage to convince 2008 Pau Gasol to sign with them for no money.  In that scenario Melo goes to Chicago and suddenly we have a real rivalry in the East (to the devastation of Pacer fans) while the West continues to batter each other. 

The final thing to think about it: LeBron’s legacy depends solely on winning championships at this point, does it really matter where he does that?  What does a third title in say, Cleveland or Phoenix mean versus a third in Miami?  Who will sign where and is this the end of the big three era in Miami and the rise of it in Chicago?