Four years ago, the Timberwolves traded Kevin Love to the Cavaliers and received rookie No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins as the main piece in return. Both players have had ups and downs since then, but both are signed with their teams for the next five years for roughly the same amount of money.
The question today is this: If you were the Timberwolves, would you rather have Wiggins or Love at that price (close to $30 million a year) for the next five seasons?
First take: Michael Rand
This might seem like a strange position from me given that I’ve been critical of Wiggins and encouraged a trade in the past, but I think in the Wolves’ specific situation I would rather have Wiggins than Love long-term.
Love is more proven and has made five All-Star teams, but he will also be 30 in September. I’d rather roll the dice on Wiggins’ potential peak years than Love’s likely decline years.
Chris Hine: Pardon me while I pull out my fancy stats. Kevin Love contributed 6.4 win shares each of the past two seasons for the Cavaliers while playing in 119 of a possible 164 games. Andrew Wiggins played in all 164 games and had a combined win share total of 6.3 the past two seasons.
In this very hypothetical situation, I wonder what would best suit the needs of the Wolves in the next few seasons. If the Wolves want to keep Jimmy Butler around and build around him and Karl-Anthony Towns, Love and his 41.5 percent three-point shooting last season might be a better fit than Wiggins and his 33.1 percent.
Rand: The real intrigue with this question is that I think in the very short term Love would be a better fit. Uniting Love with Butler and Towns next season — an important year for both the franchise and Tom Thibodeau — would probably produce a better Wolves team than one with Wiggins.
But what happens if Butler leaves in free agency after next season? You’re left to build around an aging power forward with a history of injuries and an offensive-minded center. Good luck stopping opposing teams, and hello, lottery.
Hine: If Butler leaves and Wiggins doesn’t pan out, then you’re back in the lottery anyway. And did you see how much the Wolves defense struggled last season, especially when Butler went down? Why not just go for broke if you’re going to get better three-point shooting? It’s not as if Wiggins is a defensive stopper (yet).
I tend to agree that I’d rather have Wiggins at this stage in his career than Love at his, but it all depends on what time frame you’re looking at if you’re the Wolves. Realistically, you’re not winning a title next season, but you also need to convince those building blocks for a potential title that you’re moving in the right direction. So short-term success is still important.
Rand: But they can still have relative short-term success next year with Wiggins, and I would argue he would still be a more tradable asset than Love down the road if a rebuild is necessary. That might be the difference between a couple of years in the lottery and the spiral of despair Wolves fans know all too well.
Last word: Chris Hine
Those sound like wonderful options.
More Rand: startribune.com/RandBall
More Hine: startribune.com/NorthScore