Former coach Lenny Wilkens thinks if the Cavaliers have a shot at Timberwolves star Kevin Love, they should go for it — even if it means trading Andrew Wiggins.
"I’d do it in a heartbeat," Wilkens told Cleveland radio hosts Adam "the Bull" and Dustin Fox in an interview with 92.3 The Fan on Wednesday.
A potential deal centered on Love and Wiggins has been a hot topic around the NBA lately, with the Cavs and Timberwolves reportedly conducting on-again-off-again trade talks. The Cavs supposedly do not want to trade Wiggins, the No. 1 overall pick in June’s draft, in a deal for Love.
But Wilkens indicated the Cavs should have no issue making such a trade.
"Nothing against Wiggins … sometimes you have to do those things," Wilkens told The Fan. "There would be no hesitation on my part."
Wilkens played point guard for the Cavs from 1972-74 and coached the team during the cherished era of Brad Daugherty, Mark Price and Larry Nance (1986-93).
He also coached the Seattle SuperSonics to an NBA championship in 1979 and was an assistant under Chuck Daly with the original Dream Team in the 1992 Olympics. Wilkens was later head coach of the 1996 Olympic team that won a gold medal. He is just one of one of three people to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as both a player and coach.
Wilkens compared the Cavs’ current situation to when the team traded point guard Kevin Johnson to Phoenix in a deal for Nance in 1988. Johnson went on to become a star for the Suns, but Nance proved to be a better (and bigger) fit for the Cavs. "It really helped us," Wilkens said of the trade.
Love, 25, has spent six seasons in the NBA and is considered by some to be the league’s best power forward. He is coming off a season in which he averaged 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds.
He also has several ties to the Cavs’ main players, appearing in Kyrie Irving’s "Uncle Drew" commercial and winning a gold medal with LeBron James and Team USA in the 2012 Olympics. He has indicated he will not sign a contract extension with the Timberwolves after the 2014-15 season, prompting part-owner and coach Flip Saunders to explore the idea of trading him.
Wiggins, 19, is a 6-foot-8 swingman who played one season at Kansas University before entering the draft. He is currently a member of the Cavs’ summer-league team in Las Vegas and is averaging 13.7 points in three games.
New Cavs coach David Blatt has gone on record saying he doesn’t expect Wiggins to be traded.
"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 last weekend in Las Vegas.
Still, some around the league believe if the Cavs want Love, they may eventually have to part with Wiggins.
"I’m sure that’s why (the Cavs and Timberwolves) are talking," Wilkens said. "We’ll see what happens."
Wilkens addressed several other topics, including James’ celebrated return to the team that drafted him.
"I’m happy for him," Wilkens said. "If he can win (a championship in Cleveland), it’d be great. They have some of the greatest fans in the NBA there. I hope it can happen. He’s matured into a real fine basketball player, and most importantly, a real fine person."
Wilkens also offered high praise for Irving.
"Oh, I like him," Wilkens said when Irving was mentioned. "Kyrie Irving is just an outstanding player. He has an upside coming."
As for Blatt, Wilkens said he didn’t think it will be an issue that Blatt has only coached overseas and is just now making his debut in the NBA.
"There are few things in the world that are universal, (but) basketball is one of them," Wilkens said. "So him being over there, that didn’t hurt him. It’s an adjustment but it’s an adjustment that can be made."
Wilkens, 76, retired as a coach in 2005 after a stint with the Knicks. He has lived in the Seattle area since.