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Discussions with Myself: Kyrie vs Wiggins

Debating the merits of an Andrew Wiggins and Kyrie Irving trade

Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The transcript below is a conversation between Josh Clement and Josh Clement on the theoretical Kyrie Irving - Andrew Wiggins trade. The conversation has been lightly edited

So, trading Kyrie Irving for Andrew Wiggins seems to be on the table. What should the Wolves do and how should we think about this trade?

I have no idea. But, Kyrie is obviously a great point guard, is only 25, and is a de facto “Star” in a league where stars drive team success. He would give the Wolves a star a point guard, wing, and center and create a big three of Irving, Jimmy Butler, and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Championships are won with Stars. The Wolves would have them.

Right, that all sounds good, but there is also some baggage coming along with Kyrie? I mean, this is not a great look for him if he wants to leave LeBron and another run at the championship with the Cavs. Did we not learn our lesson with Stephon Marbury?

Well, that is the other side of the argument. Kyrie could damage the locker room situation of the Wolves and I have no idea if he would listen to Thibs shouting at him all game, every game. Wiggins also seems much more comfortable settling into the third banana role behind Jimmy and Towns, which would allow him to more organically grow his game and skill-set for the first time in his career.

Well what makes Kyrie and Wiggins different?

That is the odd part about this, as they both have similarly focused skill sets, i.e an offensively gifted player who does not create much for their teammates and has a bad defensive reputation. With Wiggins at least, there is the hope (and belief from a lot of smart NBA folks) that he can improve on defense. With Kyrie, we are pretty sure that is not going to happen. The other part is that with Wiggins, you are hoping he improves in a few key areas like defense, passing, and playmaking that he has shown some improvements (albeit gradual ones) already.

If we trade Wiggins for Kyrie, you are hoping that Kyrie will do things that he has never shown he can/will do. He has never really been a facilitator and he will certainly be taking the ball out of Jimmy and Towns’ hands. Ricky Rubio he is not.

So we should keep Wiggins then? He should surely improve to close to the level of Kyrie, if not all the way there, and he has potential to at least to a positive/non-negative on defense.

Ascertaining Wiggins’ trajectory is tricky. Of course, advanced statistics are not everything, but a lot of people are concerned about his development simply from a numbers perspective. His statistical profile is more akin to Michael Beasley or Rudy Gay rather than a Paul George type. Good players often get better early on in their careers, particularly in their advanced statistics. Of every All-Star player in the last decade (a sample of about 65 players), there is only one player who has had as bad of a first three years in term of advanced statistics, which is the fabled Wiggins-destiny of DeMar DeRozan.

Add onto all of this, we are about to pay Wiggins a max deal, which would be around $25 million or so per year. If he never develops into a Star or almost-Star, that is a bad deal.

So we should trade Wiggins and get out of that contract?

Maybe. The Wolves would be getting rid of some salary if they trade him, plus salary filler to match Kyrie’s salary. Let’s say the Wolves trade Wiggins, Cole Aldrich, and the 2018 OKC pick for Kyrie. Next year, that saves them about $13 million, as instead of paying Wiggins 25 million and having Aldrich’s 7 million (although that would be likely waived), they just have Kyrie at 19 million.

That seems good! More money is good now that our money is gone!

Yes, but it still leaves Jeff Teague’s contract on the table. That money looks pretty bad if we are also paying Kyrie 19 million. Maybe we can trade Teague, but it’s really hard to trade point guards, as the market isn’t great. Basically, Denver has to be interested in him and the Wolves could get a bunch of bench fluff, which they need as this roster is all over the place.

The part that doesn’t feel good about the financial angle is that this could help them out of a situation that Thibs and Co. put themselves in. Thibs nailed the big move, trading for Jimmy, and that is like 85 percent of a franchise’s success. However, on the other 15 percent, they have not done so great. It’s hard not to think that almost every contract they have dealt out has been an overpay/or was not the right move.

What do you mean about the roster being all over the place?

Well let’s say you get Kyrie with that trade. Then the Wolves basically only have Bigs and point guards. The wings were already a problem and this just makes it worse. This could be solved next offseason, as selling veterans on a Kyrie-Jimmy-Towns trio should be effective, but we have no idea how that would work out.

This is confusing.

Tell me about it. Getting Kyrie also adds more and less risk at the same time. On one hand, you remove the risk of Wiggins being not-great, which is risk alleviation, but you add in on the big risk of Kyrie bolting after two years. Essentially, the same personality that made him ask for a trade to leave the Cavs and LeBron is the same one that could make him chafe at being the third banana behind Jimmy and Towns, not to mention dealing with the taskmaster Thibs.

Is Wiggins going to be sad about this?

I would think so. Wiggins and LaVine seemed close, now the other player who he was supposed to grow with in Towns is theoretically pushing for Wiggins to be traded.

It’s also weird to imagine Wiggins on the Cavs with LeBron. For one, it is low-key hilarious that the Cavs traded Wiggins for Kevin Love, then a few years later might trade Kyrie back for Wiggins.

Also, Wiggins might not do super great in the major spotlight of the Cavs. That does not seem the best fit with his personality right now. One thing that would be sure, when the Wolves play the Cavs we will probably lose in this theoretical future. A super-pissed LeBron with Wiggins playing against a team that traded him will not be great.

Why would Thibs want to do this? Kyrie (and Jamal Crawford for that matter) don’t seem with Thibs’ types of players.

This is the interesting part. Thibs, with his roster moves, seems to really believe in Thibs, if that makes sense. He believes in his vision for the future and his ability to mold players to that vision. If he does not believe that player can work in that future (aka Ricky Rubio and Zach LaVine), those players are moved. Thibs probably believes he can make Kyrie a better defender. The long-term risk is also theoretically alleviated by a chain of trust. Kryie and Jimmy are close. Kyrie trusts Jimmy. Jimmy trusts Thibs and his plan, which then makes Thibs trust Jimmy and Jimmy’s ability to influence Kryie.

I don’t think I know what to think about this.

That makes two (or one) of us.