It was the spring of 2013 and every college basketball fan was waiting for Andrew Wiggins to pick a team. Florida State, Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky were all in play. We didn’t know which team he would pick — my best guess was Kansas or Kentucky — but we did know one thing: Wiggins was going to make his future college hoops team a title contender.
After all, this was Andrew Wiggins, the most buzzed-about high school player since LeBron James.
Wiggins would go on to play for the Jayhawks, and although he was an unfinished product at the college level (17.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG), he still had mad potential entering the 2014 NBA Draft. The Cleveland Cavaliers picking him No. 1 overall proved that.
Fast forward to well, now, and Wiggins hasn’t even played a regular season game, yet he is already being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves. That has to be a major confidence booster.
Wiggins went all the way from basically being the most talented prospect since LeBron James to a player being traded because LeBron James wanted someone else on his team. Ouch.
We won’t officially know until a season or two down the road, and probably longer than that, but this is going to turn out to be both the best and worst thing that could have happened to the young Wiggins at age 19.
By staying with the Cavaliers, Wiggins would have gotten to play with Kyrie Irving (a top point guard in the NBA), Anthony Bennett (2013 No. 1 overall draft pick), other talents and of course, King James.
For what it’s worth, that Cavaliers team would have rocked four overall No. 1 picks when the players took the court. Bennett, Irving, Wiggins and James were all picked No. 1 in the draft at one time or another.
Instead, Cleveland chose to give up two of those No. 1 picks — the most recent ones — and will be bringing in Kevin Love. Best power forward in the game or not, that is risky business.
This is bad for Wiggins because he won’t get to play alongside the best player in the world. He also won’t get to instantly compete for a title; Believe it or not, James would make any team a title contender, and Cleveland is no exception.
In short, you couldn’t have planned it any better as far as Wiggins’ entry into the league goes, but that’s no longer in the cards for him. Instead of competing for a title in Year 1 and learning next to the best player in the NBA, Wiggins had his talents shipped to Minnesota, a team that doesn’t get much recognition and is in no shape to compete right now.
There is some good, though. Zach LaVine and Glenn Robinson III joined the team via the 2014 NBA Draft this summer. LaVine, if he meets his very high ceiling, could be the steal of the draft. Robinson III is as athletic as they come but, like all rookies, has plenty that he needs to work on.
Ricky Rubio is also the starting point guard, which has to count for something. There are other pieces on the team as well (ie. Anthony Bennett). That’s not the point, though — the point is Minnesota no longer has a true star (prove me wrong, Rubio).
Playing alongside LeBron and Irving would have clearly made life on Wiggins easy, but it also could have made life on him too easy. In Minnesota, Wiggins has to come up big right away. Well, unless if he plans on the Timberwolves being a non-playoff contender as usual.
Wiggins is basically forced to be a star from the get-go. Although Minnesota’s fans aren’t as cruel as other fanbases, they will still expect to see a star emerge this upcoming season.
At least Minnesota wants Wiggins, though. Cleveland wanted Love. At the end of the day, both teams essentially got what they wanted. Wiggins may not compete for a title tomorrow, but he could be the man in Minnesota in the future.
Love has been known to be a double-double machine (19.2 PPG and 12.2 RPG for his career), and the Cavaliers know exactly what they are getting from him. Consider this question: Is Wiggins a 26-plus PPG, 12-plus RPG type of player that Love was this past season? He will probably never become that.
His athleticism, all-around great game, height, talent and ridiculous potential may never lead to him putting up Love-type numbers. However, unlike Love, all of the attributes listed above could lead to Wiggins not only becoming the next star in Minnesota, but also lead to something Love was never able to accomplish: Leading the Timberwolves to an NBA playoff appearance.
Strong supporting cast or not, Wiggins had Tim Tebow-like buzz entering his first college basketball season because of what he is capable of becoming, and what he is capable of becoming is best fit in a Timberwolves jersey.
So, kid, you don’t get to play ball with the King in Cleveland, but you do get to make your own mark on the game in Minnesota. Not a bad trade off.