Well, it finally happened. All the speculation is now over and we know what the future holds. The Cleveland Cavaliers will be getting Kevin Love in a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves. In return, Minnesota will get back the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft – Andrew Wiggins – the No.1 pick in the 2013 Draft – Anthony Bennett – and a first rounder.
Of course, this really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. This trade has been discussed for the last month and felt inevitable since the day LeBron James went home again to Cleveland. Details of the trade were questioned for a while, but now we know what’s going to happen.
However, there’s still some time before this trade can be made official. Since Wiggins signed his rookie contract at the end of July, he cannot be traded until Aug. 23. Everybody will want to talk about how this impacts the Cavaliers and their attempt to finally bring a championship to Cleveland, but we’ll attack it from the point of the view of Wiggins.
Now, few have been harder on Andrew Wiggins than myself. On numerous occasions I’ve stated that I felt Jabari Parker was the better prospect right now from the 2014 draft class. I wasn’t entirely impressed with his overall season at Kansas and felt there are a lot of questions surrounding him. The Wiggins hype was so ridiculous that I seemed like the outlier.
“Upside” was thrown around far too often when the Canadian prospect was picked first overall. Upside is a made up word to describe somebody or something that could be much, much better. I’m not one to deal with hypotheticals, usually. Either the player is good or he isn’t. There’s no crystal ball that can tell you everything you need to know. Until that upside turns into facts, then just let the player be who he is.
My views on Wiggins haven’t changed at all. There’s still some questions on whether or not he’ll reach his potential, which, admittedly, is very good. But because of his hype, that potential has blinded some people to reality. It didn’t blind the Cavaliers. They knew exactly who they were drafting.
For Cleveland, it was a domino effect. Once LeBron signed back on, the Cavs started looking for a third star to pair with James and Kyrie Irving, essentially making themselves the Cleveland Heat but with younger legs. Love was the guy James wanted to join him in Cleveland and in order to bring him in the Cavaliers had to part with one of the most coveted picks in recent history.
Cleveland finally made the deal, agreeing to trade Wiggins, along with Bennett and a first rounder, to Minnesota for Love. Now Wiggins finally has some closure on what was probably the darkest time in this young player’s basketball career. He had no idea what was happening. He wasn’t mentioned in LeBron’s “I’m Coming Home” letter on SI.com, hadn’t talked to James since he announced his return and was forced to listen to trade talks without being able to do anything. That’s a lot to go through for a 19-year-old who just a few weeks ago thought he was part of the Cavaliers’ championship outlook.
With this deal, Wiggins can not only move on from the turmoil he faced in Cleveland, but he can also be his own man. Had he stayed with the Cavaliers, he would’ve been the third, maybe even the fourth option on offense. Some thought of Wiggins as the potential Scottie Pippen to LeBron’s Michael Jordan, but that’s not what’s best for his career. This move to the Timberwolves is what’s best for his career.
However, while this deal is best for Wiggins, it’s also going to take some time to reach his potential. That much hasn’t changed. All that’s changed is the situation.
Minnesota, while not the sexiest of destinations in the NBA, could do wonders for a player of Wiggins’ caliber. Ricky Rubio is a pass-first point guard who helps create offense for the entire team. Irving, while a good offensive threat, can’t offer that same type of play. Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng are solid low-post presences that can help detract balls from going in the basket. Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao can’t say the same. Corey Brewer is Minnesota’s defensive catalyst right now, which can take the pressure off of Wiggins to defend everybody on the court.
One must also consider that the Wolves weren’t done dealing yet. Even as a one-year rental, the newly acquired ThaddeusYoung can be that offensive weapon to help complement Wiggins in all aspects of the game. It takes pressure off of Wiggins to score 25 points a game immediately but still allows him to grow as a star at the same time.
A lineup of Rubio-Wiggins-Brewer-Young-Pekovic is a pretty solid one. And, depending upon what else Minnesota packaged in its move in exchange for Young, a bench of Dieng, Kevin Martin, Chase Buddinger and fellow rookie Zach LaVine gives the Wolves options. None of these players are stars, which gives Wiggins that freedom to grow into the star he’s capable of becoming without stepping on anybody’s toes, but they all serve a purpose on the court and know their roles. It’s a pretty great situation for a rookie, though those outside of Minnesota will never admit it.
All of this, while enticing, isn’t going to escalate the progression of Wiggins, and it shouldn’t. As a raw athlete with good defensive skills, there’s still plenty of room to grow for the rookie. He has a nice jump shot but it’s inconsistent at times. He’s explosive off the dribble but has tendencies to lack aggressiveness when the situation calls for it. It’s the little things that Wiggins needs to improve on. He’s not a project, but some fine tuning is needed.
This brings up the crux of the matter: Timberwolves fans need to be patient. While the future certainly looks bright with Wiggins, LaVine, Dieng and Shabazz Muhammed, this transformation isn’t going to happen over night. It’s going to take some time. No, missing out on the playoffs umpteen years in a row and waiting a little longer isn’t something most fans want to hear, but it’s the truth.
Patience is going to be key here. Considering the psychological games that Wiggins had to go through for the last month, it may take a little longer to get his legs under him when he does finally arrive in Minnesota at the end of the month. Chemistry is going to be key for Minnesota. How soon Rubio, Pek and Flip Saunders help Wiggins get comfortable on the court will be the most telling sign of how the season will go. That will ultimately be a glimpse at what the future holds for Minnesota.
Bringing in Wiggins is a great move for the Timberwolves, and I don’t foresee Minnesota fans to expect the world from the rookie. They’ve learned by now that forcing the issue doesn’t help anybody. However, with the hype surrounding Wiggins it would be easy for fans to demand “Playoffs or Bust” this year. A playoff appearance is certainly a possibility, but in the loaded Western Conference, it’s better to err on the side of caution with this young team.
Timberwolves fans will love Wiggins as long as they let the process play itself out. Flip may want to win now, but even he knows the limitations of this year’s team. The NBA is the West is not easy and it’s only going to get tougher. Minnesota has something special brewing, but patience will be needed.