With the news of the Kevin Love trade being made basically official-but-not-yet-official this past week, the Minnesota Timberwolves appear to be receiving Andrew Wiggins from the Cleveland Cavaliers, in addition to some moving pieces that include a 2015 1st-round pick and potentially either Anthony Bennett or Thaddeus Young. The package as a whole is a solid one for the Timberwolves to have received in return for a star player like Love, regardless of the other pieces. Simply Wiggins’ inclusion, as the first No. 1 pick to be traded before his first game since Chris Webber, makes this trade outstanding for the Timberwolves.
But what will Wiggins bring to the Timberwolves? He’s considered a hyper-athletic wing that is one of the best draft prospects of the last decade; however, what he can bring to the Timberwolves is likely very different from what he was going to bring to the Cavaliers. In Cleveland, Wiggins was likely to be a role player immediately, and definitely wasn’t going to be rushed into a big offensive role with Kyrie Irving and LeBron James around. In Minnesota, however, he should immediately be thrust into a larger role for the team.
Offensively, Wiggins excels at using his athleticism to make plays. We learned in his NBA Summer League games that this is definitely a weapon:
Wiggins is best at using his athleticism in transition, where he can finish in traffic well and explode to the rim. However, he can do this in the halfcourt, too. Wiggins’s best offensive talent might be his ability to beat a closeout and attack the rim; he’s great at using his quickness and agility to get past a closing out defender, and he’s solid at finishing once he gets past them. He also does well at finishing off-ball cuts, which makes him an intriguing option to pair with Ricky Rubio.
He’s a decent offensive rebounder as well, which will help the Timberwolves compensate for the loss of Love, especially if Young is the other player the Wolves are bringing back in the trade. Wiggins’s big issues offensively involve his perimeter play. His passing is not great, as his court vision leaves something to be desired. He’s also a mediocre dribbler and isn’t very comfortable in isolations just yet. His outside shooting is also inconsistent, though he has decent mechanics at this point.
During Summer League, Wiggins did flash some improvements on the latter two areas, which was excellent to see. Wiggins appeared to really be working on his scoring, as he took a ton of threes and did isolate a fair amount. He didn’t make a lot of those threes, but he didn’t take that many at Kansas, so the hope is that he is working on adding a three-point shot to his game. As far as the isolations, Wiggins flashed what should be his go-to move: DAT STEPBACK.
The Timberwolves will likely give Wiggins plenty of opportunities to develop as a scorer within their offense. When he’s paired with a shooter, such as Kevin Martin or Mo Williams, I’d expect that will be when Wiggins will have free reign to isolate and cut off the ball, and this should be when Wiggins is the most effective. The idea of him cutting off ball and catching Rubio assists is drool-worthy, and he’s going to be able to operate within a decent amount of space in these lineups, particularly if Martin rebounds as a shooter.
When paired with a slasher or bigger wing like Corey Brewer or Luc Mbah a Moute, this is when I’d expect to see Wiggins as a spot-up scorer, and he will likely need to operate as a floor-spacer in these scenarios. This should help Wiggins improve as a player, but will likely not be a benefit to the T’Wolves offense.
Defensively, Wiggins is probably not going to be the defensive juggernaut that he projects to be for a couple of seasons. While he has all of the talent and athletic ability needed to make an impact defensively, he is still going to be just as raw as any other rookie. Wiggins is a decent pick-and-roll defender, and his defense on isolations was great in college. This is where his athleticism is going to come in, as even if he doesn’t have the greatest discipline immediately, it shouldn’t be tough for Wiggins to be at least a solid on-ball defender right away.
Off the ball, Wiggins is more in line with where many NBA rookies with good defensive potential are when they come in. Wiggins doesn’t rotate very well right now, and doesn’t have the best understanding of positioning when playing help defense. That will definitely come, and having a veteran coach like Flip Saunders around will definitely aid Wiggins in his development. He has great potential in this regard because of the ground he can cover, and there’s even the possibility that Wiggins could eventually become a rim protector in the NBA. This will have to come with time, but Wiggins already has some skills as a shot blocker, and if he gets more disciplined and stronger, Wiggins could have some enticing potential as a weakside shot blocker.
For the Timberwolves, Wiggins should fit right into the Timberwolves’ defense. As we discussed last week, Wiggins would join Brewer, Rubio, and Gorgui Dieng as the potential building blocks of a solid defensive core for Minnesota, and he could really help the Timberwolves contain matchup problems defensively. Wiggins could potentially guard point guards through small-ball power forwards, and he’d help hide guys like Williams and Martin and help put Brewer and Rubio in positions where they could succeed. While Wiggins likely won’t be an All-Defensive team candidate in year one, he could be a net positive to the T’Wolves this year.
The Timberwolves are a good situation for Wiggins to develop in. They have a great creating point guard, some decent shooters, and good defensive pieces to have around Wiggins as he develops. He should be able to grow as a scorer fairly easily, and defensively, he actually should make an impact, even if he’s not at the peak of his ability. Minnesota should be able to get Wiggins’s offensive ability closer to maximized than the Cavaliers likely would, and will definitely be able to give Wiggins plenty of minutes right off the bat at shooting guard and small forward. Wiggins is going to be fun to watch for Minnesota next year, and he alone will make the Kevin Love trade worth the hassle for the Timberwolves.