Now that rookie Andrew Wiggins plays for the rebuilding Minnesota Timberwolves and not the re-loaded Cleveland Cavaliers, he has a great opportunity to shine on the open court.
In Cleveland, where he was situated for a solid two months after being drafted with the first overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Wiggins would have likely played the simple role of a rotation wingman who could come in and score a few points to couple with his defensive duties, which would have unquestionably been his primary focus.
He wouldn’t have been asked to heavily contribute to an offense that boasted, pre-trade, Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, and Dion Waiters, amongst others. While his defense already seems to already be nearly NBA-ready, his offense needs refining in order for him to be effective as a starter.
That's why being on the Timberwolves is the perfect blessing-in-disguise for Wiggins. Actually, it really isn’t that much of a disguise. It doesn’t really take much brainpower to figure out that playing on a worse team will inevitably increase his production and playing time. But what does seem to be an understated point about Wiggins since he was traded is his incredible opportunity to instantly develop his offensive skill-set, something that would have been a much lengthier work-in-progress in Cleveland. What would have been a few years there may only be one or two in Minnesota.
Sure, maybe he would have gotten a ring with the already-legendary Lebron James. Maybe he would have adapted the winning mentality quicker.
It doesn’t matter. His progression as a player in his late-teens and early twenties far transcends winning hardware now when it comes at the cost of being undermined and burdened by a lack of development. Wiggins will have a young core to play alongside in Ricky Rubio, Zach Lavine, Thaddeus young, fellow ex-Cavalier Anthony Bennett, Gorguigi Deng and Nikola Pekovic. This group is ready to rock and roll and push the tempo. Wiggins should thrive because he will have the freedom to get up and down the court and run his heart out to its full content. There will be few limitations, and no immediate expectations.
That there is the most vital part— ever since Andrew Wiggins hit the basketball radar, from his early days of high school, there has always been a weight pressed upon his shoulders stressing a high level of play and consistent performance. A feeling of hope by his fans and followers has persistently eclipsed his name. Then, at Kansas, he played at a University that practically doesn’t accept anything less than a championship, or at minimum, a championship game appearance. He almost continued on the high-expectation road for another few years when he was drafted by a title-seeking Cavaliers team. Luckily, he was saved by fate. For the first time in years, there will be no restrictions, no doubts, and no lofty presumptions unjustly forced upon him.
Then there’s the "Alpha Dog" factor. At Kansas, it seemed at times as though he didn’t even want to be the leader of the team. He frequently took the backseat to teammate Rodney Hood, who’s now a member of the Utah Jazz. Then, Kansas lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament, and Wiggins was absolutely hammered by the media and his critics. His response since the has been epic. He must have had some kind of epiphany, because when NBA workouts came around as summer rolled around, he looked more determined than ever, and multiple GM’s noticed the way he worked out with a chip on his shoulder. He was out to prove a point, and by the end of training camp and summer league, he was convincing enough to be drafted first overall over his main competition, Jabari Parker. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, they weren’t convinced enough to keep their future of the franchise, even if it did mean acquiring Kevin Love. Still, it wasn’t worth it.
He is clearly a motivated guy with lots to prove, and on top of that, he’s in a fantastic situation. The Alpha Dog spot left behind by Kevin Love is up for grabs, and if Wiggins begins by proving he wants that role on the team, that would already demonstrate a reformed mindset; one very changed from what he had only a few months ago at college.
Andrew Wiggins looks ready to become the leader of the Timberwolves franchise, without even having played a game for the team yet. A quick turnaround, one might argue, but it’s justified by all the recent encouraging evidence. He is one of the most talented prospects in years, and maybe even a decade. Before his subpar collegiate season, he was even compared to Lebron. Let’s not forget that. It’s all there, all of his potential, but over the course of the year it unraveled into tiny little separated pieces. Now he’s piecing it all back together again, slowly but surely, and once it’s back in place, whole in it’s completion... it will be an incredible product.