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Andrew Wiggins proving he's the real deal

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LeBron James's homecoming to Cleveland put the Cavaliers all-in on their present.

Never was that clearer than when the Cavs swapped Andrew Wiggins, their number one selection in the NBA draft, and a bunch of filler to the Minnesota Timberwolves for All-Star forward Kevin Love.

The logic was clear, LeBron's prime is finite and the King cannot afford to wait, even for his anointed heir apparent.

After a rocky start, it looks like LeBron and the Cavs made a solid decision. Love has negotiated a difficult transition and the Cavaliers are the NBA's form team.

But over in Minnesota, Andrew Wiggins is quietly putting together one of the most impressive rookie seasons in recent NBA memory.

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Both Cleveland and Minnesota can come out winners here - a Championship for Cleveland would complete LeBron's legacy, all decisions vindicated.

And Wiggins is thriving in Minneapolis, with the minutes and coaching he needs to fulfil his considerable potential.

But if the Cavs fail to deliver on that championship, and Love walks in free agency (he has an opt-out and has been linked with the LA Lakers) then the Cavs will have paid a king's ransom for nothing.

Hype

Even before his single year in Kansas, Wiggins was being billed as LeBron's successor. Never mind the fact that they're few similarities in their game, Wiggins was the most hyped high school senior since St Vincent-St Mary played primetime ESPN.

His freshman year was littered with articles on his lack of 'killer instinct'. His passivity was taken as apathy.

The brief flashes of potential - the 17 point, 19 rebound performance against Iowa State - only served to underline the disappointing lack of consistency.

The Cavs could not afford to have a rotation player, even one as gifted as the then-19-year-old Wiggins, when they had leverage to trade for an All-Star.

Back then, the Cavs also had Dion Waiters at the two-guard and it was unclear how Wiggins would fit into David Blatt's lineup. The trade for Love was the clean solution, even if it required Waiters' departure anyway.

How will that look in five years time though?

It will almost certainly rest on whether the Cavs win a Championship, but it will also be measured by what Wiggins becomes. The Cavs gave up potential, and it will be interesting to see just how much of it was fulfilled.

Early indications suggest a lot.

Wiggins is currently averaging 15.6 points per game, with just a shade over four rebounds and a touch under two assists per contest. Again, he only just turned 20.

But while the stats are impressive, it's the freakishly athletic highlight plays that have Timberwolves' fans in a frenzy right now and the rest of the NBA casting sideways glances.

Did he really just do that.

In Milwaukee they have Giannis, but in Minnesota they have their own Stretch Armstrong superstar-in-waiting.

What he did to MVP candidate James Harden was inhuman. The Rockets star went through his arsenal of tricks only to be completely shut down by a rookie defender who shadowed him every (euro)step of the way.

It was a Richard Sherman cover corner job.

The Timberwolves have this guy locked up for $5.7m in 2015-16, $6m the year after and $7.5m after that. With the cap set to explode, the Timberwolves are set to get good real fast.

Lucking into that transcendent franchise player is what turns teams around in rapid time - it's what the Sixers are tanking for.

The T-Wolves have turned their stale lot, complete with a cornerstone that didn't want to be there, into one of the league's most exciting young lineups.

Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad, Wiggins, Gorgui Deng - Wiggins is the sure-fire star but LaVine will keep the team in the spotlight and Deng and Muhammad could grow further with a little seasoning.

The Western Conference is a gauntlet but the Timberwolves look like the best bet to be the next team to break the glass ceiling and join the likes of the Trail Blazers, Clippers and Grizzlies at the upper tier. 

Wiggins is the reason.

Rookie of the year? You bet.

Topics:
Cleveland Cavaliers
Central Division
Eastern Conference
NBA
LeBron James
Andrew Wiggins
Minnesota Timberwolves
Northwest Division
Western Conference

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