There's a lot at stake here for Wiggins, whose projected role and future outlook could change based on where he ends up playing.
As of right now, he's a Cleveland Cavalier, having just signed a two-year rookie deal. That means he's safe for 30 days, the time that must pass before he's eligible to be traded.
Whether you believe in the Wiggins-for-Kevin Love rumors or not, you at least have to consider a deal as a distinct possibility. The Wolves won't find a trade offer that includes a better individual prospect than Wiggins, while the Cavaliers get a third star to bolster their championship odds right away.
But let's assume the Cavaliers stand behind the guy they just took No. 1 overall. Let's predict they resist the star power attached to Love and, instead, choose to develop Wiggins alongside LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.
If this is the way the Cavs choose to play it, and I'm Andrew Wiggins, I'm thinking one thing: hell yeah.
|Projected Cavaliers' Lineup with Wiggins|
|Point Guard||Shooting Guard||Small Forward||Power Forward||Center|
|Kyrie Irving||Andrew Wiggins||LeBron James||Tristan Thompson||Anderson Varejao|
Development in Cleveland
I'm not sure Wiggins could have landed in a more favorable setting, where he'll have talent to play with and a defined role in the offense.
The fact that he'll be going up against King James in practice every day, as well as learning from him in the locker room and film sessions, should only enhance his development and speed up its timetable.
"It would be great to really learn and pick his brain, to see what it takes to get to his level," Wiggins said of James to Sports Illustrated via Ben Golliver.
And nobody makes the game easier for his teammates than James does. Wiggins' superhero athleticism would have likely translated to routine easy buckets without James. Alongside him, he'll be presented with even more easy scoring chances served up for him on a platter.
And easy buckets lead to confidence, something Wiggins appeared to have lacked at times as a freshman at Kansas.
He'll also have a point guard in Irving capable of drawing all sorts of attention, particularly off the dribble, which should lead to open shots on the wing and backdoor opportunities at the rim. If you recall last year, Kansas' guards were somewhat unreliable decision-makers and mediocre passers.
If there's one thing to worry about with Wiggins in Cleveland, it's his tendency to get passive, which might show up in a lineup where he's the No. 3 option. With two options ahead of him in the pecking order, he will have to avoid taking too much of a backseat, where he loses his effectiveness and offensive rhythm.
But on the bright side, having James and Irving in the lineup should allow the Cavaliers coaching staff to ease Wiggins in without overloading his plate. Though it might hurt his scoring average to start, it should make for a smoother ride up to his NBA ceiling.
Role in Cleveland
With Irving and James expected to dominate the ball, Wiggins' role in Cleveland early will be of the supporting variety. He'll be the guy finishing offense, not the one creating it.
General manager David Griffin has said he viewed Wiggins more as a "big 2-guard," according to Alex Kennedy of BasketballInsiders.com.
Wiggins would provide Cleveland with a significant defensive upgrade at the 2, given his 6'8" size, 7'0" wingspan and lateral foot speed for the position. Offensively, it would likely mean a lot of slashing from the wing and spot-up shooting off the ball, where he scored a respectable 1.1 points per possession on catch-and-shoot opportunities, per DraftExpress.
And chances are with James and Wiggins, who scored 1.3 points per possession in transition last year, coach David Blatt is going to want to run.
In Cleveland, Wiggins would be able to play directly to his strengths, while his weaknesses as a ball-handler and passer can be masked.
|Projected Rookie Stats (Averages) in Cleveland|
In Minnesota, the spotlight would be dimmer, but Wiggins' on-floor responsibilities would see a significant boost.
It's tough to accurately project what Minnesota's lineup would look like with Wiggins, as we just don't know exactly what the Wolves would be giving up in the trade. It's unknown whether Kevin Martin would be included, but for the sake of this article, let's assume Love is the only player the Wolves lose.
|Projected Timberwolves' Lineup with Wiggins|
|Point Guard||Shooting Guard||Small Forward||Power Forward||Center|
|Ricky Rubio||Kevin Martin||Andrew Wiggins||Corey Brewer||Nikola Pekovic|
Development in Minnesota
In Minnesota, where there aren't already two rock-solid offensive options, Wiggins would have the opportunity to further develop his go-to scoring arsenal.
But he won't have as much assistance around him. The Wolves have nobody to stretch the floor up front between Nikola Pekovic, Gorgui Dieng and Corey Brewer. And outside of Ricky Rubio, the Wolves just don't have many threatening playmakers. Minnesota's would-be top scorer (if he's not included in the deal), Kevin Martin, doesn't exactly have a reputation for making his teammates better, given his career 1.9-assist-per-game average.
The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre detailed why open shots aren't likely to be there for Wiggins if traded to Minnesota.
And don't forget that while James would draw the opposing team's top defender in Cleveland, that honor will go to Wiggins in Minnesota, where he'll likely face guys like Nicolas Batum, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Trevor Ariza head-to-head around four times per year.
From a glass-half-full perspective, Wiggins would get more touches and opportunities to create as a scorer in Minnesota. And based on everything we've seen in college and summer league, he has already shown major signs of progress in this department. He's implemented the step-back and pull-up jumper into his repertoire to complement his lightning-quick first step and dynamic attack game.
In Minnesota, Wiggins gets thrown right into the fire with a target on his head and extensive responsibility for a first-year player. And that's not necessarily a bad thing for his development—the reps he'll get early on as a primary option can't hurt.
But don't expect Wiggins to shoot a high percentage as a rookie or sophomore if he ends up in Minnesota. With a team that will be relying on him to score and opposing defenses focused on stopping him, inconsistency will be sure to cloud the inevitable flashes of brilliance his talent will generate.
Role in Minnesota
There isn't much of an established pecking order on the Timberwolves roster. Despite his rookie status, Wiggins would be looking at regular starter minutes as a top option in the offense.
You'd like to imagine he'd get the ultimate green light, given how few weapons surround him in the lineup and the fact that the Wolves aren't likely to compete for playoff position.
We saw Wiggins play a bit more one-on-one in summer league than he did at Kansas. I'd expect that to continue into the regular season if he ends up playing in Minnesota.
As a member of the Timberwolves, Wiggins' statistical averages should benefit, but his efficiency is bound to suffer.
|Projected Rookie Stats (Averages) in Minnesota|
Cleveland vs. Minnesota
Wiggins is who he is, whether he stays in Cleveland or ends up in Minnesota. But there's no doubt team fit can influence a player's development early on.
And I just don't think there's a question that Wiggins is better off starting his career in Cleveland, where he'll get to play in a winning environment without the pressure of being "the guy."
Wiggins would certainly be fun to watch in Minnesota, as his opportunity to dominate individually would be there. But too much responsibility can sometimes weigh a prospect down and delay him from really breaking through.
Either way, we're still talking about one of the premier young talents in the game. The road to relevancy and stardom as an impact performer will just have fewer bumps in Cleveland.