Next Up: Andrew Wiggins

Is it worth trading the next Kobe, LeBron or Durant to try to win your first NBA Championship? It’s always a gamble bringing in a veteran and just hoping it works out, over what could be the next superstar in the NBA who could help you win multiple titles. The Cleveland Cavaliers took a franchise caliber player in the 2014 Draft with the first overall pick and traded him off for Kevin Love in order to try to win their first championship with Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. The Cavaliers obviously ended up winning the 2016 NBA Championship with Love and Irving, but many people were starting to question the trade after Love struggled mightily to find his identity in Cleveland.

Meet Andrew Wiggins.

The 2015 Rookie of the Year was traded from Cleveland as the first overall pick in a trade for Kevin Love with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the summer of 2014. Love averaged 26.0 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 4.5 APG in 2014 with Minnesota, but that’s not what Cleveland got in return for Wiggins. They got 16.4 PPG, 9.7 RPG, and 2.2 APG out of Love and didn’t play a game past the first round of the playoffs due to an injury. This year, other than at certain times and maybe one full game, Kevin Love was nearly non-existent in the finals. That means that LeBron needed basically one other guy to take down the Warriors in the Finals, and that makes you think. If they never made the Love trade, would they have still beaten the Warriors to get their first title in 2016 and also have Andrew Wiggins and his future to look forward to? Maybe, Maybe not.

Now that could make you decide between Kevin Love and Andrew Wiggins. You could also say it was a successful trade already because they already got their title instead of a maybe; but I’ve been comparing Wiggins to the next LeBron, and with good reason. He was one of the top high school players of the 2013 class, where he averaged 23.6 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 2.5 APG, 2.7 BPG, and 2.3 SPG at Huntington St. Joseph Prep. He was a crazy athletic, explosive and a versatile scorer who had all the hype in the world coming out of the University of Kansas, where he averaged 17.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG, and 1.5 APG. I know that’s not the craziest numbers you’ve ever seen but his talent is what separates him from everyone else that year, including Jabari Parker who was rumored to go either 1 or 2; similar to Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram this year. The difference is that Wiggins can possibly help you win multiple championships because his ceiling is so high.

What we saw in his sophomore year with Minnesota is that we can start to get excited about Wiggins. He averaged 20.7 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, and 0.6 BPG for what could be a scary Timberwolves team going forward. He went up from 16.9 points to 20.7 PPG in his second season and his FG% went up from 43% to almost 46%. Steals, blocks and assists were all about the same as the year before, but with the addition of Kris Dunn this year and  Karl-Anthony Towns maturing another year, Wiggins should have those numbers improve this year. He’s a fantastic passer and has great vision on the court, but could use a little bit of toughening up on the boards.

On the defensive side of the ball, he didn’t get much better from his first year but his steal to turnover ratio was higher this year. He got to spend a year in the league and guard the top guys in the game that he’s supposed to be. At 6-foot-8 200 pounds, he causes mismatches for certain guys he plays when he’s at the two. The Twolves have a good 1-2 duo in Ricky Rubio and Zach LaVine (who was drafted 13th Overall by Minnesota the year of Wiggins’ Draft). Most the time Wiggins plays the three or the four when Gorgui Dieng isn’t in the game. But if they want to try to go with a smaller lineup of Rubio, Dunn, Lavine, Wiggins and Towns; then Wiggins will have to get stronger and become a better defender when he gets matched up against bigger 4’s.

Overall, Wiggins has the potential to be an absolute beast in the NBA and become a top player in the league. I wouldn’t put him in the same conversation as these guys if he didn’t have the potential to become one. His most similar comparison would be to Kevin Durant and he should be a guy that Wiggins learns to replicate himself like. Durant is a scorer who gets his defensive boost by his offensive flow, just like Andrew Wiggins. He’s a pure scorer and could be one of the best 3’s in the league the next few years alongside guys like Kawhi Leonard. He needs to prove to the Cavs that they made a mistake trading him by helping the Timberwolves make playoff runs and becoming a dominant NBA player.

The sky is the limit for Wiggins.

Click here to view other entries in the Next Up series

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