The NBA is a harsh place. Perhaps no one has learned that more quickly than Andrew Wiggins.
On Sunday, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ No. 1 overall draft pick was a participant at the NBA Rookie Photo Shoot in New York.
Wiggins’ smile was as bright as ever. His athletic skills were also impressive as usual, as this nice behind-the-back, one-handed slam proves.
No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins with the behind-the-back dunk! https://t.co/9UCxp0e8Zh
— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) August 3, 2014
Athletic prowess aside though, something was wrong.
Perhaps it was the fact that Wiggins was wearing a Cavaliers jersey despite being the subject of numerous trade rumors this past week. The wine and gold jersey on Wiggins seemed to be a curious combination, and the scene was a tad unsettling.
Wiggins himself appeared unsettled, which was evident in his live interview with ESPN.
Following the airing of the interview, Cleveland sports Associated Press writer Tom Withers took to Twitter and posted the following:
Andrew Wiggins didn’t say much about his future in a TV interview that bordered on painful to watch.
— Tom Withers (@twithersAP) August 3, 2014
Painful is not a strong enough word to characterize that interview.
It’s hard not to feel sympathetic toward Wiggins. Just consider the whirlwind month that he has gone through.
On June 26, he was filled with utter jubilation when the Cavaliers made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Like most Clevelanders, Wiggins believed that he, along with point guard Kyrie Irving, would become a cornerstone for this franchise.
That all changed on July 11 when LeBron James announced his intentions to return to the Cavaliers. Suddenly, there was a new sheriff in town.
By signing a two-year contract, James put immediate pressure on the Cavaliers’ front office.
Clearly, James’ intentions are to win now, regardless of what he suggested in the letter that announced his return. While Wiggins has a very bright future, he probably does not immediately impact the club like Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love would, who has made it clear that he would like to play alongside James on the Cavaliers.
Of course, Love is still under contract with the Timberwolves for one more season, so he cannot just willingly join the Cavaliers. The Cavs would have to make a trade for the California native, and they appear to have the perfect bargaining chip in Wiggins.
ESPN’s Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst have since reported that it’s a matter of when and not if in regard to the Cavaliers acquiring Love. They also both note that Wiggins is expected to be the centerpiece of the trade package, which would also include former No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett and a future first rounder.
The old saying goes, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” In this case, there seems to be an inferno.
Every sign suggests that Love will soon be a Cavalier while Wiggins will be a Timberwolf. Some of the more prominent ones include:
- The NBA’s online store has discontinued the sale of Andrew Wiggins Cavaliers jerseys.
- Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor has told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he expects to trade Love by August 23 or 24. Ironically, that date falls exactly 30 days after the Cavaliers signed Wiggins to his contract, which is when Wiggins is eligible to be traded.
- In his letter that announced his return, LeBron James mentioned Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and Anderson Varejao by name. Is it a coincidence that two of the players not mentioned, Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, have been the focal point of trade talks?
- This Daily News piece was posted on Cavs.com on Sunday. The link includes a picture of Wiggins and countless links to stories that suggest the Cavaliers will be trading him to Minnesota. The last link included in the collection of stories reads as follows: “Wiggins’ camp maintains Cavs haven’t informed them of potential trade”. The Cavs couldn’t possibly be emphasizing specific news piece and deemphasizing others, right?
In addition to the aforementioned signs, the most telling one is the way that the Cavaliers have slowly worked to disconnect themselves from Wiggins. As previously noted, Wiggins had numerous photos taken Sunday at the NBA Rookie Photo Shoot. Where was the Cavaliers PR machine for this?
The Cavaliers did not make one single tweet or social media post about Wiggins’ participation in the shoot. The team also did not bother to post a story about his visit to New York. Heck, they didn’t even retweet any of the NBA’s tweets.
That certainly does not seem like proper etiquette for an organization’s treatment of its No. 1 overall draft pick.
The Cavaliers need to remember that a trade could still very well fall apart, so they probably should do their best to not alienate a potential rookie superstar. Wiggins’ camp still insists that the Cavaliers have not informed him of a trade, and he confirmed that fact in his ESPN interview.
As a 19-year-old, Wiggins is dealing with some very difficult things. He hears one thing and then immediately hears another. Can you imagine the stress he and his family are under?
The Toronto native likely just wants to find a home and get on with his life. Even as a young millionaire, he’s dealing with challenges that are foreign to most of us. I tip my hat to him for exhibiting such maturity considering the circumstances.
As most know, I have been a vehement Wiggins supporter from the moment the Cavaliers selected him. Most of the Everybody Hates Cleveland staff shares my enthusiasm.
So, with that said, I’m prepared to make one final plea to the Cavaliers in hopes they will retain Wiggins. A lot can happen from now until August 23, and there is still no guarantee that Wiggins gets traded.
Off the top of your head, I implore you to think of the most athletically-gifted players to enter the NBA in recent history. LeBron James? Kevin Durant? Beyond those two? Andrew Wiggins.
Simply put, Wiggins’ athleticism is off-the-charts scary. For a reminder, revisit his dunk from the NBA’s recent Summer League.
While there are still concerns over his shooting (he shot just 44.8 percent at Kansas and 34.1 percent from 3-point range), remember his age and how he is still learning and growing as a player.
Think back to LeBron James and his first season in the NBA. James shot 41.7 percent from the field and 29 percent from 3-point range. Yet, if you recall, James’ pure athleticism carried him and fans salivated at the thought of the deathly competitor he could become once he developed a jump shot.
After developing his jumper, James went on to become one of the game’s all-time greats, but it was all predicated on his pure athleticism — a trait that Wiggins also exhibits.
This is not to suggest Wiggins is going to be the next LeBron James, who is a top-five player of all time. However, Wiggins’ athleticism sets him apart and will allow him to be special for many years to come. As he continues to learn the fundamentals and improve his shot, the sky is the limit. A James-Wiggins pairing has the potential to be reminiscent of Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen or David Robinson-Tim Duncan.
Surrendering someone of Wiggins’ caliber seems to be an awfully high price for one year of Love, who has indicated that he does not plan to pick up his option for the 2015-16 season. Conventional wisdom suggests Love would be open to re-signing with the Cavaliers, but conventional wisdom suggested the same thing with James in 2010. In comparison, Wiggins would be under the Cavaliers’ control for the foreseeable future.
Everyone also seems to forget that Love has missed an average of nearly 19 games per season in his career. Things can change for a team in an instant, which was proven Friday when the Indiana Pacers’ Paul George suffered a brutal injury in a Team USA scrimmage. Just like that, the Pacers went from a possible title contender to a team that could struggle to make the postseason.
“Injury prone” is just not an adjective I want attached to a player that the Cavaliers have to sell the farm to acquire. Especially when that player has just one year left on his contract (see Bynum, Andrew).
Plus, I’m already a proud owner of a Wiggins’ jersey, and I really don’t want to see this thing just collect dust in my closet.
So, if you’re with me, here is my charge. Tweet this article to @cavs, @cavsdan and @KingJames with the hashtag: #KeepWiggins.
Wishful thinking? Perhaps. But it seems apropos for a Cleveland fan.