In Cleveland and Minnesota’s battle for leverage as Cleveland pursues a trade for Kevin Love, Andrew Wiggins has become the fulcrum with the weight of every rumor or report pressing directly on him.
“I just want to play for a team that wants me,” Wiggins told ESPN during an interview on Sunday. His words were exactly what you want to hear but his tone conveyed annoyance.
In the awkwardly delayed responses (due to technical issues), Wiggins went on to say he doesn’t take the prospect of a trade or rumors personally. Again, his words said the right thing but his tone and body language spoke the truth. You can tell that six weeks of nonstop reports and rumors have grated the usually cheerful rookie’s nerves. Who could blame him?
The situation with Wiggins in Cleveland has been replete in irony since the moment he was selected first overall by the team.
After dealing with murmurs that current players wanted out of Cleveland, Wiggins was ecstatic to be selected first and said so. He mentioned Kyrie Irving and the Cavs rabid fan base as reasons he was excited to come to Cleveland.
Jabari Parker’s preference was to be a Milwaukee Buck and the rumor was he had tanked his workout to avoid being drafted by Cleveland but Wiggins said he wanted to be a career Cavalier. This was everything the city of Cleveland was looking for in their next superstar. Wiggins is a nice, humble kid who truly wants to be in Cleveland.
Then roughly two weeks after the draft, the Cavs learned that LeBron James was returning to the North Coast, which was a game changer for the team, the city and Wiggins himself.
Now, Wiggins could play with Irving and get to play side-by-side with a once-in-a-generation player. If anyone could help Wiggins turn up the intensity and reach his peak, it had to be James.
However, even before Wiggins was drafted, the first overall pick was rumored to be the price Minnesota wanted for dealing Kevin Love to the Cavs. With teams like Golden State, Denver and Chicago chasing Love, Minnesota retained the leverage. The Cavs admitted they love Wiggins’ potential but they would be crazy to pass up a talent like a proven Love. Now, he was being forced to represent a franchise with a smile while answering continuous questions about potentially being traded.
A Wiggins-for-Love trade is seen as a win-win for all parties involved. The Cavs would get their version of the Big 3 and Minnesota would be given a stable of young talent and picks to rebuild their franchise. Kevin Love would finally get a chance to win with Flip Saunders earning praise for negotiating a package that would shorten the rebuild for the Timberwolves. Minnesota would replace a proven superstar with a potential one in Wiggins. The Cavaliers fan base would finally have a realistic chance at the championship that has evaded them for 50 years. Calling the trade a win-win would be incorrect however because there is at least one loser in the equation…Andrew Wiggins.
He doesn’t lose for potentially going to Minnesota. Their fan base will love his enthusiasm and his athleticism. Wiggins and fellow draftee Zach Lavine could form a truly special combo in the Land of 10,000 Lakes for years to come.
He loses out because he misses out playing with LeBron James and learning from the best. He loses out playing on a team where he would be given the patience to develop rather than the immediate pressure of carrying a team in Minnesota. Greater yet, he loses out by facing an impossible first 6 weeks in the NBA as he tries to make the already difficult transition to the pro game.
He is bonding with people he may not be his teammates within 2 weeks. His expectations in the NBA would completely change from the system David Blatt employs to that of Minnesota’s Saunders. He would be a contributing piece in Cleveland and the center piece in Minnesota. His living arrangements are another aspect Wiggins cannot fully address until he’s assured of his destination.
Wiggins may not be taking the trade reports personally but he has every right to be annoyed. Life isn’t fair and this cliché certainly fits what Wiggins is going through. Stay or go, Andrew Wiggins has had to deal with a lot more grief than he should have before his first season in the NBA. Beneath all the difficulty lies a lesson that every NBA player learns sooner or later…which is that the NBA is a business at its core. You may have friends within the business but unlike college, the team decides controls your destiny.
The best thing for Wiggins is that a trade happens as soon as allowable. The uncertainty will be gone and then he can focus on playing for whatever team he ends up with. After a six week barrage of reports and rumors, Wiggins himself has to ready for a trade to be made.
If Wiggins is not included in a trade for Kevin Love, the Cavs will want to make sure he doesn’t retain any frustration towards the organization. While the NBA is a business, Andrew Wiggins is only human.