Realistic Expectations for Andrew Wiggins' Rookie Year with Cleveland Cavaliers

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistJune 30, 2014

INDEPENDENCE, OH - JUNE 27:  First overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins of the Cleveland Cavaliers is introduced to the media alongside Head Coach David Blatt and General Manager David Griffin at The Cleveland Clinic Courts on June 27, 2014 in Independence, Ohio in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Being selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft comes with monster expectations. The Cleveland Cavaliers' Andrew Wiggins need only ask new teammate and fellow Canadian Anthony Bennett, who was selected first overall in 2013.

Things didn't go smoothly for Bennett in his first pro campaign, but the road ahead for Wiggins promises to be different.

The 19-year-old is one of the most celebrated prospects in years, boasting the kind of athleticism and upside rarely seen among even the best young players.

"All of our scouts felt like he had the most upside," general manager David Griffin told reporters.

That kind of consensus was no accident.

The Kansas product averaged 17.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.2 steals and one block per game as a freshman. A 6'8" swingman with exceptional quickness, he has already been billed an NBA-ready defender who can make an impact from day one.

And Wiggins knows it.

"I want to come in and create an impact off the bat, offensively and defensively, be a good teammate, be a good part of the organization," Wiggins told the media. "I want to be on the All-Defensive team, be Rookie of the Year, make the All-Star team."

It will take time to see how and when those goals are realized, but there's few who doubt Wiggins' ceiling.

According to the Akron Beacon Journal's Michael Beaven, "Griffin praised Wiggins for his solid defensive skills during a television interview with ESPN, and compared him to Shawn Marion. Others have compared him to Tracy McGrady, as an athletic player with elite leaping ability."

It may be safe to assume Wiggins makes a Marion-like impact initially, while evolving into a more well-rounded scorer like McGrady.

At the moment, lack of a diversified offensive game seems to be Wiggins' only real limitation. He averaged just 1.5 assists last season and only made 34.1 percent of his three-pointers (from college range). His development as a playmaker and shooter should come in time, and it's far too soon to assume the worst.

DraftExpress' Matt Kamalsky draws some compelling parallels:

As much flack as Andrew Wiggins has taken for his perimeter shooting ability, Grant Hill went just 1-for-2 from beyond the arc and was effectively a non-threat from the outside as a freshman at Duke, while Carmelo Anthony shot a nearly identical 34% from deep as the Kansas freshman, albeit on one more attempt per-game. That isn't to say that Wiggins doesn't need to improve as a shooter—he does, but some of the league's top players at his position weren't light-years ahead of him in that regard at the same age.

Needless to say, things worked out pretty well for Hill and Anthony.

DENVER - DECEMBER 12: Carmelo Anthony #15 of the Denver Nuggets talks with Grant Hill #33 of the Phoenix Suns prior to the game on December 12, 2009 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by dow
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That's no guarantee the same will be true for Wiggins, but it's a reason to be optimistic—at least in the long term.

In the short term, those lofty expectations should be measured.

Wiggins immediately stands out as the Cavs' best option to start at the small forward position. His length and quickness make him a natural choice to defend the wing, often checking the other team's best scorer in the process.

In that capacity, Wiggins won't be leading the Cavaliers in scoring. He may even struggle to crack double figures on some nights, especially with Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters continuing to anchor the offense for now. 

The Cavaliers would be wise to discourage Wiggins from pressing on the offensive end. The club doesn't desperately need his scoring just yet, and there's no reason to risk his confidence in some misguided bid to secure Rookie of the Year honors.

Wiggins can instead let the offense come to him, which should happen naturally enough in head coach David Blatt's motion-based offense. Remember that Blatt is a student of the Princeton system, which discourages isolation and encourages movement of the ball and personnel alike.

Walking into that kind of offense, the most important lesson Wiggins can learn is to relax and share the ball.

He'll have his chances, especially as a cutter. Early on, he might remind many onlookers of Kawhi Leonard—a defensive ace whose offensive game has taken a couple of years to mature. Like Leonard, Wiggins will eventually find improved range, a better handle and a craftier in-between game.

It doesn't have to happen all at once, though. There's no need for hero ball, and little room for it in Blatt's system. Cleveland's offense will continue to go through Irving, allowing Wiggins to settle into a complementary role.

His defense will do most of the talking. And from the very start, it will be heard loud and clear. 

Wiggins has good instincts defensively and the physical tools to cause all kinds of havoc. He'll frustrate ball-handlers, dart into passing lanes and close out on shooters with arms that seem to go on forever. This much we can expect from the outset.

He may not put up the gaudiest of numbers right away, but it will almost certainly result in more wins.

If you're the Cleveland Cavaliers, you'll take it.


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