Wiggins oozes superstar potential out of his 6'8", 200-pound frame. With the Wolves likely to lose their own superstar at some point, they will not find a better offer for the double-double machine.
On the surface, this is all about damage control for the Timberwolves. After all, they are the ones at serious risk of surrendering a prepackaged All-NBA talent with a bruiser's build and a sniper's range.
However, despair turned to hope the second Wiggins' name was swept up by the swirling trade winds. In this league, stars aren't traded for stars.
If they play their cards right, though, the Timberwolves have a chance to buck that trend.
Would Cleveland Actually Trade Wiggins?
For the longest time, the answer to that question depended on whom you asked.
First-year Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt said no earlier this month.
"There's no reason or cause for worry on his part because Andrew's not going anywhere, as far as I know and as far as the club has expressed," Blatt told reporters at the Las Vegas Summer League.
ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard heard differently. "In an attempt to add Love, a three-time All-Star, the Cavaliers are willing to part with Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett," Broussard wrote.
There's a chance that both were right. Given the fluid nature of negotiations, Wiggins might have been on and off the table as frequently as has been reported.
Assuming the talks were fluid at some point, they likely solidified once four-time MVP, two-time champion, returning prodigal son LeBron James offered his input.
"LeBron James has reached out to Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star forward Kevin Love and expressed a desire for them to play together in Cleveland," league sources told Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc J. Spears.
If James wants Love, then the Cavs want Love. People have debated which team holds the most leverage in these talks, but no one can match the power of James and his two-year contract with a player option for the second season:
Assuming the Cavs had any hesitation about parting with Wiggins, James' desire to play with Love effectively tied their hands.
Cleveland is now operating as a team building toward a blockbuster deal. The Cavs picked up three nonguaranteed contracts in a four-player trade with the Utah Jazz on Tuesday, and, as Wojnarowski noted, those pieces can now be used in a deal for Love or in separate transactions to strengthen their offer to Minnesota:
The Cavs may have initially held hopes of landing Love without losing Wiggins, but these talks needed the 19-year-old's inclusion to gain any traction. They have that now.
"Cleveland's discussions with Minnesota have escalated with the Cavaliers' willingness to include No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins in the deal, sources said," Wojnarowski reported. "Without Wiggins, there's no other combination of Cleveland players and picks that would interest Minnesota."
With Wiggins expected to sign his rookie contract soon, per The Associated Press, he cannot be traded for 30 days once he puts pen to paper. That waiting period could be the last domino these teams need to drop.
So, why should the Wolves want Wiggins? How will his elite-level athleticism translate to the game's highest level?
How Good Can Wiggins Be?
"He's raw, but his ceiling is high. He can be like a Hall of Famer, All-Star, for sure."
All-Star potential and Hall of Fame hype? Surely that lofty praise came from someone awfully close to Wiggins, right? Maybe a family member or his agent perhaps?
Nope, that rave review came from none other than reigning MVP Kevin Durant, via Yahoo's Spears. Now, Durant's specialty might be dominating inside the lanes, not identifying talent, but KD's observations have been echoed by people who scout potential stars for a living.
"He's going to be a phenomenal player when it's all said and done," wrote Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman. "The fact that he averaged 17.1 points as a freshman without much refined skill is extraordinary."
"The sky is the limit for him," NBADraft.net's Michael Visenberg opined, "as he's been blessed with the type of athleticism that does not come along in every class."
"The game is effortless to him," offered ESPN Insider Chad Ford (subscription required). "Whether he's playing offense or defense, he can make unique plays without breaking a sweat."
Frankly, it's hard to argue against any of that.
However, perhaps the most attractive part about Wiggins might be where his basement sits. Maybe his star will never shine as bright as some project, but he could still become a difference-making talent.
"Even if Wiggins never asserts himself offensively as consistently as he should, he's still likely going to be a plus-15 PPG guy and one of the best perimeter defenders in the league," wrote Grantland's Mark Titus.
A worst-case scenario puts him in two-time All-Star Luol Deng's class. And if Wiggins figures out how to maximize his natural gifts, then he's the perennial All-Star, Hall of Fame threat that Durant described.
Wiggins can defend anywhere on the perimeter and finish over the top of a defense now. Reviews of his lone season at Kansas were mixed, yet he set the Jayhawks' freshman single-season scoring record with 597 points.
And he did that while sharing the floor for the bulk of his campaign with Joel Embiid, the No. 3 pick in June's draft. When a back injury sidelined Embiid late in the season, Wiggins went to work: 41 points on 12-of-18 shooting against West Virginia, 30 points on 52.9 percent shooting five nights later vs. Oklahoma State.
Some have questioned his shot, but his 56.3 true shooting percentage, via Sports-Reference.com, suggests it's more developed than people realize.
Wiggins has work to do, but he also has time on his side. He has the chance to be great, and greatness is incredibly hard to find on the trade market.
How Have Teams in Minnesota's Position Fared in the Past?
The Wolves aren't the first small-market team to be forced to part with a rising star, but they could be the first to bring one back in return.
The Utah Jazz got a good-not-great prospect in Derrick Favors as the centerpiece of their 2011 trade that sent Deron Williams out of Salt Lake City. Through four NBA seasons, Favors has put up good-definitely-not-great numbers: 9.6 points and 6.9 rebounds.
When Carmelo Anthony forced his way to the New York Knicks that same year, the Denver Nuggets tried to avoid a rebuild. Their four-player package featured some intriguing names (namely Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler), but the franchise has appeared in need of a star since.
The then-New Orleans Hornets might have thought they had a budding star in Eric Gordon, a key piece of the four-player trade that sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers. But knee problems derailed Gordon's career, and his contract has bogged down the franchise's books.
The Orlando Magic are still figuring out what they received in the four-team exchange that moved Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers. Four of the six players the Magic received are already gone (Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Josh McRoberts and Christian Eyenga), Maurice Harkless saw fewer minutes last season (24.4) than the one prior (26.0) and Nikola Vucevic has established himself as a solid-not-spectacular center.
History tells us that teams in Minnesota's position typically lose these trades and lose them badly. That's still a possibility for the Wolves, especially if they try to chase a win-now option with no real option of winning now.
"The Timberwolves finished 10th in the West last season with Love," wrote NBC Sports' Dan Feldman. "Regardless of whether they trade the top-10 player for [Klay] Thompson or Wiggins, they’re taking a step back. Flip Saunders isn’t that good of a coach, and the rest of the roster didn’t change much."
The Wolves need to deal in uncertainties. The certainties that are potentially available—complementary pieces like Klay Thompson, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler—leave plenty to be desired.
Wiggins is the exception. The book isn't out on him yet.
Minnesota won't bring back an established star for Love. That simply isn't how these transactions work.
But a potential superstar with a drool-worthy collection of natural gifts is far more than a consolation prize. If Wolves president-coach Flip Saunders takes an incredibly bright future over a mediocre present, the franchise has to feel good about the direction it's headed.
Love backed Minnesota into a corner. Wiggins offers the best possible escape route.
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