Is Trade to Minnesota Timberwolves a Blessing in Disguise for Andrew Wiggins?

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterAugust 7, 2014

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I got a feeling confetti wasn't flying around the Andrew Wiggins' camp when it heard the news. Something tells me there weren't party-blowers or balloons set up around the crib to celebrate Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski's bomb that the Cleveland Cavaliers agreed to send Wiggins to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a deal for Kevin Love. 

It hasn't been confirmed, but word is there were no bouncy castles or Slip 'N Slides, either.

But maybe a trade should be a reason to get excited if you're Wiggins, who'll be moving from a supporting one under the microscope to a featured role with nothing to lose.

TARRYTOWN, NY - AUGUST 3: Andrew Wiggins #21 of the Cleveland Cavaliers poses for a portrait during the 2014 NBA rookie photo shoot on August 3, 2014 at the Madison Square Garden Training Facility in Tarrytown, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly ackno
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Though the move might result in more turbulence early, it could be just what the doctor ordered for Wiggins' long-term development when you consider his current flaws and weaknesses. 

Nobody ever questioned Wiggins' talent while at Kansas; they questioned his ability to consistently ignite it. He'd often disappear for long stretches or even full games, while scouts dogged him for his lack of assertiveness and occasional backseat approach. 

And that's where he'd be in Cleveland—the backseat, behind LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. If Wiggins was deferring too much at Kansas, it wouldn't be surprising to see his passive tendencies resurface alongside two NBA All-Stars in a win-now setting.

The keys belong to Wiggins in Minnesota, where he should have a green light and a speed limit extended by coaches. Given the Timberwolves' young talent like Wiggins, fellow rookie Zach LaVine and Ricky Rubio, you'd like to think coach Flip Saunders will be looking to run and gun as much as possible.

It's a style that plays directly to Wiggins' strengths as an explosive athlete who's nearly unstoppable in the open floor. On the other hand, Cavaliers coach David Blatt is known for his teams' slow pace, as noted by NBA.com's John Schuhmann. 

TARRYTOWN, NY - AUGUST 3: Andrew Wiggins #21 of the Cleveland Cavaliers poses for a portrait during the 2014 NBA rookie photo shoot on August 3, 2014 at the Madison Square Garden Training Facility in Tarrytown, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly ackno
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But it's ultimately those early reps as a go-to option that could prove to be valuable in the long run. Because at the end of the day, that's what the Timberwolves should be looking to develop Wiggins as: their No. 1 option and franchise cornerstone on the wing, the way Paul George emerged as the Indiana Pacers' centerpiece after a couple of years.

And based on everything we've seen from Day 1 in college to the Las Vegas Summer League, Wiggins has the tools and skill set to eventually become that guy—the one who can go get you a bucket down one with a minute left in the game.

The Timberwolves give Wiggins the chance to plow through the trial-and-error process early, with plenty of touches now expected to come his way. It means extra experience in isolation, more step-back jumpers and additional playmaking opportunities against set defenses.  

And though there's bound to be plenty of errors with all the experimenting, Wiggins has absolutely zero pressure to produce. He's playing with house money in Minnesota. The Timberwolves should be expected to compete for lottery position—not playoff position. That should give him some breathing room and a little less to think about. 

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Wiggins also gets to build his own brand and identity in Minnesota, the way John Wall did in Washington and Stephen Curry did in Golden State.

This group in Minnesota has the potential to become "Wiggins' team," and though that might not mean something now, there's a level of respect paid to those capable of starting winning traditions and building them over time. And not everybody gets that opportunity. 

Wiggins will get to set his own tone in Minnesota, as opposed to Cleveland, where he'd find himself in King James' shadow until he'd eventually be asked to follow him. Though that could've gone very well, all the same.

Sure, playing without too much established talent around him in Minnesota will be challenging in the early going. I wouldn't bank on Wiggins' field-goal percentages being overly high, considering he's now the likely focal point of opposing defenses and lockdown wings.

And there's no question developing alongside James and Kyrie Irving in Cleveland would have led to an easier transition.

But the Timberwolves give Wiggins early on-the-job training for a top-gun position that his upside suggests he has the potential to one day fill. Cleveland might have shown him a quicker, smoother path to relevance, but Minnesota offers Wiggins the chance to carve out a more prominent path into the league. 

"He never would have had a chance to develop into his own star for the Cavs," agreed USA's Today's Adi Joseph. 

And maybe being traded will light a fire under Wiggins. Maybe it will give him some extra motivation or help build his character. 

"I just want to play for a team that wants me. So whichever team wants me I'll play for," he told ESPN's SportsCenter.

There are obviously a number of perks that come with playing for a winner early, but let's not be so quick to write this trade off as a loss for Wiggins. Looking back, it might ultimately be a blessing in disguise.


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