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NBA Rookie Report: Andrew Wiggins

Over the course of the 2014-15 NBA season, I will be covering the 2014 rookie class in what I like to call the NBA Rookie Report. With the preseason already underway, it’s only right to cover a few highly touted rookies and their potential impact on their respective teams. If I’m going to start anywhere, it may as well be at the top with the number one pick, Andrew Wiggins.

Andrew Wiggins – SG/SF Minnesota Timberwolves

It has been a whirlwind of a summer for Andrew Wiggins. In just a matter of months, he has been the first pick in the draft, served as one of the co-franchise players of the Cleveland Cavaliers, been traded by the Cavs and now serves as Minnesota’s future franchise player. The former Kansas star is now comfortable in Minnesota and ready to make an early impact. People are often over critical of Wiggins and sometimes take for granite all of the things he can do well. Fortunately for Wiggins, this isn’t Kansas and he won’t be asked to be Superman. In year one he will have the opportunity to focus on the things he does best, while he works on the rest of his game.

Wiggins time will come to be a superstar but for now, the Minnesota Timberwolves just need him to be a role player. Instead of needing to be the savior in year one, the expectations for Wiggins will be tempered early. He will be asked to primarily make a major impact on the defensive end. For Wiggins, defense comes natural. Mentally, he loves to compete and playing tough defense keeps him engaged. Physically, the combination of his height, freakish athleticism and 7-foot wingspan give him the raw tools to be an elite defender. His body is still maturing but early reports from camp indicate he has been as good as advertised on the defensive end. His ability to guard an opposing team’s best wing player will be crucial for Minnesota. As the season progresses, he may even be asked to guard opposing point guards and small-ball power forwards. If he can successfully guard players of positions one through four, the Paul George comparisons will become a common theme.

Offensively, Wiggins will get his fair share of opportunities to shine. Playing alongside Ricky Rubio, he will almost always get the ball in areas where he can excel. With Wiggins, his offensive game is contingent on where his confidence stands at that moment. It will be important that he gets easy baskets in transition. Easy baskets will boost his confidence and open up the rest of his game. Rubio and Wiggins should be a lethal tandem in transition. At Kansas, he proved to be one of the better players in the country in transition situations and that was without an elite distributor like Rubio. In the half court, baskets won’t come as easy for Wiggins but he has the ability to score in a variety of ways. When engaged, he is a smart player that moves well without the ball. He cuts hard and does a good job of finding openings in the defense. With the ball in his hands he is most effective attacking the rim. He has a lightning quick first step which allows him to get by defenders with relative ease. Once taking flight, he does a good job of keeping his shoulders square, which helps him finish at the rim. His ability to attack the rim will be especially important for the Timberwolves because they have very few creators that can get their own shot and also create for others. If he proves to be the terror attacking the paint that many people are projecting, it will only open up better shots for wing players like Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer and Chase Budinger.

All-in-all, Wiggins may miss out on the chance to compete for a championship year after year like he would have in Cleveland but being in Minnesota may be the best place for him during the early stages of his career. The expectations will be reasonable, and the media attention will be nothing close to what he saw in college. He is on a team that needs him to be the savior but not right away. He has a chance to grow and mature into a great NBA player and he gets to do it alongside fellow Canadian and AAU buddy, Anthony Bennett. Andrew Wiggins should have a very good rookie season which could ultimately end with him winning the Rookie of the Year award. One thing is for sure, I will be following his progression throughout the season, highlighting him in the NBA Rookie Report.

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