With Wiggins and LaVine, T’Wolves could have budding ‘stars’

I have run out of things to call the Kevin Love trade, so I’m just going to say “IT’S OFFICIALLY GOING TO HAPPEN ON OR AFTER THE 23RD OF AUGUST.” With Andrew Wiggins coming to Minnesota in the trade with Cleveland, he and Zach LaVine could become two stars.Wiggins has the athleticism and, I think, the ability to become a different kind of  superstar, something Minnesota has never had in the franchise’s 25 years. At 6 feet, eight inches, even with a slender-ish frame, Wiggins has a 7-foot wing-span and, from watching tape, good defensive prowess.

A lot of people don’t remember how poor of an offensive player Russell Westbrook was when he came into the NBA. He shot 39.8 percent from the field, averaged 15.3 points, 5.3 assists, and 4.9 rebounds per-game his rookie season. Two years later, he was averaging 21.9 points per-game and shooting 44.2 percent from the field. So yes, it does take time for a player to develop his offense, and Westbrook proved that any player, if he is willing to work hard, can develop into a very good offensive player.

In five years, Wiggins could be averaging 22 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists per-game and be in the top three in MVP voting every year until he is 30-years-old. When he gets his handles and jumper right, he will be one of the toughest players to guard in the NBA. I say that because he has the quickness to get by players and the right amount of elevation on his jumper that it will be tough for the best defenders to bother him. People have questioned his “killer-instinct”, and I have had some concerns about it, too. That’s one thing Westbrook had when he came into the league, the instinct to destroy the opposition. His teammate Kevin Durant destroys the opposition in another way, a quieter way, by letting his smooth jumper do the talking.

It looks like Wiggins might have to take that route. He doesn’t show the emotion that Westbrook might show after a big, breakaway dunk, but who else in the league shows that kind of emotion?

I will say this: he won’t get anywhere in the league if he acts timid. There is no problem with looking timid, look at Tim Duncan, but we all know Timmy D doesn’t act timid. Kawhi Leonard is the same way. Blank facial expression, not letting the emotions of the game get to him. Just playing basketball like everything will be OK in the end. Leonard is going to be a 15-year pro if he wants to be, by the way. He will be in the Hall of Fame as well. I wouldn’t mind if Wiggins turned out like him.

The other kid, from UCLA, LaVine, is something else. Athleticism is off the charts, but I was surprised to see how smoothly he played the game, particularly how comfortable he looked with the ball in his hands during the Las Vegas Summer League. For a two-guard/point-guard, LaVine has great size (6 feet, five inches), but he could spend a little time in the weight room between now and the start of the season. Even if he was able to put on five-pounds of muscle, it would make a big difference.

His off-the-dribble game is nice. Again, the elevation on his jumper is going to make it tough for defenders to challenge. And I think the league knows that he can finish at the rim, but he will have to be able to finish through contact once the season starts.

His defense has been the biggest question. The good thing is, defense is a team concept. The bad thing is, a team can’t play zone for 82 games, let alone two straight possessions in a NBA game. The big problem with Minnesota’s roster is that Nikola Pekovic is one of the worst defensive centers in basketball and he figures to see most of the minutes at the position. That puts more pressure on the wing defenders because if they get beat, it’s either a lay-up, dunk, or free-throws for the opposing team when Pekovic is in the game. He’ll block a shot every once-in-a-while. Coaches should teach Pekovic to challenge the shot, not block it. Gorgui Dieng did a pretty good job of that last season when he got the opportunity to play. Dieng is also very good at rebounding outside his area. Losing Love won’t be that big of  a deal when it comes to rebounding because that means more players, who have the ability to bring the ball up the floor, will get more rebounds and will have the opportunity to push the pace before the defense can set up.

If Minnesota’s lineup consists of Ricky Rubio, LaVine, Wiggins, Thaddeus Young, and Pekovic, four of those players have the ability to get the rebound and push the ball up the floor to make a play for themselves or a teammate. Wiggins and LaVine will be great in the open court, and playing with Rubio, they will see more than their fair-share of alley-oop attempts.

Losing a player like Love might hinder Minnesota for a year or two, but in the long run it will have been more than worth it. Remember: no team has ever  traded a star player and gotten a potential “superstar” in return.

This might be a first. It’s about time Minnesota’s luck changes.


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