Cavaliers introduce Andrew Wiggins after unlikely scenario
BY EDDIE DILWORTH
CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
The Cleveland Cavaliers weren’t supposed to be in this position. After the conclusion of a disappointing 2013-14 season, the Cavs were projected to receive the 9th-overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft before the franchise cashed in, again, at the NBA Lottery. Cleveland inconceivably received the No. 1 overall selection at the Lottery this past May, and the turn of good fortune culminated in the selection of University of Kansas star Andrew Wiggins.
“This is the culmination of an amazing offseason to this point, and I feel like what we’re doing is only building momentum,” Cavaliers general manager David Griffin said. “The momentum that exists in this city right now, frankly, both from a sports standpoint and just in general terms, is really exciting and it’s palpable for all of us. I hope what this does is continue that and I believe it certainly has.”
Wiggins wasn’t supposed to be a Cavalier, but he is. The Cavs made Wiggins the second Canadian-born player to go No. 1, joining last year’s top selection Anthony Bennett. Bennett had a rookie season to forget, but Wiggins could be a player remembered decades into the future.
Wiggins, who stands at a strapping 6-feet-8 inches, comes from elite athletic bloodlines. His mother, Marita Payne-Wiggins, was an Olympic track and field sprinter for Canada in the ’80s, and his father, Mitchell Wiggins, was selected 23rd-overall by the Indiana Pacers in 1983. While the elder Wiggins had his share of troubles in the NBA, most NBA pundits expect Andrew to flourish.
“I have a lot of expectations just for myself,” Wiggins said. “I just want to come in and create an impact right off the bat, offensively and defensively, bring the team to the next level and just be a good teammate and part of the organization. I want to be on the All-defensive team, Rookie of the Year, make the All-star team, all that type of stuff.”
Wiggins’ athleticism is undeniable, which is one of the reasons it was hard for Cleveland to pass on him at the top of the draft. The 19-year-old high-riser has an impressive ability to finish at the rim, but Wiggins has also shown a solid skill set on the defensive end of the floor. Griffin said Wiggins’ offensive and defensive ability contributed to the Cavs’ reasoning for taking him with the top pick. If Wiggins can consistently knock down the outside shot, he has the potential to become a top 10 talent in the league.
Wiggins joined Danny Manning (Clippers 1988) as the only players in Kansas history to be picked No. 1 overall. In the weeks leading up to the draft, the Cavs were projected to take Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid. However, back issues and a broken foot derailed any chance of Embiid going first. Embiid didn’t slide much as he was taken by the Philadelphia 76ers with 3rd-overall pick.
Embiid watched the draft from Kansas while Wiggins won the fashion battle at the Barclays Center Thursday night. Wiggins donned a black tuxedo with a decorative white floral pattern that was as eye-popping as it was flashy. The wardrobe was so lavish, Griffin joked that he almost changed his mind to take someone else when he saw it.
“I will say that when I saw the suit last night, I started wondering,” Griffin joked.
Wiggins has racked up his share of accolades. His play during his senior year in high school earned him the 2013 Naismith Boy’s High School Player of the Year Award. Wiggins was also named the Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year and Mr. Basketball USA in 2013. After a standout freshman season at Kansas, Wiggins added to his list of accomplishments.
Wiggins was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year and First Team All-League in his only year at Kansas. He was selected to the John R. Wooden All-American Team, and he was a Second Team All-America choice by the AP. Wiggins was also named one of the 10 semi-finalists for Naismith College Player of the Year.
Wiggins is so appealing as an NBA prospect because he can do a little bit of everything on the court. While at Kansas, the Ontario, Canada native averaged 17.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks in 32.8 minutes per game. Wiggins set Kansas freshman records in scoring average, points (597), field goals attempted (422), free throws made (176) and free throws attempted (227).
“I believe I can shoot it,” Wiggins said. “I can take someone off the dribble, but right now, my best thing is transition offense, running the floor. That’s my best skill set right now.”
With the selection of Wiggins, one may begin to consider the Cavs “Canada south”. Wiggins was the third Canadian added to the Cavs roster in the past four years, joining Tristan Thompson, who was selected fourth overall by the Cavaliers in 2011 and Bennett, who went first overall a season ago. Cleveland, reportedly, will add a fourth Canadian when a trade for power forward Dwight Powell, the 45th pick by the Charlotte Hornets, is completed. The deal cannot be completed until July 1, per league rules. Cleveland will also acquire veteran center Brendan Haywood in the trade while relinquishing five-year veteran Alonzo Gee, according to the Associated Press.
“Anthony Bennett and Tristan, I know them closely,” Wiggins said of his fellow countrymen. “I’ve known Tristan from the AAU circuit. We’re all from the same area and I knew Anthony Bennett from the AAU circuit and on the national level. I’ve known him for years, so I think the chemistry is already there with those guys.”
There’s nothing wrong with having four Canadians on your team if they can play. The Cavs could get really crazy and make a pitch for San Antonio Spurs free agent guard Patty Mills, who would give Cleveland three Australian born point guards with Kyrie Irving and Matthew Dellavedova. With the Cavs’ glut at the point guard position, don’t expect that to happen.
Cleveland picked up Joe Harris, a 22-year-old shooting guard from Virginia with 33rd pick. Harris averaged 12.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists during his four-year college career, but he’ll have to significantly impress new head coach David Blatt if he’s going to see playing time in the upcoming season. The Cavs’ plan will likely be to develop the 6-foot-6 Harris into an NBA long-range marksman. The Chelan, Washington native shot 40.7 percent from the three-point line and connected on the second-most three-pointers in school history.
Resentment from fans, media and other organizations has been palpable since the Cavs won the right to select first in the 2014 NBA Draft this past May. The bitterness is understandable, seeing that the Cavs wound up with the top pick for the third time in four years. With their recent string of lottery luck, it’s time for the Cavaliers to start winning.
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