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Andrew Wiggins – Leader of the ‘Pack

 

Cleveland’s Trade Mistake is Minnesota’s Prized Piece

Thirteen Years Ago

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Kevin Garnett was awarded the Most Valuable Player of the 2003-2004 NBA season. His 24.2 PPG helped his Minnesota Timberwolves reach the Western Conference Finals. Garnett’s pack of ‘Wolves featured Sam Cassell, Latrell Sprewell, Fred Hoiberg, Wally Szczerbiak, Ervin Johnson, and Michael Olowokandi.

The Timberwolves had been eliminated from the first round of the NBA playoffs in seven consecutive seasons prior to the 2003-2004 campaign.

Minnesota faced a stacked Los Angeles Lakers team that had won 3 of the previous 4 NBA Championships. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neil were joined by a pair of veteran championship chasers in Gary Payton and Karl Malone with hopes of acquiring some new hardware.

Kevin Garnett wipes his eyes

The Lake Show would defeat the Timberwolves in 6 games but would eventually get beat up in the NBA Championship to the rugged and scrappy Detroit Pistons and their imposing defense.

This would mark the last time the Minnesota Timberwolves would make an appearance in the post season.

The Drought and the Trade

In 2008, Minnesota and the Memphis Grizzlies negotiated a trade that brought Kevin Love and others to the Timberwolves. Love would have good years in Minnesota. He would come alive in 2010 and was a core piece of the Timberwolves’ offense. Love would go on to average 26 points twice in the next four seasons.

The Cleveland Cavaliers would select Andrew Wiggins with the 1st overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. The next month, Wiggins was part of a three-team trade that landed Love in Cleveland and Wiggins in Minnesota. With the acquisition of Zach LaVine in the same draft and Rubio still on the roster, the Timberwolves were beginning to build something special.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Cleveland Cavaliers

Wiggins would go on to have a stellar season and win the NBA Rookie of the Year. Love would go on to play postseason basketball but would suffer a shoulder injury in Game 4 of the First Round of the Eastern Conference match-up against the Boston Celtics. The Cavaliers may have been better off keeping Wiggins on their roster considering the year he had.

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But, what’s done is done.

Thirteen Year Later

Wiggins continues to be the leader of the pack in Minnesota. His productivity has steadily increased year after year. Love – on the other hand – earned some jewelry, but his time in Cleveland has come with some ups and downs to say the least.

Love has the hardware, but Wiggins has been the better player between the two over the last three seasons. Wiggins has 4,995  total points since entering the league. Since Love has been a Cavalier, he’s totaled 3,604. That’s a difference of 1,391 points! Cleveland could have used some of those points over the last few years.

T’Wolves Hire Thibs

In 2016, the Timberwolves hired Head Coach Tom Thibodeau to do what he did during his time in Chicago and take the team to postseason. He would need some more weapons to transform the young, hungry ‘Wolves into a playoff team.

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With Wiggins running the show, Minnesota drafted Karl Anthony-Towns 1st overall in 2016. Like Wiggins, KAT would go on to win the NBA Rookie of the Year. Had last season’s Timberwolves been in the Eastern Conference, they would have been one of the top seeds.

The West – however – is much, much tougher. Especially heading into 2017.

Thirteen Years Later

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Minnesota made some great offseason moves thus far and is putting themselves in a good position to have a playoff run in 2017. They acquired the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler – who had been linked to Cleveland and Boston – and reunited him with his old coach.

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Butler is familiar with Thibs coaching style, but he’s not the old man coming in to be a mentor to the young bucks. He’s a lockdown defender who can get buckets. He – like Wiggins – plays the Small Forward position. However, their styles are totally different. They can feed off each other and put the team in winning situations.

Although they had made some moves that meant the departures of players like Rubio, LaVine and others to acquire Butler, it will be well worth it if the payoff is the playoffs.

Alpha Wolf

Wiggins – even with the addition of Butlerwill still be the Alpha Wolf. It will be his team. And Butler will support that. Wiggins game will continue to evolve even more through the work he puts in studying from Butler.

 

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If he can add Butler’s defensive intensity to his game, Wiggins could become one of league’s best. The ‘Wolves will be a very entertaining team to watch this season and will be challenging for a spot in the Western Conference.

Minnesota is working on an extension for Wiggins that will lock him up for the next 5 seasons. With Butler’s veteran presence and experience, the development of chemistry with Karl Anthony-Towns, and the guidance of Tom ThibodeauWiggins and the ‘Wolves best seasons are not too far way.

Thibodeau’s teams are historically gritty and relentless. They thrive off defense. But they now have defenders that can score and score big. Things will begin to come together.

They also added other offseason vets in Taj Gibson, Jamal Crawford, and Jeff Teague. Gibson – like Butler – knows what to expect with Thibs. Crawford and Teague will fit in just fine. And the ‘Wolves will be on the hunt.

The Warriors should enjoy these next years – as I’m sure they will – while they can afford them (literally). Soon they’ll notice there is a hungry pack of ‘Wolves right preying on them from the shadows.

And Andrew Wiggins will be at the front of the pack.

 

Stats referenced at nba.com


Follow me on Twitter @bmo54bmo54

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Brandon Morales View All

Hello Sports Fan Entertainment Readers and Followers! My name is Brandon Morales and I - like a lot of you reading this - love sports. Sports consume me. For me, writing about sports is an art. The words used have to paint a picture for the reader. My goal is to put all my sports knowledge to use and SFE is the perfect platform.

Football is my favorite sport. I'm a fan of the Tennessee Titans - since the Houston Oilers days. I also am a fan of the Texas Longhorns - Hook 'Em Horns, baby! I'm also an NBA fan, and am loyal to the Purple and Gold. Lakeshow! I'm new to the Hockey world - as I watched Hockey closely for the first time this past summer. I'm a Nashville Predators fan and look forward to watching them compete for the Stanley Cup this upcoming season.

I also like MMA. Eventually, as SFE grows, I will write a lot about big fights, rising stars, fighters past their prime, etc. But that will be later down the road.

I covered High School Sports during my Junior/Senior year in High School after injuries to both my leg and back prevented me from playing sports. I became a published author for a local newspaper and couldn't believe I was getting paid to write about what I love.

Initially, I had planned to pursue a career in Journalism. I changed my mind, and instead earned my Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from New Mexico State University. I began my career working with youth in a Juvenile Corrections facility and utilized my degree to work and help mentor at risk teens. An injury helped me rediscover my passion for writing about sports, and I am grateful to MJ for providing me with the opportunity to share some of my work with sports fans around the world.

Thank you to all readers of SFE and look forward to writing more and more!

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