LeBron James may very soon regret his team trading away Andrew Wiggins.
Though the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted Wiggins first overall in last year’s NBA draft, the native of Thornhill, Ont., was quickly traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love, a proven all-star with years of NBA experience. Since high school, Wiggins was hyped up to be the next great basketball superstar. The genes were there (his dad played in the NBA and his mom won two silver medals at the Olympics in track) as was his raw talent, but no one could anticipate just how quickly he would adapt to the pro ranks.
By being named the NBA’s Rookie of the Year today, the first Canadian to win the award, he’s proving to be on the right track.
Entering the NBA at the age of 19, Wiggins met early expectations by winning the first four Western Conference “rookie of the month” honours. By season’s end, he averaged just under 17 points per game and almost five rebounds per game—all while often playing against the opposition’s best defenders. A show of his durability, Wiggins played in all 82 games for his Timberwolves, and while his teammates racked up injury after injury, the onus was on the young Canadian to contribute with more minutes on the court. Wiggins played 2,969 minutes this year, second-most among all players in the NBA, and finished in the top 20 for points scored.
“It’s a tough league. It’s hard to play every game,” Wiggins told media when the season came to an end. “I feel proud of that.”
Earlier this year in the NBA’s Rising Stars Challenge, a showcase for the league’s younger talent during the all-star weekend, Wiggins took home MVP accolades.
Despite the hardware in his trophy case, there is still much room for improvement for the 20-year-old. After all, basketball is a team game, and with just 16 wins the entire season, the Timberwolves were the worst team in the NBA.
With Wiggins leading the young squad, however, the future looks promising—and fans have reason to get excited. “In the last month, he’s probably had more highlight dunks than we’ve had in the last five years combined,” said Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders.