The first pick in the 2014 NBA Draft is physically gifted, largely unproven, and entertaining as hell.
Photo:Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Wiggins, the first pick in last night’s NBA Draft, is not a complete basketball player. If he was, he would have put up more than six points against Stanford in March and kept the Jayhawks in the tourney. If he was, he would have spent his one year in college scoring consistently rather than opportunistically. If he was, Joel Embiid’s foot would have never entered the conversation about pick number one. But, to paraphrase Red Auerbach, you can’t teach genetic mutation. Wiggins is a freak, which makes him both the most exciting pick since LeBron and a perfect fit for the sagging Cavaliers.
Cleveland fans have spent the last several years wringing their hands and watching workable players like Matthew Dellavedova and Jarrett Jack play workable, unsuccessful ball. Being a Cavs fan has not just been sad, it’s been depressing in a grueling, slow, I-can’t-take-this-anymore sort of way. Fandom in the "Mistake on the Lake" has become a war of attrition. What does Wiggins bring to the inauspiciously named Quicken Loans Arena? Firepower.
In May, the good folks at the Peak Performance Project, where Wiggins was training instead of attending the NBA Combine, posted a picture of a vertical test to Instagram. In the image, Wiggins is roughly 44 inches off the ground. He’s 6’8’’, so that basically means Wiggins can dunk with his teeth. He’s also fast as hell. Wiggins’ mother was a professional sprinter and he’s got the first step to show for it. He’s so quick that he can outrun his creative handle.
What all this means for Cavs fans is that they’re going to get to watch their inexperienced new 19-year-old star try to make a big impression against NBA defenses. He’ll likely make a lot of mistakes - dominating Iowa State does not prepare anyone to put the ball in Tim Duncan’s eye - and every game will be a tug of war between the hubristic and the humble-making. Wiggins will carry the team to both wins and losses and a playoff berth is far from assured, but what he can guarantee is entertainment.
Like Tom Berenger’s Indians, the Cavs need to put the fun back in the game. Wiggins can do that. Just look at the suit he wore to the draft; the kid thinks he’s bigger than the game. He may shrink a little when he steps into the big’s league, but hopefully he’ll remain larger than life. Cleveland doesn’t just need wins. The city needs highlights.