For Cleveland de facto GM LeBron James, swinging a deal for coveted power forward Kevin Love last summer seemed a no-brainer. Though he’d played his entire career for hapless Minnesota, Love was one of the finest scorers and rebounders in the game, perfect to round out the Cavs’ new-look Big Three.
To secure Love, Cleveland sent a package to the Wolves highlighted by Andrew Wiggins, whom they’d drafted first overall mere months prior. But to paraphrase J. Cole, might the Cavs have been sleeping on the one that they’d been dreaming about?
Love has experienced growing pains going from unquestioned top dog to one of the pack, to the point that he’s the target of weird subtweets from King James. Love is not signed long term, and though he has indicated he’d likely stay in Cleveland, there’s no guarantee.
Wiggins, meanwhile, has flourished in Minnesota. Adept both in the post and from the wing, the Canadian wunderkind won MVP of the Rising Stars Game and is running away in the Rookie of the Year race. Though Wiggins turns just 20 today, his sky-high learning curve has him at the forefront of a young, exciting nucleus. Not to mention, Wiggins has shown signs of becoming a special defensive player, a particular liability for Love.
It seems increasingly unlikely LeBron and Co. knew exactly what they had in Wiggins, who might actually have been a better fit for them right now, much less in the years to come. However, adidas presumably knew exactly what the phenom had to offer, which is why they pursued him out of college.
As such, our humble suggestion to the Three Stripes: It’s not too early to start thinking about a signature shoe for their young prodigy.
To give Wiggins his own sneaker wouldn’t even be that big a leap as adidas is already pushing him toward the forefront, having had him represent them at All-Star Weekend events. Wiggins was chosen to debut the Crazylight Boost 2015 during the Rising Stars Game, indicating he’s clearly a standard-bearer already.
Wiggins offers something a little different from the other adidas signature ballers, all of whom are point guards. Though we’ve had some significant signature ones, most of the truly big-time moneymakers have been swingman types: Jordan, LeBron, Kobe, Durant.
While Damian Lillard is well liked by basketball aficionados — witness the recent uproar when he wasn’t initially named an All-Star — he just doesn’t move the needle like an elite swingman does. I actually feel like a Wiggins shoe might have resonated more than Lillard’s first; he’s starting to make his presence felt, and people like what they see.
This is a unique time for adidas. Thanks to Kanye West, they currently have everyone’s attention, if not yet the market share to go along with that. Schedule the AW1 to debut during next year’s All-Star Weekend — in his native Toronto! Take a page from Nike’s playbook and limit the supply on the first couple colorways, driving demand for the subsequent ones. For an added boost, pun intended, perhaps have Kanye West “consult” on the design of Wiggins’ first shoe.
(I know what you’re wondering: Does Wiggins have a pair of Yeezys? “I’ve got ‘em,” he said over the weekend. “I’m afraid to touch ‘em.”)
Of course, the biggest obstacle in the way of Wiggins’ ascent to mainstream superstardom might be his own reluctance to express himself.
When I saw Wiggins play for Huntington Prep at the 2013 Hoophall Classic, he stood out in a couple of ways. For one, his skill level was head and shoulders above his peers: The naturally gifted wing easily dominated a very good player in Indiana-bound forward Noah Vonleh.
Just as striking as what Wiggins did, however, was what he didn’t do. Belying the look-at-me culture that permeates prep basketball, he showed little interest in self-promotion, pointedly heading for the hills at the first sight of the media. This tendency frequently manifested itself on the court; even his coach admitted Wiggins was at times reluctant to assert his outstanding talent.
That set the tone for a tantalizing but polarizing first year at Kansas, during which he was alternately celebrated and picked apart as he continued to grow as a player. Wiggins scored 41 in a breakout game against West Virginia, but had just four points two weeks later as the Jayhawks were upset in the second round by Stanford. The ability to dominate was clearly there, but he needed the experience to harness it.
As such, the trade to Minnesota has been a boon. As the jewel of an exciting young nucleus, Wiggins is free to learn by fire without the withering spotlight that would have come with being LeBron’s wingman. Sure enough, Wiggins ranked second in the league in minutes in January, averaging nearly 20 points per game while improving by leaps and bounds.
“I think it was the best move for me,” Wiggins told the media after the Rising Stars Game. “It gave me more room, and put me in a position where I have to grow up faster. In the League, that’s always what’s best for you, you know? There, I would have been more of a role player. Here, I’m getting more time to shine, and do what I was put in this league to do. And I’m enjoying the process.”
While still not a press conference superstar, Wiggins isn’t Marshawn Lynch either — he has definitely improved since coming into the league.
Besides, his shyness/slyness with the media might eventually prove a strength, not a weakness. Kevin Durant’s nice-guy image has done wonders for his Q-Rating. Wiggins comes off even more endearingly unassuming and quirky, and it may just be a matter of time before American living rooms can’t resist taking him under their wing.
By this time next year, if adidas plays its cards right, Wiggins might just be their centerpiece the way he is for the Wolves. After all, you don’t always have to say a whole lot to make your presence felt.
BUY NOW: ChampsSports.com
Follow Bryan on Twitter at @SportsAngle