Does Wiggins make this the best superstar return in this era of NBA?
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MINNEAPOLIS - Is it true that Andrew Wiggins is the centerpiece of the best haul of the era in a trade for a superstar? That's the opinion of the New York Post, anyway, and it's a reasonable statement.
One thing The Post certainly has right in its column analyzing the top-7 superstar trades in NBA history is that the Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Thaddeus Young package (plus a trade exception of more than $6 million) is better than what the Wolves got for Kevin Garnett in 2007.
It's fun to compare them, but there's really not much of a comparison. The Kevin Love trade and the Kevin Garnett trade are not equal. This one is better for the Wolves. And it might be better than any superstar deal in this era of the NBA.
Here's a glance at the 2007 Wolves trade:
What the Wolves gave up: Kevin Garnett.
The former franchise player made the Boston Celtics defense incredible and won a championship alongside Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
Jefferson was seen as a good player and that turned out to be the case. Although he was the centerpiece of that deal, he was not thought of as having the same potential as Wiggins. That's not to suggest hype always yields results. Nor is it to suggest that success can't appear in the absence of hype. Big Al was a good player for the Wolves and they more or less gave him away.
Flip Saunders used the term "cornerstone" player Saturday at a press conference to announce the move. That shoe seems to fit Wiggins better than it ever did Jefferson.
Additional listening: Wolves analyst Steve McPherson helped contextualize the return and explain the potential of Andrew Wiggins during this episode of the Sports Over Beers podcast. He also explains why he thinks it's the best superstar return in recent NBA history.
Listen here or you can follow this link to download the episode.
Wiggins, from what we've seen of him in his one year at Kansas, has the makings of a star. He may or may not replace the production of Love. He's got quite a climb ahead of him before we open that conversation in earnest. That was never the assumption in the Garnett trade.
"You are talking about a guy in Wiggins that since he was in high school, people thought that he was the best player to come out of high school since LeBron James. He has phenomenal ability," Saunders said over the weekend. "He has a lot of work to do, but I know that he is a willing learner."
Two things stand out to me in this highlight montage. Saunders addressed both when the trade formally was announced.
1. "Offensively, the way this game is played, he was by far the best finisher in college basketball," Saunders said of Wiggins. "His ability when he got the ball on the break, he finished at the rim as well or better than anybody. Those are things that transcend into the NBA with the open-floor games that we play."
Wiggins is seen as a more complete defensive player right now, while his offense likely is a step behind. That will require time to develop. His ability to finish on fast breaks and after contact are positive signs.
2. "One thing he never held back was his defensive aggressiveness. For me that's as much a key as anything," Saunders said.
Some of the defensive instincts stick out, even in this clip focusing primarily on his scoring ability. His weakside rotations to cover for teammates are noteworthy, as is his positioning for blocks and the quickness on his second-jump rebounds.
In the Garnett trade, the Wolves acquired a good player and some lottery tickets. This time around, Saunders said they have a player with star potential and NBA-ready defensive ability. They also got a solid veteran starter at power forward, a valuable trade exception, and somewhat of a low-risk lottery ticket in Bennett.
"You want to try to get potentially a superstar back. If you look at the history over the last 25 years of number one picks many of those players have become all-league players, All-Stars and we feel that Wiggins has that potential to be that type of player. We feel that Bennett has the potential. He's underachieved to this point but we feel there's a lot of factors that have led into that. We're excited about Anthony's ability to come in here with a clean slate, being able to work from the beginning and try to reach the vision and potential that he had coming out of college."
The Post ranked the Big Ticket trade No. 7 of the era. You can read about the rest of the list here.
This is how they ranked the rest of the blockbuster trades, in terms of what the star netted the team that dealt him:
6. Chris Paul to the Clippers
5. Deron Williams to the Nets
4. Dwight Howard to the Lakers
3. Shaquille O'Neal to the Heat
2. Carmelo Anthony the Knicks
1. Kevin Love to the Cavaliers