By Jason Lloyd Akron Beacon Journal
LAS VEGAS — Life has been rapidly changing for Andrew Wiggins lately. No longer the freshman phenom at Kansas, he’s now the prodigy, the No. 1 pick in the draft. He’s also changing positions.
Wiggins was widely regarded as a prototypical small forward before the draft, but the Cavs’ addition of LeBron James is expected to slide Wiggins to shooting guard.
But the Cavaliers are insisting, both privately and publicly, Wiggins won’t be changing teams.
Since James’ arrival, Wiggins has been linked to the Minnesota Timberwolves in trade discussions. The Cavs and Timberwolves haven’t actively engaged in trade talks since the draft, one league source with knowledge of the discussions said. They wouldn’t part with the No. 1 pick before the draft and remain adamant they’re not going to trade Wiggins now.
“There’s no reason for worry on his part because Andrew’s not going anywhere as far as I know,” Cavs coach David Blatt said Saturday.
Wiggins had 18 points, three rebounds, a steal and a block in his professional debut Friday night during the Cavs’ 70-68 summer league victory over the Milwaukee Bucks and No. 2 pick Jabari Parker. But Wiggins shot just 7-for-18, including 1-for-8 on three-pointers. The scouting report on Wiggins before the draft was that his shot still needed work. That was true in his debut.
But Wiggins is excited to welcome James back and most everyone believes James can serve as a terrific mentor to Wiggins and the rest of the Cavs’ youngsters.
“The best player comes to your team, it’s going to be a great learning experience for me to play alongside the best in the game,” Wiggins said.
As far as the positional switch, no one seems concerned. Wiggins quickly agreed Friday he now sees himself as a shooting guard and Blatt said the differences between the two in his system are minimal.
“I really believe and appreciate players who can pass, dribble and shoot,” Blatt said. “The guys I’ve coached have been interchangeable in terms of position.”
It’s only summer league, but the media swarm surrounding the Cavs after their debut game Friday, one team official joked, rivaled that of the Eastern Conference finals. And James isn’t even in Las Vegas.
That’s the way it will be all season. James’ return has obviously refocused the NBA world back on Cleveland, but his presence will also lessen the burden on those around him.
Kyrie Irving has struggled at times with all of the attention focused on him off the court. Now the media crush Wiggins was expected to endure, given his status as the No. 1 overall pick, will be dimmed by James. That’s just fine with the rookie.
“It’s all going to be on him,” Wiggins said before catching himself. “Not all on him. He has backup. We can be a team that can improve every day.”
Wiggins certainly will still see time at small forward. One of the Cavs’ objectives for this season is to reduce the load he is forced to carry. James is consistently among the league leaders in minutes played, but the Heat tried unsuccessfully to reduce James’ minutes for years.
“I would think for a guy like Andrew,” Blatt said, “to play with arguably one of the best players of all time, and to learn from him and be tutored by him and play alongside him — which he will in many cases — I’ve got to think that’s a tremendous boost to his confidence, to his comfort level and probably to his motivation to be even better.”