Andrew Wiggins was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, then he proceeded to lead all first-year players in points, minutes, field goals and free throws. So it was no huge surprise when reports emerged Wednesday that the Timberwolves small forward will be named the league’s rookie of the year on Thursday.
Those reports are as yet unconfirmed, but if the prime minister of Wiggins’s home country of Canada says so, let’s go along with it, eh?
If Wiggins indeed is announced as the winner, he would have successfully held off late campaign by Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic and Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel. Mirotic averaged single-digits in scoring every month of the season before erupting for 20.8 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in March, while Wiggins started somewhat quietly with 7.0 points per game in two October games before increasing his averages, topping out at 23.3 points per game in April. Noel, who was drafted in 2013 but missed his first year due to injury, also bulled his way into the rookie of the year race after posting 14.3 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game in March.
Wiggins, who played one season at Kansas before turning pro, had an especially pronounced advantage over other rookies when it came to scoring, as there was a huge drop from his 16.9 average to the 11.9 notched by the next first-year player, the Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson. Third on that list was the Knicks’ Langston Galloway (11.8), whom the talent-starved team plucked from the D-League, a fact that reflects another advantage held by Wiggins: he stayed healthy.
While injuries ravaged much of the talent of the 2014 draft class, Wiggins played in all 82 games. By contrast, missing much or all of the season were the players picked second (Bucks’ Jabari Parker), third (76ers’ Joel Embiid), fourth (Magic’s Aaron Gordon), seventh (Lakers’ Julius Randle), ninth (Hornets’ Noah Vonleh) and 11th (Bulls’ Doug McDermott).
The player picked 12th, Dario Saric, didn’t even come to the NBA after being acquired by the 76ers in a draft-day trade, instead continuing to play professional basketball in Europe. “It’s a tough league. It’s hard to play every game,” Wiggins recently told the Associated Press. “I feel proud of that.”
The news of Wiggins’s honor comes as Cavaliers fans wonder if they’ve seen the last of Kevin Love, the player for whom the rookie was traded before the start of the season. Love injured his shoulder during Cleveland’s playoff series against Boston, and he could leave the team in the offseason as a free agent.
Meanwhile, the Timberwolves have plenty to which to look forward. Wiggins, 20, improved as the season went along, and his elite athleticism provided fans with many dunk-tacular moments.