INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – The Cavaliers chose potential over power.
By selecting Kansas swingman Andrew Wiggins over Duke’s Jabari Parker with the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft Thursday night, the Cavs are getting a talented, perimeter player who could blossom into a superstar.
And, who knows, maybe play alongside LeBron James.
The 19-year-old Wiggins, who averaged 17.1 points and 5.9 rebounds as a freshman at Kansas, would have likely been the top pick a year ago, when the Cavs took forward Anthony Bennett.
All of our scouts felt he had the most upside, Cavs general manager David Griffin said.
The Cavs debated over Wiggins and Parker for days before finalizing their choice in the last hours leading into the draft. There was a reported rift between Griffin, who preferred Parker, and owner Dan Gilbert, who wanted Wiggins. However, two hours before the draft started, Gilbert posted a photo of the team’s decision room on his Twitter account with the words: United and busy.
The selection of Wiggins came one day after the Cavs introduced new coach David Blatt, and it’s just the next step in a two-week stretch that could reshape Cleveland’s franchise for the next decade.
On Tuesday, the team can begin contract negotiations with All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving on a five-year contract extension. That’s also the first day free agents can negotiate with teams.
With at least $25 million in salary-cap space, and the potential to create more, the Cavs are expected to make a strong run at James, who informed the Miami Heat this week that he’s opting out of the final two years of his contract.
It’s also possible the Cavs could make a major trade to acquire another All-Star. Minnesota’s Kevin Love has been mentioned in deals involving the Cavs for years, and with just one year left on his contract, Love is primed to be moved by the Timberwolves.
Wiggins has all the skills: a good jump shot, quick feet and a 44-inch vertical jump. One of the knocks on him has been the lack of a killer instinct, but the 6-foot-8, 200-pounder said that won’t be a problem going forward.
I think I can be a great player, he said. I think I can be one of the best.
Wiggins will feel at home with the Cavaliers. He played AAU ball in Canada with Bennett and Cavs forward Tristan Thompson, giving the team a north-of-the-U.S.-border flavor.
Griffin feels Wiggins has the necessary drive to achieve greatness.
He realizes what his potential really is and he seems to have a legitimate desire to reach it, Griffin said. These kids are all going to be as good as they’re willing to work to be and we believe he’s engaged in the right way.
As for Parker, he immediately became a face of a team looking to rebound from a franchise-worst 67-loss season. New ownership in Milwaukee hopes to construct a championship contender within five years.
Parker wanted to play for the Bucks, barely 90 minutes from his hometown of Chicago. He said he’s mostly prepared for the pressure.
Because I think my pride won’t get in the way from what the team wants me to do, Parker said. I want to fulfill my role and I want to do whatever it takes to win.
The Duke one-and-done star would join 19-year-old forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and scoring guard Brandon Knight as promising team cornerstones.