The Cleveland Cavaliers are staring a sure thing in the eyes. They better not blink.
Joel Embiid may be seven feet of upside – and you can’t teach height. And of the “Big Three,” Jabari Parker may have shown the most explosiveness during the mandatory one-year college layover. But Andrew Wiggins is a can’t miss.
It’s rare that a team is granted the opportunity to pull a Lloyd Christmas and totally redeem itself, yet that’s where Cleveland sits. One year after they shocked the world by taking Anthony Bennett – a player whose first year spawned such article titles as “Anthony Bennett’s historically bad rookie season” – the Cavs can make amends. They can think inside the box and hit a home run. There’s no need to get clever this time around.
Wiggins has the hype. Sports Illustrated invoked the names of Wilt Chamberlain and Danny Manning in a feature on him. A quick Google search of “Wiggins the next LeBron” turns up over 500,000 page hits. Even The King himself recognizes the potential. The table has been set.
He also has the game. Yes, there were ups and downs during his only season at Kansas. A 7-point, 5-foul performance in a conference loss to Texas looks awful when viewed in a vacuum. However, Wiggins also had flashes of brilliance: 41 points, 8 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 blocks in the conference finale versus West Virginia, followed by 30 points and 8 rebounds against Oklahoma State. As his game matures (he’s only 19), Wiggins’ otherworldly athleticism will carry him through the rigors of an NBA season.
And yet, neither the hype nor the on-court game are what make Wiggins a sure thing. There’s a third heat, and in this case it’s marketing.
When the Browns drafted Johnny Manziel it was the City of Cleveland’s best PR move since the time Drew Carey started brewing beer in his garage. Manziel created a buzz around not only his new team, but the entire city. Now the Cavs can double down on that.
With both Wiggins and Johnny Cleveland, Forest City becomes that much more desirable. It becomes less thought of as the Mistake by the Lake, and more a hotbed of young athletes. Between their ties to pop culture’s King Midas, Drake, the excitement they bring on the field/court, and the volume of hype, Wiggins and Manziel would team to make the city exponentially more marketable.
This is the vision of Cleveland, post-Lebron.
While two young superstars may not make Cleveland a destination along the likes of Miami or New York, they can at least generate some positive buzz. Fans will actually seek out NFL and NBA games – a rarity for quite some time. There will be excitement.
Should the Cavs choose Embiid, as Chad Ford projects, and he hits, then bully for them. However, if he becomes the latest seven-foot bust with health problems, that kind of futility is enough to drive Kyrie Irving away and likely any other player ever wanting to chase a ring.
By selecting Wiggins, the Cavs would hop aboard the title wave of optimism put into motion by the Browns. Even if he fails to live up to the hype, the pick buys Cleveland two years of incredible marketing packages.
Wiggins is not only a good basketball pick, he’s the smartest business pick. Due to the city’s unique situation and potential synergy, there is considerably less downside with him than any other player in the draft.
The Cavs cannot afford to miss on this one.