Reusse: You knew it would happen. Wiggins gets traded, wins NBA title

Kevin McHale was the Timberwolves basketball boss when Kevin Garnett was traded to Boston for Al Jefferson, four warm bodies and two first-round draft choices on July 31, 2007.

Two years later, McHale’s replacement, David Kahn, would turn those draft choices into Jonny Flynn and Wayne Ellington.

Flip Saunders was the basketball boss on Aug. 23, 2014, when Kevin Love was traded to Cleveland for No. 1 overall draft choice Andrew Wiggins, as well as Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young.

Gersson Rosas was the basketball boss on Feb. 7, 2020, when Andrew Wiggins was traded to Golden State for guard D’Angelo Russell. The Wolves also gave up a first-rounder that became Jonathan Kuminga, the seventh overall choice in the 2021 draft.

To the surprise of few Wolves fans, Garnett joined Paul Pierce and Ray Allen and led the Celtics to the 2008 NBA title in six games over the Lakers. Garnett, 32, played the third-most Finals minutes (228) for the Celtics, averaging 18.2 points and 13 rebounds — and also playing his usual outstanding defense.

To the surprise of few Wolves fans, Love became an asset for LeBron James’ hand-picked roster that brought a title to Cleveland in 2016, in seven games over Golden State. Love, 28, played the sixth-most Finals minutes (158) for the Cavs, averaging 8.5 points and 6.9 rebounds.

And now, Wolves followers, admit it:

To the surprise of nearly all of us, Andrew Wiggins became the second star behind the magnificent Stephen Curry in leading the Warriors back to the NBA summit in six games in a series that concluded Thursday night in Boston.

“When you’re the No. 1 overall pick, people start asking, ‘Why isn’t this guy carrying the team?’ He doesn’t have to hear that with the Warriors.”

Trent Tucker

Wiggins, 27, played the most Finals minutes (235) for the Warriors, averaging 18.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and frustrating Celtics star Jayson Tatum with resolute defense.

We labeled Wiggins as “indifferent” here in Minnesota, using what were deemed to be “disappearances” for significant stretches of games as evidence.

We celebrated when Rosas was able to “get rid of” of Wiggins’ laconic approach and his contract. Now, two years and four months later, Wiggins will be a hero in a championship celebration in the Bay Area, and Russell is allegedly being shopped by another new Wolves basketball boss, Tim Connelly.

What happened to our guy Wiggy?

  • Jim Petersen, former NBA player and Wolves astute, oft-suffering TV analyst:

“I can say this without question. I was a much better player when I was on a team with Akeem [Olajuwon] and Ralph Sampson than when I was with Alton Lister and Tom Tolbert. Great friends of mine, but Tolbert and Alton would say the same thing. Playing with Steph, and Klay Thompson, and now Jordan Poole, great shooters, has opened up the court for Andrew and allowed him to be at his most athletic. He was never going to be ‘The Guy,’ and there’s nothing wrong with that. Every great group needs a backup singer, even when Steph’s the lead.

“One day I was sitting with Jimmy [Butler] and showed a video clip of him busting it and chasing down a player on a breakaway. On the other side, there was a flash of Andrew sprinting back. Jimmy said, ‘Run that back.’ And then he said: ‘That’s what Wigs can do. That’s the player he can be.’ And he’s been that in the playoffs.

  • Trent Tucker, NBA-er, former TV analyst (and now a father of two Eden Prairie youth hockey players):

“In my opinion, last season really helped him. Klay [Thompson] was injured, and they had other players missing, and that put Andrew into a position of being relied on heavily. And what I saw was his confidence start to grow.

“When you’re the No. 1 overall pick, people start asking, ‘Why isn’t this guy carrying the team?’ He doesn’t have to hear that with the Warriors. He can fit in behind Steph with Klay and Draymond [Green]go to the glass, play wonderful defense, and score his 18-20 a night.”

  • Marney Gellner, Wolves TV sideline reporter:

“People here wanted more consistency on the court, from a No. 1 overall pick, and I understand that. But I’ve always rooted for Andrew, mostly because I saw the way he treated people. He was respectful, polite, to everybody in the building.

“Not the greatest interview, but always willing. Last time I saw him with the Warriors, he was down the hall and shouted ‘Marney,’ and he walked down, and I got a big hug. Andrew’s a good person. He really is .”

  • Ryan Saunders, Wiggins’ head coach from the middle of the 2018-19 season through the trade:

“[Coach] Steve Kerr is a friend of mine, and I spent a week there during the season. I had a chance to talk with Andrew quite a bit. Athletes and everyone else … I think we all crave stability in life. Andrew’s now a father of young kids, and he has Kerr, and he has Steph, Draymond, Klay. He has stability.”

Asked about an alleged halftime explosion aimed at Wiggins one night, Saunders said: “What’s said in the locker room is supposed to stay there. I was coaching, Andrew took the coaching and came out and played a great second half.”

Now our guy Wiggy has done that in the NBA Finals — and with a team-leading 43 minutes, 41 seconds, in the clincher.

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