Andrew Wiggins is the future of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Part-owner, president, and coach Flip Saunders played the trade market perfectly this summer when he was put into a position in which the loss of Kevin Love looked imminent. Saunders took his time, remained patient, and eventually executed a three-team trade that brought Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, and Thaddeus Young to the Wolves. That means Wiggins will step in Day 1 and get the playing time he wants, right?
Not necessarily. On a radio interview in Minnesota, Saunders wouldn’t commit to saying Wiggins is absolutely starting just yet, and seems intent on making sure Wiggins fights for and earns everything he gets from the start of his NBA career.
This isn’t anything new with the Wolves and their prized, young rookies. Back in 1995-96, Kevin Garnett was forced to earn his starting position as a rookie. Bill Blair was the coach for the first 20 games of the season, none of which Garnett got a start in. Saunders took over as coach after those first 20 games but Garnett still didn’t start a game until 32nd game of his career. Even then, he spent the next six games coming off the bench before earning his starting spot for good in the 39th game of that season.
In 1996-97, Stephon Marbury started two of the first five games for the Wolves before being trusted with the full-time starting position. In 2008-09, Kevin Love didn’t get a regular starting position with the Wolves until early February. Even in his second year, he only started 22 of the 60 games he played before becoming a full-time starter the next season. It wasn’t until the 11th games of Ricky Rubio’s career in 2011-12 until he was trusted with full-time starting duties.
The Wolves have plenty of depth at the wing positions. Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, and Chase Budinger will all get time at both wing positions throughout the season. You can even pencil in Young for some time at the small forward position too. But eventually (and maybe it will be evident right away) Wiggins will be the starting small forward.