There is an injustice in American sports that as of Tuesday morning had not been corrected.
David Kahn, the worst decisionmaker in Twin Cities sports history, has a Wikipedia page. Gersson Rosas does not.
I hereby decree that all sporting events — nay, all events in American life — must be canceled until this wrong is righted. Take to the streets, people. Take to the streets.
Rosas, the Timberwolves’ new president of basketball operations, is impressive. He was born in Bogota, Colombia, and at the age of 40 is the only Latino running an NBA team.
He filled a job that became available in part because of the Wolves’ inability to develop Andrew Wiggins into a star. Rosas indicated Monday that he would prefer to improve Wiggins rather than trade him, although that’s probably what someone who wanted to trade Wiggins would say.
Those who have watched Wiggins meander through the first five years of his career might not want to hear this, but it is in Rosas’ best interest to salvage Wiggins, or at least work to increase his value.
Look at it this way, through an anonymous comparison of two current NBA players through their per-game averages during the first five years of their careers:
Player A: 19.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.0 steals, .6 blocks, with a .440 shooting percentage.
Player B: 18.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.3 steals, .3 blocks and a .445 shooting percentage.
One of those players changed teams after three years, so let’s compare those two players through the first three years of their careers:
Player A: 20.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.0 steals, .5 blocks and a .450 shooting percentage.
Player B: 12.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.1 steals, .3 blocks and a .444 shooting percentage.
Which player would you prefer? Player A, right?
Player A is Andrew Wiggins. Player B is James Harden.
Admittedly, this comparison is limited. Advanced analytics reveal Harden to have been more valuable than Wiggins throughout their careers because of superior three-point shooting and offensive efficiency.
But the comparison can make this point: Rosas was part of the front office that saw Harden playing a sixth-man role in Oklahoma City behind two volume-shooting stars, traded for him and helped him develop into an MVP who is threatening to knock the Golden State Warriors out of the playoffs.
Why wouldn’t Rosas at least try to make Wiggins better?
Like Wiggins, Harden has spent entire seasons lagging on defense. Harden’s lax defensive play got Kevin McHale fired as Rockets coach. Oklahoma City traded him and Houston had reason to give up on him. Instead, the Rockets invested heavily in helping him become a better player and surrounded him with complementary teammates.
Is Wiggins capable of a Harden-like career surge? I wouldn’t want to bet my future on him. I also wouldn’t want to trade him if there is any chance of him becoming a standout, much less a superstar.
Wiggins fades in fourth quarters and clutch situations. He has failed to develop physically like other lean young players such as Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler, who now display shoulders like bowling balls. Wiggins has failed to develop his three-point shooting, and he seems unbothered by his uninspired play.
It would be unwise to blame anybody other than Wiggins for his faults. He’s played for four different coaches. Most NBA stars return from the summer break with new moves or muscles. Wiggins comes back looking identical to his former self.
Wiggins hasn’t earned a clean slate, but the Wolves would be wise to give him one anyway.
In Rosas and presumed coach Ryan Saunders, Wiggins now works for two people known for their year-round work ethic and desire to connect with players. What would happen if they got Wiggins to dedicate himself in the weight room and take 1,000 three-pointers every day?
Whether they ultimately want to trade or keep Wiggins, the Wolves’ new brain trust would benefit from finding out.