Andrew Wiggins turned in the best scoring effort of his rookie season in time for his first head-to-head matchup with the player selected right behind him, Jabari Parker.
It was clear at Tuesday’s practice that Wiggins’ focus is on the court.
These top rookies meet for the first time in the regular season Wednesday night when Wiggins and the Minnesota Timberwolves host Parker and the Milwaukee Bucks.
The star-studded 2014 draft saw Wiggins go No. 1 to Cleveland and Parker No. 2 to Milwaukee, but the trade of Kevin Love to the Cavaliers for Wiggins ended any chance of a budding divisional rivalry between these promising young players.
Now they will meet twice a season, though Wiggins didn’t have much to say Tuesday about facing Parker.
"He’s a hard worker, he works hard, a determined player and a great scorer," said Wiggins about his counterpart.
Wiggins leads all rookies with a 12.5 scoring average, with Parker second at 11.7. Parker leads in field-goal percentage at 46.0, with Wiggins second at 42.6.
They faced each other in college last season when Wiggins scored 22 points to help Kansas overcome Parker’s game-high 27 in a 94-83 win over Duke on Nov. 12, 2013.
These clubs met twice this preseason. Wiggins sat out one of the games and Parker outscored him 21-10 in the Bucks’ 105-98 win Oct. 17. The players also met in the summer league.
Minnesota (3-9) hasn’t played since Wiggins scored 29 points in Saturday’s 113-101 loss to Sacramento. He had season bests in points, minutes (41), field-goal attempts (22) and free throws (10).
"I’m a lot more comfortable on the court, off the court, I know the system well," Wiggins said. "The chemistry is building with the guys every day."
He’ll have the advantage of rest since Milwaukee (8-7) won 98-86 at home over Detroit on Tuesday. Parker, who had 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting to go with nine rebounds, is shooting 40.6 percent in the second half of back-to-backs compared to 49.5 percent in his other games.
The Bucks are 2-3 on the second half of back-to-backs. This is the third of five straight sets for them.
"We understand the importance of coming with energy and effort here on the road," coach Jason Kidd said. "Minnesota is going to get after it, they play extremely well at home, they’re well coached."
The injury-plagued Wolves are without shooting guard Kevin Martin (fractured right wrist) while centers Nikola Pekovic (sprained right wrist) and Ronny Turiaf (sore hip) are both doubtful.
Minnesota will get Thaddeus Young back after the forward missed the last five games since his mother passed away from cancer Nov. 13.
”I think it’s good for him (to get back) just from perspective of he’s had a chance to do a lot of things back home and try to get his head straight and get things organized,” coach Flip Saunders said.
The Bucks will be without forward John Henson, who sprained his left foot Tuesday and won’t make the trip.
The Wolves have taken the last four matchups and 12 of the last 14 at home.