This marks the 4th installment of our 6- part draft preview series. This week we’re looking at Toronto native Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins graced the cover of Sports Illustrated before he ever played a game of college basketball. This week we’ll look at whether his season has matched the massive hype and how he’ll fair at the pro level.
(Note: This was written before Kansas was eliminated over the weekend.)
Andrew Wiggins Breakdown
While he hasn’t lived up to the gigantic expectations that were laid out for him at the start of the season, this Canuck can really ball. The feeling from scouts was that this draft class of remarkable freshmen were going to single-handedly take over games, score 50 points a night, and eat people’s children. At the head of the class was Wiggins, ready to take over college as a mere stepping stone towards greatness in the NBA. Yet, no freshmen this year could have lived up to the insane hype that analysts had laid down and to be fair, Wiggins himself never said he would dominate college ball. But he also hasn’t tried to. This lack of killer instinct might be the biggest indictment against him. Before we condemn him, let’s take a step back from the large expectations, and look at what we know about Wiggins from his lone season at Kansas and what that might mean for an NBA team thinking to draft him with the #1 pick.
The one word we would use to describe Wiggins is: Simple. He makes everything he does look effortless and natural. The son of a former NBA player and Olympic sprinter, Wiggins is an athlete through and through. He has good foot speed and a 44” vertical leap. As 6’8” shooting guard with a 7’0” wingspan, he has the ability to guard multiple positions. Simply put – he has the physical tools. He weighs just over 200 lbs so he will need a little more size for the next level but his sinewy 19-year old frame suggests that adding muscle won’t be a problem. He is fast and likes to get out in transition. He rebounds well for his position, especially on the offensive end of the floor. He averages 6 rpg, and just over 2 offensive rebounds a game. He is very active on the glass, even though he never looks like he is trying.
Aside from jumping really high, Wiggins does nothing spectacularly, but he does several things very well. ESPN’s Chad Ford likens him to a Tracy McGrady type of player. Wiggins did not dominate any statistical category but was in the top ten in the Big 12 in several offensive categories (FT%, Offensive Rebounds, Steals, Points Per Game). He has an explosive first step to the basket thanks to his long strides and quickness and can finish with both hand and with contact. Additionally unlike some players with tremendous leaping ability, Wiggins utilizes his jumping ability as part of his offensive arsenal. Kansas often ran a play for Wiggins this season where he cut back door along the weak side baseline and simply rose above several defenders for a lob dunk.
The knock on him coming out of high school last year was the lack of a consistent mid-range and 3-point shot. His ability to penetrate the lane at the next level will depend on him tightening his handle and improving his aggressiveness. This year at Kansas, he has shown flashes of offensive brilliance and he can get hot quickly. He is currently shooting 45% from 2pt range and 35% from 3. His shot has improved tremendously over the course of the season. In a game against West Virginia on March 8th, he scored 41 points on 12-18 shooting, made 15-19 free throws, 8 rebounds, 5 steals, 4 blocks, and 2 assists. Many wondered if it was a one-time thing, but he came out the next game against Oklahoma St and scored 30 points on 9-17 shooting, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and a block. These types of dominating performances have scouts and NBA teams clamoring for his services.
Wiggins can defend multiple positions and frequently had to guard the other team’s best wing player. His long arms disrupt the passing lanes and he averaged 1.2 spg and 0.9 bpg. His defense has been the one thing that most don’t comment on, but it has been spectacular most of the season. He’s a great help side defender, he understands angles and defensive positioning and his length wreaks havoc for opposing wing players.
At the start of the season, Wiggins was the consensus #1 pick for the draft. While he’s recently ascended to the top of draft boards, for several weeks he wasn’t even the #2 on most lists. So why the drop? Wiggins does not play with the aggression that someone with his talent commands (kinda like McGrady). Many critics have reservations about a player that has to be yelled at (as Kansas coach Bob Self has done on numerous occasions in time outs this season) in order for him to play with fire and tenacity. Wiggins has a respectable PER of 22.1, his efficiency rating for the season is lower than that of Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and Marcus Smart.
He has the tendency to become lost on the floor and disappear for long stretches. One of the things that makes evaluating Wiggins difficult is that he doesn’t seem to be playing hard, even when he is. He disappears from view often, even though he puts up plenty of stats to the contrary. He is also inconsistent at this point in his career. In several games he was silent for the first half, only to come out of halftime blazing. Against Duke (and fellow freshman Jabari Parker) he had a terrible first half, only to take over the game in the second, including making several key shots (and getting Parker to foul out) in a Kansas win. Against #1 Florida in a hostile environment, he was very quiet in the first half, only to come out an nearly take his team back from a 18 point deficit to win. Wiggins finished with 26 points and 11 rebs.
How does he fit with Giannis?
Wiggins could easily become a guy who scores 25 ppg while playing awesome defense in the process. One of the big questions with Wiggins is whether he’ll ever be your team leader? He is naturally very shy and humble. Journalists and coaches often complain about his habit of looking at the ground during interviews. While Giannis is magnanimous it’s hard to tell whether he’ll become the strong leader type. So, if the Bucks were to draft Wiggins they would be led by two “nice guys” moving forward. This seems good for team chemistry but not always great for winning basketball games.
His defensive potential alongside Antetokounmpo would be out of this world. Wiggins reportedly works very hard on his game and scouts expect that he’ll have an easier time improving his already solid jump shot than most. Offensively, Wiggins will add a scoring punch but this might not happen right away. At this point it’s very clear that the top 3 players in the draft are Wiggins, Parker and Embiid. Wiggins lacks the leadership qualities and NBA readiness of Jabari Parker and the sheer size of Joel Embiid.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt about Wiggins’ potential, as he has possibly the highest ceiling of any pick in the draft. Furthermore Wiggins is blessed with all of the tools and ability, but does he have the drive to consistently take over games? Is assertiveness something you can develop over the course of your career or is it something that you’re born with? Is the perception of Wiggins as someone who disappears and doesn’t always play hard fair or is Wiggins a victim of his gracefulness? These are all questions that the Bucks’ brass will be asking themselves if they land the top pick in this year’s draft.