This week marked what many considered the inevitable when Kansas Jayhawks freshman Andrew Wiggins declared himself eligible for the 2014 NBA Draft. A little over a year ago, Wiggins was the man, the myth, the Canadian legend whom most scouts thought was a lock to be taken number one overall in the 2014 Draft. A 6’8″, do-it-all forward with a 44-inch vertical leap, a 7-foot wingspan and tremendous all-around athleticism, it wasn’t hard to see why scouts were sky-high on him. Now, things are a little different…
We emphasize “little” here because Wiggins is still a lock to be a top-three pick this summer. He also didn’t do anything to hurt his stock at Kansas after leading the talented Jayhawks team with 17.1 PPG. He also chipped in 5.9 RPG, 1.2 SPG and 1.0 BPG for a school that finished 25-10 and grabbed the Big 12 title.
His main competition for the top overall choice is Kansas teammate Joel Embiid and Duke freshman Jabari Parker. Some analysts see Embiid as a potential franchise center since he’s got the size (7’0″, 250 pounds) and college numbers (11.2PPG, 8.1RPG, 2.6BPG) that NBA teams like to see. Given his upside, Embiid will be hard to pass up for whoever wins the ping pong ball lottery.
Parker might be even harder to pass on because, much like Wiggins, he’s already the complete package. The 6’8″ combo forward was truly all over the court for Duke this year, as he averaged 19.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 1.2 BPG and shot 35.8% from the three-point line. Going beyond the numbers, what many scouts love about Parker is his killer instinct, much like Kobe or MJ.
So it looks like Wiggins will definitely have some competition with regard to being picked number one overall. But no matter whether he’s picked first, second or third, he is going to be a very good player. And our question is this: will he be an All-Star right out of the gate?
We already discussed how freakishly athletic Wiggins is. Based on pure athleticism (i.e. run, jump, quickness), he’s quite possibly be the most talented basketball player on the planet. He has the ability to defend multiple positions, runs like a gazelle and is excellent at finishing in transition.
On the downside, Wiggins’ killer instinct and basketball passion have often been called into question. This is what essentially took him from a guaranteed top pick to somebody who could go 1-3. It’s also what saw him end his college career with a nightmare 1-for-6, four-point performance against Stanford in Kansas’ second-round exit from the tourney. Those analyzing Wiggins saw a guy floating around the perimeter against the Stanford zone defense, rather than attacking it and making something happen in the paint.
But are we to take one terrible college game and use it to foreshadow Wiggins’ future. Not according to Kansas coach Bill Self, who had the following to say about his star:
I think the improvement he made this year with his approach and mindset was a great, great improvement. If you look at his statistics and everything, and you look at the games in which we labored for the most part or games which were narrow victories, he always seemed to produce more. He is one of those guys that if the team didn’t have to have him do it, he, a lot of times, deferred to let others do it. But at game point, usually, he was right there.
Self isn’t just full of empty words here because the stats back up what he says. During the Jayhawks’ 25 wins, Wiggins took 11.8 shots and 5.7 free throws while scoring 16.8 PPG. In the team’s 10 losses, he attempted 13.3 shots and 9.4 free throws while scoring 17.7 PPG. Case in point, he is a selfless player who tries to take over when his team is struggling. And this was on a Kansas team that was loaded with plenty of other great players.
As for those who still question Wiggins’ work ethic and drive to improve, perhaps they should listen to the future star himself. “No one’s game is perfect, I have a lot of things to work on,” he said. “There’s strength, ballhandling and shooting, just trying to perfect everything for next season.”
Judging from his underrated competitiveness, freaky talent and versatility, we think that Wiggins definitely has the potential to be an All-Star in his first season. Of course, it will greatly help his cause if he’s paired with another talented player or two to start off with. This would take some of the pressure off of Wiggins and allow him to avoid forcing bad shots and trying to carry a team.
The cupboard is pretty bare in Milwaukee (14-60), which currently owns the NBA’s worst record. But if Wiggins were to land in Philadelphia (16-58), he could play with Michael Carter-Williams. Being picked by the Orlando Magic (21-53) would allow him to play with Victor Oladipo.
In any case, it’ll be fun to see where Wiggins ends up and if he can make the lucky lottery team that picks him into a playoff contender. Our bet is yes.