Will Andrew Wiggins be an NBA Star Right Away?

will-andrew-wiggins-be-starThis 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.

will-andrew-wiggins-be-star-1So 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.”

andrew-wiggins-not-number-one-1Wiggins added, “I think I improved a lot. There was never really a non-competitive practice we had, every practice every player would go at each other a lot, making each other better.”

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.

Dayton: Busting Brackets and Bettors with Sweet Sixteen Appearance

dayton-flyers-basketballWhen the 2014 NCAA Tournament field was finalized, few people paid much attention to Dayton, a ho-hum 11th seed with no discernible star players. Most March Madness bettors and fans filling out brackets didn’t think that the Flyers would even stand a chance against their in-state rivals Ohio State – let alone their second-round matchup against Syracuse.

But after surviving a last-second shot for the second time in a row, Dayton is now the first Cinderella team in the Sweet Sixteen. And we’ll be quite honest, we totally missed the boat on Dayton in our notable Cinderella picks. Sure, this was a quality team that came into the tournament with a 23-10 overall record and a 10-6 mark in the fairly tough Atlantic 10 Conference (tied for fifth). But if somebody were going to emerge as a postseason favorite, you’d expect it to be Saint Louis (26-6) or VCU (26-8) – both teams that are already done.

The truth is that Dayton now carries the banner for the A-10, and they may represent the Cinderellas’ last hope if 12th-seeded Stephen F. Austin doesn’t knock off UCLA later today. So just what is it that has helped the Flyers succeed where other longshots have failed?

For starters, this squad is used to dealing with close, high-pressure games – an excellent quality to have during March Madness. They battled in 10 games during the regular season/A-10 Tournament that were decided by 5 points or less. So it should be little surprise that their first two victories in the NCAA Tournament have been decided by a collective three points.

dayton-flyers-basketball-1The first win over Ohio State was especially dramatic, with Vee Sanford beating Aaron Craft off the dribble for a go-ahead basket with 3.8 seconds left. This gave Craft just enough time to storm down the court for a game-winning rebuttal, however, his shot rattled out. Few could’ve predicted that the Buckeyes, a team with so much tournament success over the past few years, would be toppled by their lesser-known neighbors to the southwest.

Most expected this nice little run to end when Dayton matched up with a more-vaunted opponent in Syracuse. The Orange started the season by running out to a 25-0 record and achieving the nation’s number-one ranking, before stumbling and losing five out of their last seven games prior to March Madness. But with two mid-major opponents out in front of them in Western Michigan and Dayton, it looked like Syracuse could salvage a once-promising season and still make the Sweet Sixteen.

Perhaps they underestimated Dayton’s swarming team defense, which forced the Orange into plenty of bad shots yesterday. To be fair, Syracuse also shot themselves in the foot, shooting under 40% from the field, which was a common theme in all six of their losses down the season stretch. Their two stars, CJ Fair and freshman Tyler Ennis, were held to a combined 11-of-35 (31.4%) from the field.

Another telling stat is that the Orange missed all 10 of their three-point attempts. None of these missed attempts hurt more than Ennis’ last-second three, which clanged off the back of the iron, ending Syracuse’s season with a whimper.

dayton-flyers-basketball-2Contrast this to Dayton, who made several clutch three-pointers down the stretch, connecting on 7-of-16 shots (43.8%) from behind the arc. Ohio State transfer Jordan Sibert was especially instrumental in this department as he made three-of-eight shots from downtown. Dyshawn Pierre also came up big by leading a balanced scoring effort with 14 points.

Now, the Flyers wait to see who they’ll play next week as 10th-seeded Stanford and 2nd-seeded Kansas face off. Both of these teams are very good, but you can bet that Dayton would pick the 22-12 Cardinals as opponents, rather than Kansas’ trio of freshman stars – Andrew Wiggins (17.4PPG, 5.9RPG), Joel Embid (11.2PPG, 8.1RPG) and Wayne Seldon Jr. (9.9PPG, 2.7RPG). Embid is currently out with a stress fracture in his back, but could return to action next week. If he can’t go, Kansas still has another tough post player in sophomore Perry Ellis (13.6PPG, 6.6RPG) to contend with.

Assuming Stanford can pull off the upset, Dayton would have to play a very experienced team, lead by junior guard Chasson Randle (18.9PPG, 3.5RPG). He’s teamed up with senior postman Dwight Powell (13.9PPG, 6.8RPG), junior swingman Anthony Brown (12.0PPG, 5.0RPG) and senior forward Josh Huestis (11.3PPG, 8.2RPG).

Regardless of whom Dayton plays, you can bet that they’ll bring the same fire they had in the first two rounds. This squad is extremely balanced, as you can see from their leading scorers, Sibert (12.4PPG), Devin Oliver (11.9PPG), Pierre (11.2PPG) and Vee (9.9PPG). They also shoot the three very well at a 37.6% clip and feature a pretty experienced starting lineup. So whether it’s Kansas or Stanford that wins today, they also have something to fear in regard to their Sweet 16 opponent.