WIggins Watch: Episode VI

wigginsblackbckdropWhy do people go back to the same barber over and over again?


They know they will get the same top quality haircut every time they go in for a visit.  Consistency is the one thing Kansas star Andrew Wiggins has not shown in his hair styles, nor his play, and it could be the reason the Jayhawks are not seeing their full potential.

Saturday afternoon in Austin, the Jayhawks fell to the Texas Longhorns 81-69 in a game that was not as close as that score might indicate.  Shot blocking and rebounding are usually statistics that fall in the favor of Kansas (thanks to Joel Embiid), but on Saturday that was not the case and it turned out to be a deciding factor for the ‘Horns.  The Longhorn front-court of Cameron Ridley and Jonathan Holmes was a force to be reckoned with as they helped Texas to twelve blocks and the shocking victory.

These struggles were the story of the game and prompted Kansas coach Bill Self to state, “I thought our big guys played pretty soft.  We didn’t do a good job of attacking the rim like we should.  Their speed offset our length.” 

The strong front court altered a surplus of shots and caused the Jayhawks to fall behind 23-38 at halftime.  After that, as you can probably guess, it was catch up mode.  Now let’s get back to that score at halftime.  A first half total of 23 for a team with UK’s pedigree should be unacceptable and part of that responsibility falls on the teams leading scorer, Wiggins.  Wiggins struggled all night acquiring a stat line of 7 points on 2-12 shooting from the field to go along with 5 rebounds and 1 assist.

It would have taken a brave soul to predict this bad of a game for a player who is coming off of 29 and 27 points in his last two outings.  This was not Wiggins’s first poor game however; he has had four games with nine points or less.  So what is causing Wiggins to literally and figuratively drop the ball in his performances from time to time?  Is it just Wiggins being a freshman, or not having the all around game he needs to handle every type of defense?  If you watch Kansas’s games you will notice that Wiggins takes the same type of shots every game and they either go in or they don’t.  His athleticism is enabling him to get off these same shots whether they are good or bad ones and that should be of major concern going forward.

I have previously written about Wiggins polishing up weak spots in his game but lately he has been close minded in his offensive approach.  The best players are able to diagnose the best way to attack defenses and execute them, not force the same shots up every time whether they work or not.  Granted Wiggins may not have gotten the calls today and his stats overall do hold up, but, I would like to see some creativity in his offensive game at some point.

I could list the numbers and they would look decent, but this is a player who could potentially be a franchise changer so excuse me if I expect a little more.  This was a game that a player like Kevin Durant (Texas) or Carmelo Anthony (Syracuse) would have found a way to win when they were in college.  I know what you are saying, ‘Alex, you are putting too much pressure on Wiggins throwing out comparisons like that.’  Well at this point the one thing separating Wiggins from those players is creativity.  Once Wiggins develops a creative and analytical aspect to his game, I believe the consistency will follow.  Wiggins has a one dimensional game and that game is strictly athleticism based.  It is time for Mr. Canada Basketball to start using his athleticism to open up new parts of his game like ball handling, passing and creating better shots.  Passing alone is an aspect Wiggins has not even begun to tap as evidenced by his 30 assists to 45 turnovers on the year.

Now this criticism is not entirely on the freshmen, some of it also goes on coach Self’s offense.  Kansas leads the nation in field goal percentage at fifty one percent, but is twenty sixth in overall scoring.  Self is basically relying on his talent defensively to shut most teams down and hope his offense can simply score enough to win.  This strategy works most of the time considering Kansas has three potential first round picks.  With that kind of talent on the roster the Jayhawks should have a better record at this point in the season than 16-5.  More over, Self it seems, is forcing his system on this team rather than tailor an offense revolving around his player’s strengths.  No player is more affected by this than Wiggins.

So there are two theories here to talk about.  One theory is that Self has implemented the types of shots Wiggins is taking every game and he is obliging by being a team player.  The other theory is that Wiggins again just isn’t that creative and takes the same set of shots game after game.  Whichever reason it may be, its time to adapt and change his shot selection and volume for the better, it may be the key to the Jayhawks season.

One way Wiggins can start to open up his game is by forcing his way to the free throw line when his shot will not fall.  The Kansas freshman is starting to do this somewhat with two double digit free throw games in his last five contests.  In fact in Wiggins’ five highest scoring performances on the season he has had at least six free throw attempts and 10 FGAs in each game.

Once Wiggins learns how to get to the charity stripe than he can work on floaters, fade away shots, drop steps, spin moves, etc.  I’m not saying Wiggins has to all of the sudden become the most creative player in the country, but just make a concentrated effort — baby step by baby step — to add offensive moves to his skill set.  Getting to the free throw line could be the first step to exponentially improving Wiggins and his offensive game.

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