After two years of Lebron like hype building around potential lottery pick and college freshmen Andrew Wiggins, it’s time to prognosticate about what happens next. My take: the net result from one year of solid college play is that in Wiggins, an NBA team will be drafting a solid prospect, but one that is a project.
Yes I said it, a project.
A lot of people had Kansas as a lock to at least reach the Elite Eight of this years tournament, nope, the Stanford Cardinal clearly didn’t care about anyone’s bracket. After smooth sailing in the second round versus Eastern Kentucky, Kansas was surprisingly beaten by the Cardinal 60-57. Against Stanford Andrew had just four points, four rebounds, one assist and four turnovers. For many this leaves a lot of questions still to be answered about the NBA future of Wiggins.
A less than stellar performance against Stanford prompted Wiggins to take the blame in more of a Kobe Bryant-esque way saying, “I let a lot of people down, if I would have played better, we wouldn’t be in this situation, you know? I blame myself for this.”
Should all of the blame for the loss to Stanford be placed on Wiggins? The answer is absolutely not. Yes, Wiggins was 1-6 from the field, however, from an offensive standpoint you have to look past that for the real reasons behind the shocking loss. One big factor (no pun intended) was that potential lottery pick Joel Embiid was out due to a back injury which left the Jayhawk frontcourt extremely vulnerable going into this tournament. Bill Self’s back up center is Tarik Black who is a good player in his own right but is also only 6’9. Stanford has five players who are 6’10 or above and they play pretty much all of them which gave them a huge advantage in the rebounding department on Sunday. This was evidenced through the Cardinals out rebounding the Jayhawks both in total rebounds and offensive rebounds.
The second item we have to analyze here is that head coach Bill Self in no way asked Wiggins to win this game for Kansas as evidenced by him taking just six shots. So if your going to TOTALLY blame Wiggins for this loss to Stanford then you are being a little misguided. There’s plenty of blame to go around.
Now that we have looked at the Stanford-Kansas tournament game, lets talk about Wiggins’s freshmen season and how it relates to him coming into the League. Wiggins finished the year averaging 17.1 PPG, 5.9 REB, 1.5 AST and 1 block per game. A layer deeper will show Wiggins shot 44.8 percent from the field, 34 percent from three and 77.5 percent from the free throw line while boasting a TS% of 56 and a eFG% of 50. All of these stats are solid numbers. Still there is one more set of numbers that has raised a red flag — 1.5 assists to 2.3 turnovers per game. Let me explain why Wiggins’s negative assist to turnover ratio is giving me great concerns about drafting him.
It goes back to the person I am putting blame on for the loss versus Stanford, coach Self. It looks like Kansas may have actually not been the ideal place for Wiggins to develop his game. Under Self, Kansas has always played a team ball scheme and that concept does not change for anyone. And I mean anyone. Wiggins was undoubtedly one of the most talented players in college basketball this year, but the freshman only took 12 shots per game and almost four of those attempts were three pointers. If you factor in a couple mid range twos that means Wiggins only drove to the basket around six times per game.
Wiggins makes his money in the paint and your telling me he only drives and shoots around six times per game, including fast breaks? That is difficult to comprehend and probably the reason why Kansas underachieved this year. The high flying wing player from Canada didn’t attack the basket nearly as much as he needed to and it was because of handcuffs from the Kansas offense. Wiggins playing for Kansas actually concealed just how good the player can be from both scoring and a mental standpoint.
So if Wiggins was held back and just playing “team ball”, shouldn’t he have been able to create much more than just 1.5 assists per game? Kansas had all the talent in the world and they basically told Wiggins to lead the charge, but within the framework of the offense and to facilitate for others. Well, Wiggins took what the offense gave him and the numbers are decent, but as far as facilitating goes Wiggins was almost invisible.
For comparisons sake, lets look at NC State’s TJ Warren. Warren averaged 18 shots per game and shot a better clip as well with a 52.5 field goal percentage. Warren also only averaged 1 assist per game. What I am saying is a low assist average is acceptable if you’re the scoring warrior who has to fill it up every night but not if you are working within the framework of an offense that shares the ball and looks to facilitate for others.
Going deeper into #22’s role at Kansas will show you that he never displayed the cut throat mentality necessary to take over games. This again goes back to the system in place with the Jayhawk basketball program. Instead of having Wiggins assert himself, coach Self had the team try to get everyone involved which wasn’t necessary with this particular squad. A good number of Jayhawk possessions this year were almost awkward to watch because you would see Wiggins and company just passing the ball around the perimeter with no intention of creating. Before you knew it, half the shot clock was gone. When I would watch this team, I would scream every time Wiggins passed up on a one on one match up where there was no help in the lane. Most of these possessions would end up with point guard Naadir Tharpe creating from the top of the key and either taking a bad shot or facilitating one for someone other than Wiggins.
Before the combine and private workouts roll out, what can we say about Wiggins from one year at Kansas? The first thing you can take is that he is a great athlete on both defense and offense. I am captain obvious with that one, I know. The second thing is that Wiggins is a very good (not great) scorer who specializes in transition and drives to the basket. His three point shooting is decent and it will no doubt improve over time. However, it is the creative aspect of his game that I am worried about. The Kansas handcuffs actually stunted Wiggins’s creativity in getting his best shots rather than just taking shots encouraged by the Jayhawk offense. Based on that premise, one would think because Wiggins took a low amount of shots that maybe he would have a high assist average. As i mentioned previously, that is not the case because Kansas never really put this freshman into positions where he could create for his teammates.
Going forward I believe there are a lot of things that are unclear with this highly regarded prospect. His creativity offensively has immense room for improvement. From a facilitator standpoint Wiggins has, as of now, shown little ability. The last question to be answered is his mental make up. Wiggins doesn’t show a lot of expression on the court and this year he never really had an absolute take over game where he lifted the Jayhawks to a win over a superior team.
We have seen the athleticism and the flashes of brilliance, but is Wiggins a home run in this year’s draft? In my opinion, no. I think a team will be getting a great player who can fit in with most squads, but he still has a lot of room to develop. Truthfully after watching Wiggins play all year I really think he has the talent to be a potential top player in the NBA. If Wiggins can get his mentality right and be put in the right opportunity (Philadelphia), he could be a valuable piece to a title contender.
Maybe Mark Cuban is on to something in that talented high school players should go straight to the D-League rather than college. I don’t necessarily agree with that but as far as Wiggins goes, I do. Kansas is a great program but this particular program hid a lot the skills his game contains. GM’s will have a interesting time evaluating Wiggins before the 2014 NBA Draft. Wiggins will be a great player in the NBA and maybe even a multiple time all-star, but as far as a franchise changer or all-time great player, it remains to be seen.
I have my doubts Philadunkia nation.
Alex Gorge is a scribe for Philadunkia. You can follow him on Twitter @apg3000.
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