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Draft Report: Andrew Wiggins Of Kansas

- The following is an excerpt from Jonathan Tjarks' e-book about the NBA Draft that can be purchased for just $3.99.

It’s easy to see where the Andrew Wiggins hype came from. At 6’8 200 with a 7’0 wingspan, he’s a ball of fast-twitch muscles and one of the best athletes to enter the NBA in recent memory. When he was playing AAU basketball, a lightly coached transition setting where he could make direct-line runs at the rim for 40 minutes, I’m sure he looked like the best prospect since LeBron James. You can only see the holes in his game when he’s forced to play in the halfcourt.

At this stage in his career, Wiggins is not a high-level ball-handler, shooter or passer. He had a nice freshman season at Kansas, but it was nothing in the ballpark of what Kevin Durant did at Texas. If you break down his numbers, he wasn’t any better than Ben McLemore, another freshman SG with elite athleticism taken in the lottery after one year in Lawrence. Wiggins would be one of the top picks in any draft, but I’m not sure he’s a generational type prospect.

Season

G

MP

FG

FGA

FG%

3P

3PA

3P%

FT

FTA

FT%

RB

AS

ST

BK

TO

PF

PTS

2012-13

37

32.2

5.4

10.8

.495

2.5

5.8

.420

4.0

4.6

.870

5.2

2.0

1.0

0.7

2.1

1.9

15.9

2013-14

35

32.8

5.4

12.1

.448

1.2

3.6

.341

5.0

6.5

.775

5.9

1.5

1.2

1.0

2.3

2.7

17.1

*Stats courtesy of basketball-reference

Those are both excellent seasons, especially for a pair of freshman, but there’s nothing in those statistics that says Player B (Wiggins) is better than Player A (McLemore). Wiggins got to the line more, but he was a worse shooter. For the most part, opposing teams were happy to let Wiggins shoot 3’s. Both received criticism for not being aggressive and taking over games in the second half, but the reality was neither was skilled enough to create a good shot at will.

When Wiggins was getting the ball, he was putting his head down and going right to the rim. There wasn’t much finesse to his game - he had trouble reading the floor and beating a defense that was loaded up to stop him. He’s a raw player who gets most of his points based off being longer and more athletic. At the next level, though, elite athletic ability is no guarantee of stardom. A primary option has to be able create shots for others and Wiggins is not ready for that.

In my mind, assist-to-turnover ratio is one of the most telling statistics for a college guard. That’s the canary in the coal mine when it comes to making decisions with the ball. Anyone can rack up assists if they force the ball through enough tight spots - the key is being able to do it without coughing up the ball. Neither Wiggins nor McLemore had a positive ratio as freshmen, an indication that they were having trouble thinking the game and making the easy plays.

If Wiggins ends up in a situation like McLemore, playing on a team with more established players like DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas, he’s not going to get a lot of shots and he will have trouble impacting the game. If he can dominate the ball, he will be on a bad team and he won’t be able to make anyone around him better. In order to reach his potential, he needs to be brought along slowly and developed into a more well-rounded player.

Take a look at Paul George’s developmental path with the Indiana Pacers. As a rookie, George was a defensive-minded role player who came off the bench and took 6 shots a game. He moved into the starting line-up in his second season and played off of Danny Granger. It wasn’t until his third season, when Granger went down with an injury, that he was given the keys to the offense and he didn’t average more than 20 points a game until his fourth season in the NBA.

It took awhile for George to come into his own and he was more advanced than Wiggins when he came into the league. He played two seasons at Fresno State and he was a better shooter (40% for his career) and passer (3 assists as a sophomore). He still had a negative assist-to-turnover ratio, but it was trending in the right direction after his freshman season. George didn’t have to deal with many expectations and he started his career on a playoff contender.

Patience will be the name of the game for whoever drafts Wiggins, which will be difficult given the hype surrounding him and how high he will be selected. He’s not anywhere close to being one of the most NBA-ready players in this draft - from a skills perspective, he’s years behind guys like Jabari Parker and Dante Exum. While he’s got a ton of defensive potential, a perimeter player drafted in the Top 3 has to be elite on the offensive end of the floor.

At the NBA level, what separates the best players is their ability to think the game. They can read the defense, anticipate the double team and make the play before it happens. Wiggins is not there yet and it may take years before he is. He will be a really good NBA player for a long time, but there are a number of players in this draft with similar ceilings and higher floors. Joel Embiid had a 28.2 PER and Wiggins had a 21.4 - that means more than their high school reps.

- This was an excerpt from Jonathan Tjarks' e-book about the NBA Draft that can be purchased for $3.99.

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