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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.

The Big Mistake: Measurables Vs. Situation

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

Thomas Robinson was seen as one of the safest picks in the 2012 NBA Draft. At 6'9 240, he was an elite athlete with prototypical size for the power forward position at the NBA. A first-team All-American, Robinson averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds a game as a junior, leading Kansas to the NCAA championship game. 

The Sacramento Kings took him with the No. 5 overall pick, expecting to plug him into the starting lineup next to DeMarcus Cousins. Instead, Robinson lasted only a few months with Sacramento before being shipped to the Houston Rockets and then the Portland Trail Blazers, becoming the rare Top 5 pick to be on three teams in less than a season.

So what happened?

Robinson, like many of Bill Self's players, looked better than he really was at Kansas. While Self gets his fair share of elite recruits, he has won ten Big 12 championships in a row because he recruits players who fit his system, which maximizes their strengths and minimizes their weaknesses. 

At Kansas, Robinson shared a frontcourt with Jeff Withey, a second-round pick in 2012. Withey, at 7'0 235, was an elite shot-blocker who cleaned up a lot of Robinson's mistakes on the defensive end. On offense, Withey could play high-low with Robinson and knock down a 20-foot jumper.

Self's inside-out offense slowed down the pace of the game and put guards who could space the floor around Withey and Robinson, giving them a ton of room to operate in the paint. At that point, there wasn't much the vast majority of NCAA front-lines could do against a 7'0 and a 6'9 who would play in the NBA.

However, when he faced big men who could match his size and athleticism, Robinson was a fairly limited offensive player. He couldn't consistently knock down a perimeter jumper, couldn't put the ball on the floor, couldn't score out of the low post and couldn't create shots for his teammates.

His struggles in their two games against Kentucky, one of the only teams they faced with multiple NBA-caliber big men, should have been a red flag. At the next level, every frontline looks like Kentucky’s.

Rather than being a safe pick, Robinson was a fairly substantial gamble. He projected as an average defender at PF, an average shot-creator, a minus shooter, a minus passer and a plus rebounder. Whoever drafted him would need to spend several years developing his offensive game before he would be a starting-caliber player.

After spending their whole lives as the biggest and baddest players on the court, the vast majority of big men become just another guy at the highest level of the game. Unless you are Andre Drummond, you don't enter the league bigger and faster than everyone you face.

Drummond was taken by the Detroit Pistons at No. 9 in 2012, four spots after Robinson. After one season at UConn, he was seen as one of the biggest gambles on the board, a raw big man who hadn't proven he could channel his physical gifts into consistent production.

At 6'11 275, Drummond has an unprecedented combination of size and athleticism. We have never seen a man his size do the things he can do in the air - he can take the ball between his legs and dunk in one motion. Nevertheless, despite going up against much smaller and less athletic players on a nightly basis in college, he averaged only 11 points and 8 rebounds a game. 

Unlike Robinson, Drummond wasn't in an ideal situation in college. He shared a front-court with Alex Oriakhi, a fringe NBA prospect who couldn't shoot the ball. Since neither Drummond nor Oriakhi could stretch the floor, opposing teams packed the paint against UConn.

On the perimeter, the Huskies never replaced Kemba Walker, who had left for the NBA draft the year before. Shabazz Napier, their starting PG, was still learning the game, more comfortable looking for his own shot than setting up his teammates. Ryan Boatright, their other PG, spent most of the season in NCAA limbo.

Soon after Drummond enrolled at UConn, the program got hit with APR (academic) sanctions that would make them ineligible for the 2013 NCAA Tournament. To top it off, John Calhoun came down with cancer in the middle of the season.

Scouts looked at Drummond's tools and lack of consistent production as a freshman and wondered whether he loved the game. What they should have been asking is whether any of that would have mattered.

Would it have made Oriakhi a better shooter? Would it have made Napier a better passer? Would it have kept Boatright out of the NCAA's crosshairs? Would it have stopped the APR sanctions from coming down or kept his coach from getting cancer?

When you are scouting a player in college, you have to scout his teammates and his coaching staff too. If you don't know what's going on with his team, you will only get an incomplete picture of what's going on. Their team can make them look better or worse than they really are.

In the NBA, where Drummond has played with PF’s who can shoot and PG’s who can pass, he has been unstoppable on the pick-and-roll. He is bigger, more coordinated and more athletic than every center in the league - he has a lot of value standing in front of the rim.

If he were an NFL prospect, the draft conversation around him would be much different. The NFL scouts would have taken one look at him in the combine and lost their mind - Drummond had measurables as good as any prospect coming into the NBA in the last generation.

Two years later, does anyone care what Drummond or Robinson did in college? When projecting players to the NBA, past production doesn't necessarily mean anything. 

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

Notes On The 2014 Jordan Brand Classic

Relative to the Nike Hoop Summit, which features real defense and some hope of evaluating players thanks to the international format, the Jordan Brand Classic is mostly just another all-star dunk contest. The lack of defense was particularly apparent this year as both teams combined for over 300 points in 40 minutes.

Occasionally, the Jordan Brand Classic has been a chance to evaluate some player who we didn’t see much of previously. In 2011, Otto Porter was an elite prospect who had not played on the AAU circuit, so the JBC invited him to see him compete against the top players. In 2013, Cameroon born Joel Embiid truly had his coming out party, as we saw the first real signs that he might be a Top 5 pick in the NBA draft.

This year, there were few players we had not seen featured in the previous high school all-star games. Daniel Hamilton, a tall guard prospect for UConn, looked like a natural scorer, calmly scoring 10 points in 11 minutes (including 2 of 2 shooting from beyond the arc.) Rick Pitino would be happy to see that in a game with virtually no defense, Louisville recruit Shaqquan Aaron grabbed 3 steals, which allowed Aaron to have a nice 6-of-7 evening from the floor. (In one of those moments of strange bedfellows, the Louisville recruit Aaron seemed to have great chemistry with Kentucky recruit Tyler Ulis.) And Georgetown recruit LJ Peak had one of the games signature dunks in the final minute.

But none of those players really made us reconsider where they are ranked nationally. Perhaps the breakout moments belong to Indiana recruit and scoring guard James Blackmon. Blackmon has played in the other all-star games, but after spending much of the Nike Hoop Summit on the bench, Blackmon was aggressive on Friday night. The player known for his three-point shooting was empty from deep, but 10 of 11 inside the arc, including some nice intermediate jumpers.

Or perhaps, the breakout was really by the players we already knew were great. While Paul Biancardi noted that Duke’s Jahlil Okafor has not always had great conditioning, or a great full-court presence, we were dazzled by a number of plays where Okafor beat the defense in transition or hustled for a secondary-break put-back dunk. And as LaPhonso Ellis pointed out, if Okafor adds that to his game, it could be lethal. If Okafor can tire out an opposing starting center with Duke’s high octane attack, his high skill level on post moves will eat backup centers alive.

I thought the most impressive play of the whole game came at 16:44 of the first half, when Duke PG recruit Tyus Jones hit Okafor with a bounce-pass for a transition lay-up. The reason the play was so spectacular was that Jones released the bounce-pass from the half-court stripe and hit Okafor perfectly in stride at the free throw line. But then at 16:46 of the second half, Kentucky recruit Karl Towns one-upped him. Towns had a behind-the-back pass from the half-court stripe for a lay-up. Towns pass was probably a bit of a fluke, but it still went down as the more jaw-dropping play.

Regardless, the fact that Okafor and Jones are already building chemistry is a huge benefit for the Blue Devils. You can’t really tell in a game like this (because there really was no defense), but there’s a reason most people list Jones as the top PG prospect in America right now. Jones just has an uncanny ability to get into the lane and find teammates in position to score.

But we’ve been raving about Duke’s incoming players for weeks. I also think it is time to admit that Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre are going to be very good for Kansas next year. Sure, Alexander and Oubre do not have nearly the same potential as Embiid or Wiggins. But there is no reason those two players cannot be just as dominant at the college level. Alexander is already a high-motor, aggressive rebounder, and that’s exactly the Embiid skill that Kansas most needs to replace. (While we fell in love with Embiid’s surprising post moves, the reality was that Embiid wasn’t a huge scorer for Kansas last year. But Embiid was one of the nation’s top defensive rebounders.) And while Wiggins was a raw athlete with length, that’s exactly what Oubre brings to the table. He doesn’t have nearly the same upside as Wiggins, but if you are looking for a player with a 7’2” wingspan, and natural athleticism to slide into a wing role at the college level, Oubre is perfect. And in a game where just about every key prospect scored in double figures, the Duke and Kansas prospects shined the brightest.

The Myles Turner Question

Myles Turner did not play in the Jordan Brand Classic after twisting his ankle in the Nike Hoop Summit. But Turner did give a sideline interview, and Turner came across very well. He appeared polished, bright, and mature.

We sometimes think of these kids who make late decisions as indecisive, immature, or egotistical. But the reality is that the late-deciders are probably making the smartest decisions of anyone. They get to see what each team’s roster really looks like. Could Turner have committed to Kentucky or Arizona last fall? Perhaps, but by waiting he now gets to see that Kentucky and Arizona both have crowded frontcourts, with no room for major minutes for an elite center.

And the seven teams Turner has evaluated could all use him.  (Of course if he joins Kansas or Duke, those two teams will just have an embarrassment of riches across the lineup.)

But while I was flipping through some data this weekend, I thought of a related question. If I was an elite prospect, would I want to commit to a coach that tends to use a deep bench, or a coach that tends to use a short bench and give his starters major minutes to develop chemistry? I think if I was an elite prospect, I think I would prefer to play for a coach that traditionally plays a short bench. Here are how coaches in the elite conferences have allocated their playing time in the last eight years. The tables show the average bench minutes for these coaches in those eight years (minimum three seasons.)

Average Percentage of Minutes Given to Bench

(Coaches that utilize a Deep Bench)

Coach

Current Team

APM

Mike Anderson

Arkansas

38.2

Dana Altman

Oregon

36.1

Bruce Pearl

Auburn

34.8

Frank Martin

South Carolina

34.8

Tubby Smith

Texas Tech

34.8

Brian Gregory

Georgia Tech

34.5

Gregg Marshall

Wichita St.

34.0

Tad Boyle

Colorado

33.8

Billy Kennedy

Texas A&M

33.3

Kevin Willard

Seton Hall

33.2

 

Average Percentage of Minutes Given to Bench

(Coaches that utilize a Shallow Bench)

Coach

Team

APM

John Thompson

Georgetown

26.5

Pat Chambers

Penn St.

26.1

Jim Boeheim

Syracuse

25.3

Herb Sendek

Arizona St.

25.3

Fran Dunphy

Temple

25.0

Bo Ryan

Wisconsin

24.6

John Beilein

Michigan

24.4

Thad Matta

Ohio St.

24.3

Mike Brey

Notre Dame

23.3

Fred Hoiberg

Iowa St.

22.9

Quick Notes: You see more coaches that use full-court pressure on the upper list, but that doesn’t have to be the case. VCU’s Shaka Smart has a relatively tighter bench (APM of 31.0) and uses full court pressure. On the lower list, you see a lot of coaches that tend to get credit for developing less heralded players into stars. But the reason they are good at building strong offenses is that they tend to play short rotations that strongly feature their best players.

This list says a player like Myles Turner would be better off choosing Ohio St. relative to say, Texas A&M, because Thad Matta will build a tight rotation of quality players around Turner, and feature Turner in the middle. Obviously there are other huge factors, such as tempo, style of play, and the ability of the coach to develop previous top prospects. But I do wonder whether the fact that a coach like John Thompson tends to really ride his star players and turn them into draft prospects doesn’t help with Georgetown’s recruiting. Win or lose, star players want to play.

But the reality is that Turner doesn’t have to make guesses about these types of factors. He doesn’t have to guess how he will fit into a team’s lineup. He’s already spoken to the coaches and teams on his list and he knows how he will be used. By waiting until 4pm on April 30th, he is making the most informed decision of anyone.

Not every D1 player can wait to give a verbal commit or sign a letter of intent, but if you can, it sure seems to make a lot of sense.

Blue Blood Schools Again Taking Country's Best Talent

The programs who reel in multiple players from the McDonald’s game are the sport’s blue bloods. There were 13 schools represented at the game, but only five with multiple recruits - Duke and Kentucky with 4, UNC with 3, Kansas and UCLA with 2.

The Bigs Of The Incoming 2014 College Class

Jahlil Okafor, for all his skills, plays more like the No. 1 overall pick in 1994 than 2014. For a glimpse at where the game is going, you have to look at Karl Towns and Myles Turner, two of the other top big men in the class of 2014.

Coaches Hurt The Most By New Foul Rules

The impact of the new foul rules on Kansas and Kentucky, the new key to Wisconsin's season, and Florida St.'s poor defensive rebounding highlight this week's column.

2013 Holiday Tournament (Part 3)

Looking at Andrew Wiggins and Kansas in the Battle for Atlantis, the Old Spice Classic, Wooden Legacy, Barclays Center Classic, Corpus Christi Challenge, Las Vegas Classic and the Diamond Head Classic.

Why The NCAA Loses Nothing By Eliminating Amateurism

The NCAA can act like the NBA’s disinterest is a burden for the NCAA, but it’s really an opportunity to make $11 billion over 14 years to put on a March basketball tournament. There are plenty of people who want to watch the best 18-20 year old basketball players in the world.

False Positives In Scouting For The NBA Draft

For all they told us, Thomas Robinson's college stats might as well have been his high school ones. Even the most advanced statistics depend on the underlying data and the data coming out of college is fairly flawed.

Andrew Wiggins To Kansas And A Top 25 Update

Andrew Wiggins decision to attend Kansas isn't the only news to shake up the Way Too Early Top 25 over the last few weeks.

March Madness Through The NBA Lens (Round Of 32)

Important games in the round of 32 for Ben McLemore, Jeff Withey, Tyler Zeller, Doug McDermott, Jamaal Franklin, Mason Plumlee, Brandon Paul, Shane Larkin and more.

Comparing The Conferences

The Pac-12 has been suffering through a long dark period. The Big Ten has been dominant (at least in the pre-conference schedule) for the last few years. Should we expect a change this year? Is the Pac-12’s slump over? Is the Big Ten’s boom about to come to an end?

How Kentucky's National Championship Is Good For College Sports

College sports programs belong to their fans while professional sports organizations belong to their owners. There a lot of things seriously wrong with the NCAA and its underlying business model, but the situation in the NBA is far, far worse.

Final Four Saturday

Sarcasm, Triumph, and Heartbreak from a fantastic Saturday at the Final Four.

Sweet Sixteen Day 2

What does every coach in the Sweet Sixteen have in common? A great efficiency margin over the last 5 years.

NCAA Tournament Day 4

Twelve of the 16 teams in the Sweet Sixteen were in the preseason AP Top 25, and Michigan St. was among the first teams in the “others receiving votes” category. But Indiana, Ohio, and NC State have all exceeded expectations this season by making it this far.

2012 Big 12 Power Rankings

It was Kansas, Missouri and Baylor atop the Big 12 for a large part of the season, but Bill Self’s Jayhawks eventually pulled away as they have in each of the past eight campaigns.

Rivalry Week Musings And More Conference Shuffling

Breaking down Duke/North Carolina, Syracuse/Georgetown, Kansas/Baylor and Florida/Kentucky, along with which conferences are improving with the new round of shuffling.

Top NCAA Coaches Of Past Five Years

There are a lot of complicated ways to evaluate college coaches, but in this edition we look at the coaches with the best per possession numbers over the last five years.

Kansas Freshmen Over The Past Decade

Kansas typically has more than its fair share of talented freshmen, and here is a look back at the statistical best and worse from 2001-02 to 2010-11.

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