Measurables: 6’8, 197 pounds,Guard-Forward-Monster, Kansas, Freshman
Key Stats: 17.1 points,5.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.0 blocks, 44. FG%, 34.1 3Pt% (on 3.6 attempts/game), 77.5 FT% (on 6.5 attempts/game).
Projected: No. 1 overall.
Matters to No One But Me …
Andrew Wiggins is going to be a star, a franchise player, an Olympic gold medalist, leader of nations and anything else that he desires to be. He was supposed to be all these things before he arrived at Kansas and his game was unjustly dissected and disseminated into individual parts rather than the gestalt of his performances. Analysis and over-analysis have sucked the soul out of Wiggins’ game by breaking it down to arithmetic without acknowledging its poetry and literacy.
The harshness of his critique suggests that he’s being compared to the 2013-14 versions of LeBron James and Kevin Durant and not the struggling teenage versions of them in years past. Even the teenage versions of James and Durant never played in a needlessly limited and rigorous system like the one Wiggins endured at Kansas under Bill Self. In fact, let’s forget everything you saw at Kansas. Forget the 5-to-7 dribble handoffs on each possession, the multiple ball reversals that pushed the guards towards half-court rather than the rim, and let’s definitely forget the 25-second possessions that resulted from this “system.” Despite these limitations, Wiggins was awe-inspiring as a finisher and defender in transition and the best perimeter defender in college basketball – both abilities that will seamlessly transition in The Association.
In addition to his freakish athleticism, Wiggins’ basketball instincts and intelligence are the attributes that project him as a franchise player/savior in this year’s draft. Let’s take a closer look …
Master of Transition – Defense
Wiggins is exceptionally comfortable in the open floor where he’s unhibited by structure and in harmony with his pure instincts and Olympic-sprinter-esque strides. Even at a world record pace, Wiggins’ decision making in the open floor is phenomenal.
Jabari Parker had a highlight-reel alley-oop slam at the 19-minute mark of the second half of the Duke/ Kansas game at the Champions Classic in November 2013. Five game minutes later, a similar opportunity arises but Wiggins wipes it out by sprinting to find Parker in the open floor and finishing the play with great rebounding position and box out. A simple enough assignment and decision that is often overlooked at all levels.
Later in the same game, Wiggins similarly lunges back on defense to wipe out an easy alley-oop pass from Parker in a close game.
Wiggins also averaged a steal and a block a game over the course of the year and in the case of the West Virginia game, both those numbers came in transition on the same play.
The focus and poise to stick with the play and the athleticism to get up for the block is a dangerous open-court combination. It’s as if he exists in an enlightened state in transition.
Master of Transition – Offense
Wiggins is a great rebounder and has an uncanny ability to be decisive about when to crash the offensive glass or leak out for transition opportunities. It’s an instinct that is difficult to teach as it requires a genetic understanding of the geometry of the game.
Wiggins’ perimeter defense is going to create turnovers and transition opportunities for himself and his teammates. Wiggins was overpowering when guarding lesser athletes as evidenced by his recovery on the the pick-and-roll against West Virginia and the resulting sprint and dunk.
Wiggins’ strides and speed down the floor is other-worldly. He glides down the floor effortlessly, his feet barely touching the court and his lift defying gravity. Watch him blow by Jabari Parker to close out a nationally televised game late:
From halfcourt, he catches the ball in stride and needs just one bounce to finish the play with a slam. Wiggins makes us question the necessity of the dribble in the game of basketball. The beauty of his acceleration and speed is that he uses it in the halfcourt as well.
Wiggins’ acceleration is instantaneous and is hastened by his decisive decision-making in the half court. In the play below, Wiggins recognizes the ball movement from the top of the key and attacks the offensive player in the paint with both hands.
The play ends in a foul but it’s his recognition of the play, decisiveness and acceleration to get to the ball sets Wiggins apart from his peers this season. Wiggins’ understanding of rotations and help defense at such a young age can’t be overstated. His quickness also extends to one-on-one defense as he’s already developed defensive footwork and habits to play with his body and not his hands. Watch him side-step and glide with a professional scorer in Parker early in the season:
Wiggins is going to be a First Team All-NBA defender and a future defensive player of the year candidate in the pros.
Offensively, he’s been accused of being too reliant on a spin move in the paint (H/T Mark Modrcin) that is his only illusion of a left-handed drive.
It’s still effective and draws fouls but his overall offensive game will need to evolve at the next level. Specifically, his outside-jumper, attack off the pick/roll, passing ability and left hand. He’s young. There’s no doubt that he will get there.
Fits with the Pistons because …
I went to seven Pistons game this year and by far the best attended and in-arena experience was the second to last game of the season, a 116-107 loss to the Toronto Raptors. There were “Let’s go Raptors” chants throughout the arena as the southwest Ontario market was out in full force. The Palace is more accessible than the Air Canada Center for Ontario residents in Windsor, London, Sarnia and the other border communities. If Wiggins a.k.a Captain Canada isn’t going to the Raptors, the next best place for Canadian fans is the Pistons.
TSN is the Canadian equivalent of ESPN and they aired every Kansas game nationally this season. There’s a possibility for similar market expansion opportunities for the Pistons both in-arena and outside of it should Kyle Singler be the luckiest man in the world and return from New York with the number one pick tonight.
It’s positive media opportunities, ticket sales and maybe even sponsorships for an organization that appears to need all three. It would be support from an entire country and a currently untapped market for the Pistons.
Doesn’t fit with the Pistons because …
Wiggins has been accused of being passive and at times floats within the motions of the offense without dictating it. He’s not an emotional player and appears too comfortable at times. He’s more similar to a young Tracy McGrady and Kevin Durant than Vince Carter and Russell Westbrook in terms of demeanor.
So, what happened in the tournament game versus Stanford? Wiggins attempted only six shots in an unexpected tournament loss. The Stanford game was the culmination of Wiggin’s laid-back Canadian etiquette, Kansas’ rigorous offensive system, and the Cardinal maximizing the shot clock and dictating the pace. But really, it doesn’t matter what happened. Remember, forget everything about Wiggins’ game at Kansas because he will never play in such a parochial system again. At the next level he will be free of rigidity and welcomed by fluidity and we will all be better for it.
From the Experts
Wiggins is very much an unrefined offensive player, but still scored a solid 21 points per-40 minutes as a freshman, even if his usage rate and efficiency were average. He’s for the most part a straight-line ball-handler, as the ball slows him down and doesn’t do a great job changing speeds or directions, particularly with his off hand, but is capable of getting inside the paint effectively regardless thanks to his exceptionally quick first step. Even though he tends to shy away from contact at times around the basket, he still got to the free throw line 7.9 times per-40 minutes, and made 78% of his attempts once there, which helped make up for his otherwise unpolished skill-level in the half-court.
Sports science attempts to explain Wiggins’ athleticism: