He has been called a sure thing and a franchise changer. Over the next year and a half, a handful of NBA teams will be maneuvering themselves into better draft position in order to land the next Lebron James. Andrew Wiggins, son of former Florida State star and NBA player Mitchell Wiggins, is an uber-athletic wing with incredible explosiveness. He leads his Huntington Prep [WV] team in scoring just over 25 points and grabbing almost 9 rebounds per game.
With him reclassifying to the class of 2013, the 6-8 Wiggins replaced Jabari Parker as the top recruit in the nation. Many feel that Wiggins is the best prospect in the nation, high school and college combined, and that he is a surefire #1 pick in the 2014 NBA draft.
I had a chance to watch Wiggins in a a 70-49 blowout of Cape Henry Collegiate in a nationally televised game on ESPN. I have to admit that I have not seen Wiggins play prior to this game so I was excited to get the opportunity to see what all the hype was about. I had the chance to see Jabari Parker a week ago on ESPN, so it was an opportunity to get a comparison of the two top ranked players in their class.
Keep in mind, I am of the belief that one game does not make a good scouting report. Players can have good or bad games, and there is no way to know if that is how the player truly plays or if it was a one game phenomenon. So in that spirit, take my review as only a snapshot of one game, and nothing that I say about this kid necessarily means he is or isn’t the player everyone says he is.
The first thing that was readily apparent was Wiggins’ athleticism. This guy is incredibly quick, agile and bouncy. Several times in the game, Wiggins was able to explode by multiple defenders without a care in the world. Even more impressive was the fact he was able to control his body and change direction in order to avoid help defenders trying to take a charge. A lot of player can break players down off the dribble, but it is pretty special to find a player that can avoid the second and third defender. In comparison, Jabari Parker was also very capable breaking past his defender, but was not as nimble avoiding the help defenders, at lest from what I saw of him.
Obviously Wiggins favorite move is to drive and spin in the post. He utilized his spin move frequently to get past his post defender. While it seems to be an effective move, Wiggins did lose his handle on the ball a couple of times and looked as though he was going too fast for his own good. Regardless, he was a capable finisher as he recovered the ball each time.
Wiggins offensive game, at least during this game, seemed limited to slashing and posting. While one might think that is exactly where a 6-8 guy should be, in looking at Wiggins, he projects to be a small forward in every sense of the word. His thin frame and his actions on the court just don’t say "post player" to me. Wiggins seems most comfortable catching the ball from 15 feet and attacking the rim with one or two dribbles, and frankly, nobody seemed able to stop him. His ability to get to the rim, as well as make shots, was evident, partly because he rises so much higher than everyone else and he just got the ball into the basket even when it looked like a tough shot.
Wiggins took two jump shots, both reminiscent of Kendall Marshall - need I say more. I am not sure he can shoot, but in this game, it looked to me that he has limited perimeter skills. His ball handling didn’t quite match up with that of a perimeter player, and certainly is something he is going to need to work on at the next level.
Something that I was very impressed with was Wiggins ability to play within the offense. A lot of times, players of his ability tend to dominate the ball and force shots. Wiggins played his team’s offense and was a willing passer. He didn’t force any action and let the game come to him. He was content with running the plays and giving the ball up, even if it meant not being involved in the score on any given possession. Obviously he trusts his teammates, and why not, they are pretty good. Xavier Rathan-Mayes, a FSU bound combo guard looked pretty solid, and their big kid, Moses Kingsley, while a bit raw, was incredibly active and simply too big for Cape Henry.
Defensively, there was not much to look at. Any time Wiggins man was off the ball, he stood up straight and floated around the floor as if he couldn’t be bothered to defend. When his man had the ball in his hands, Wiggins would only "perk-up" if he felt his man was going to drive. On drives, Wiggins did show some life and an ability to guard the ball, although there were times his lackadaisical defense got him behind on a few drives. Overall, it seemed that if properly motivated, Wiggins can defend on the ball, but needs a lot of work understanding how to play team defense.
My biggest beef with young players today is that while their offensive skills showcase them into the spotlight, it is their ability to defend that will make them truly unique and valuable at the next level. I would love to have seen Wiggins play all out on this end of the floor and show me something about his mentality. He did not and that was very disappointing, especially from someone that is proclaimed to be the next surefire franchise player.
When I look at him in comparison to a guy like Jabari Parker, they are a contrast in styles. Parker is an athletic, perimeter skilled player in the Paul Pierce mode, but clearly not as explosive as Andrew Wiggins. Parker is a much better perimeter player at this point, with a smooth-as-silk shot and excellent ball handling skills. Wiggins looks to be better down low and as a slasher - a Shawn Marion type, with super quick jumping ability [not that he has an ugly shot like Marion, just comparing his jumping ability]. Yet from one game [for both guys] it is difficult to discern that much of a difference between the two to outright claim that Wiggins is the next LeBron James.
At the next level, Wiggins is going to need to improve parts of his game in order to keep pace with all of the hype surrounding him. He needs to dramatically improve his perimeter skills, including his ball handling and his outside shot. While he is currently able to dominate on the high school level utilizing his athleticism, that advantage often disappears against top notch ACC caliber players [that was a little wishful thinking that he will go to UNC]. He also needs to begin to covet the defensive end of the court, as his success there will truly dictate whether he is going to be simply an offensive player, or a true superstar.
From what little I saw, I am not quite as impressed as the hype surrounding him suggests I should be. Don't get me wrong, I was impressed, but I didn’t see the next LeBron. I saw a great high school player, but not someone I would start mortgaging my future for. Granted, he might have had an off game , but if that is the case, what an off game he had [28 points, 8 boards on 10-14 from the field]. Much like the hype surrounding Harrison Barnes, I did not see the game to match. Not that Barnes, or Wiggins, aren’t going to be great players, but I see a number of weaknesses in their games that will hinder their progress. The telling sign is a willingness to work to improve the parts of their games that just aren’t quite there.