In my second of three NBA Draft options for the Cavaliers with the top pick, I take a look at Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins. Last week, I analyzed film for Duke forward Jabari Parker, who impressed me immensely with his diverse offensive package. Next week, stay tuned for a breakdown of Kansas center Joel Embiid.
Wiggins is an incredibly talented player with plenty of still untapped potential to grow into a perennial All-Star type. When you see him glide around on the basketball court, one can see his ability to effect the game both offensively and defensively, inside and outside, at the line and on the glass. But, is taking him with the top pick a compromise for an all-around player rather than taking a potential game-changing defender (Embiid) or a scoreboard-shattering offensive scorer (Parker)? Does Wiggins’ game potentially gel more with the Kyrie-Dion backcourt? Does position play a role into the selection? We’ll talk about all this and more.
Here’s what some experts are saying about Wiggins.
“Off the charts run/jump athleticism … Lateral quickness and length also gives him great potential as a perimeter defender, along with versatility to guard both wing positions efficiently … Incredibly dangerous in transition opportunities, long strider with a quick first step, did a great job of scoring or getting fouled when getting out in transition … Shooting mechanics have improved greatly, with quickness enough to get his shot off under tight defense … Got to the FT stripe at a good rate, making 77.5% of his attempts … As an offensive rebounder, can keep possessions alive that very few others can due to his second jump and tremendous leaping ability … Challenged defensively at Kansas, often asked to guard the other teams leading scorer on the wing
The biggest issue is whether or not Wiggins has the mental make up to maximize his immense physical gifts. While some scouts are extremely high on him, there are just as many that question his focus and passion for the game … Often plays too upright on offense, which can get him off his base and lead to turnovers … Needs to work on moving without the ball, has a reputation of sometimes standing, ball watching …”
Jeff Borzello – CBS Sports:
“Wiggins’ natural abilities give him the potential to be a fantastic pro, but he needs to be more aggressive on a consistent basis.”
“Elite-level athleticism and length, smoothness to his game, excellent in transition, ability to be a lockdown defender.”
“Consistency from the perimeter, ability to be more than a straight-line driver, determination to dominate.”
Chris Mannix – SI:
“The Cavaliers will be tempted to take Wiggins’ college teammate Joel Embiid because of his defensive potential at center. But the possibility of pairing Wiggins, an electrifying athlete who has a chance to be an impact player at both ends of the floor, with the first pick in the 2011 draft, point guard Kyrie Irving, is too good to pass up.”
For Wiggins, I watched film from two games, the early season matchup against Duke and the Big 12 semifinal against Iowa State. Here are his stats from those two games.
Here are the Kansas forward’s statistics for his lone year in college (click to enlarge):
When it comes to Wiggins, his defensive skills and potential are ahead of his offensive game. At 6’9″ with a 7-foot wingspan, Wiggins has that versatility to guard anyone from shooting guards to power forwards. While some see Wiggins as a shooting guard at first until his frame fills out, I feel his game is much more like a small forward’s.
With his athleticism and speed, Wiggins can defend the pick and roll and still have time to recover to his man. On the play below, he steps through the screen from Jabari Parker, hangs with Parker, and still has enough time to close and bother the shot from Rodney Hood.
Perry Ellis, the other Kansas forward, doesn’t really do Wiggins any favors by hanging back and failing to hedge on the ball-handler, but Andrew has the versatility to make his presence felt on both offensive players and prevent a bucket.
In some cases, Wiggins length allows him to block shots on the perimeter. On this help and recover scenario, Wiggins recovers to the left corner and blocks Alex Murphy’s three-point attempt. On the season, Wiggins blocked 7 threes and 24 of his 34 shots away from the rim.
Wiggins shadows his teammate on the Suliamon drive and still has time to recover to his own man. In some cases, I saw Wiggins do this a little too much as helpside defense remains a work in progress for him. However, in one-on-one scenarios, Wiggins has the potential to lock down the other team’s best perimeter threat.
On the next play below, Wiggins anticipates Suliamon driving away from the pick on left. As he funnels him to a tough angle underneath the hoop, Wiggins and Embiid converge on the other side of the rim and block the shot attempt without fouling.
Wiggins is at his best in the open floor on both ends. Here, we see him sprint down the court to prevent a layup. His long strides and even longer arms deflect the pass out of bounds and prevent a Cyclone layup.
Wiggins was prone, as many are, to ticky-tack perimeter fouls in the college game. He’ll have to watch that going forward (3.3 fouls called on him per 40), but he also had the ability to avoid plenty of calls by keeping his feet moving and hands straight up. Take for instance, this DeAndre Kane drive.
Kane drives it right into Wiggins’ chest, looking to draw the foul. Instead, Wiggins absorbs it and falls back. No whistle bails out Kane, and the contact is enough for him to miss the shot.
Open court threat
Moving on to the other side of the ball, I mentioned before that Wiggins shines in fastbreak scenarios. On this play, Wiggins is not out ahead of everyone, but he doesn’t stop running, and when Parker cuts off the driving lane for the guard, it leads to an easy lob for the Canadian to lay home.
There are certain people who can be sprinting or running at top speed while it appears so effortless.1 Wiggins is one of those gifted individuals.
He’s so fast that he can leak out in transition and make the bucket merely a formality.
Then, there’s other times where you just throw it out ahead and may the best athlete win.
Nobody is beating Wiggins to that ball, and he cruises in for the dunk. Just under 25% of all shots from Wiggins came in transition with a 62.4% effective field goal percentage. For comparison sake, Parker shot just under 17% of his shots in transition with a 57.1% eFG.
Cutting to the basket/offensive rebounding
In the halfcourt, Wiggins relied quite a bit on cuts to the basket as well as offensive putbacks on his own misses. On this out of bounds play, it’s a high flash, show-and-go for a wide-open hoop.
Even in the halfcourt, it’s so critical that Wiggins gets chances to get a head of steam. When he does, his chances of getting to the free throw line greatly increase.
Below, the big man Embiid draws two away from the rim, they cover the near-side Ellis at the high post, and Wiggins has the knowledge to slide in underneath the defensive radar for another easy two.
Having a player like Wiggins in the halfcourt for the Cavs that was constantly moving and looking to fill in the creases left by Irving and Waiters dribble penetration would be invaluable.
Wiggins does hit the glass really hard, often because he knows the trajectory of his shot better than the other nine on the court. In this case, it’s a miss from the other side of the floor that he corrals.
He brings this one down and with his back to the basket, makes one dribble, turns and fades over a defender to score. Many would have kicked that out or made the initial mistake in that much traffic to go right back up with it. In this case, Andrew creates something out of nothing with his size.
On this right-wing drive against Iowa State, Wiggins uses his go-to move while driving, a spin-move left and misses with his right.
It glances off the rim, and Wiggins is right there to grab it. He gets shoved but puts it right back up and makes it this time. You seldom see Wiggins shoot straight up and down when it comes to shots in the paint. He’s a contortionist, and it often lets him down. He also could have used his left hand this close to the basket, but it’s obvious he lacks comfort with it.
Again, Wiggins start a drive right, spins left, draws contact from a big man, and misses with his right hand.
Just like last time, everyone regroups and Wiggins is standing there in the best spot to grab a glance off the front of the rim. This time, he goes with his left on the tip-in.
Wiggins ability to finish at the rim has come under scrutiny. I can see why as he had some horrific shot attempts in the Iowa State game, where he shot just 6-of-17 from the field and 5-of-13 inside the arc. With 37% of his shots coming from the rim, it’s a little disheartening to see Wiggins at just 64% shooting at the rim. His 31 putbacks were most on the team and over double Embiid’s 15.
Drawing fouls/attacking the hoop
Wiggins’ single most effective skill in the halfcourt is his ability to get to the line and convert. His FT/FGA clip of 53.8% is outstanding, and it’s even better when you see that he made 77.5% of his 227 free throws. Drawing almost six fouls per game is nothing to dismiss. It’s a repeatable skill for him.
Again, we see the straight line drive going right, spin left, and shooting with the right hand. Wiggins is too predictable at this point when it comes to his path to the basket. He’s going to pick up a lot of charges at the next level from smart defenders on that spin until he branches out and learns secondary moves.
You can see one of the few times that Wiggins goes left below. It’s a little more deliberate pace, and you can tell he’s a little concerned about losing the ball. In highlight packages, you see a fair amount of turnovers occur when he tries to go left or force something going that way.
This time, however, he gets the foul call.
On this final sequence, Wiggins starts on the left wing, again goes right, but he adds a little hesitation that gives him an advantage.
Then, he finishes high off the glass while drawing contact (not called) over Georges Niang.
-I didn’t show any here, but Wiggins is a nice catch and shoot three point shooter. His effectiveness fades at this point when he tries to shoot them in isolation or on the move.
-This is essentially a directed highlight package, so I will mention here that I was terribly upset with how much standing around Wiggins did. He looked completely disinterested at times and just hovered around the perimeter. I know our colleague and Jayhawk TD mentioned this plenty throughout the season. Does Wiggins have that alpha dog mentality? Does he need it if he goes to the Cavs?
-Will Wiggins fill in the rest of the gaps in his offensive game? The difficult part of this is he, in my opinion, may require the most projecting out of the three candidates for the top pick. Parker has put his entire offensive arsenal on display at Duke, and Embiid has proven that even if he’s just average offensively (Hint: he’s better than that.), that his defense is game-changing enough to warrant selection. With Wiggins, you have to count on the fact that he’ll develop a better mid-range game, finish better at the rim, and have the desire to take those tough shots at the end of games and shot clocks.
-He’s a finisher not a facilitator. He had ZERO assists in the two games I studied.
-Wiggins fouled out of three conference games and had four fouls in seven additional games.
-I was impressed to see seven games where he took 10 or more free throws.
-While he was prone to foul trouble, that was about the only time Wiggins came out of the game. He played over 81% of Kansas’s minutes this season.
-It’s quite unacceptable that a player of Wiggins’ talent scored in double digits six times, including just 4 points in the tournament loss to Stanford on 1-of-6 shooting. Without Embiid, Wiggins only took it upon himself to shoot it SIX times? That’s just staggering and very concerning to me.
-PAM (points above median) is a measure of how many points per shot attempt a player adds or subtracts from a team when stacked against the average .480 true shooting percentage. As you can see, Wiggins’ weakness in two-point jumpers is well-chronicled here. He actually grades out more favorably at the rim here and about average on the three-point arc.
-Odd statistic that probably means nothing: Parker actually had more defensive win shares (1.9 to 1.7) and had a lower defensive rating (99.3 to 102.8) than Wiggins. How about PER, you ask? Parker wins that too 28.4 to 21.4.
-Who does Wiggins resemble? Well, he’s got the frame of a young Kevin Durant/Paul George, but I’d say he’s more skill-wise like a Tracy McGrady/Rudy Gay type.
This is really difficult when thinking about Wiggins when stacked against both Parker and Embiid as well as their fit on the Cavaliers. I could see Wiggins absolutely thriving with less offensive touches. He’d be getting higher percentage opportunities from Irving on kick-outs to the arc, dump-offs in the lane, and toss-aheads in transition. The perimeter defense is also something the Cavaliers desperately need and have needed for four years now. The gaping hole at small forward is still there, and Wiggins could fill it for a long time. Guys like Wiggins do take longer to develop, but he probably has the highest ceiling of them all given his position and athleticism.
In the end, though, I see Wiggins as third in the pecking order behind a potentially dominant big in Embiid and an offensive machine in Parker.
That’s all for now, and until next week, the film room is closed!
- From my sports-watching background, I refer to this as the “Terrelle Pryor gear”. [↩]