One of the best qualities of Waiting For Next Year is the diverse interests of our many writers. After the draft, I asked two of my WFNY colleagues for their take on Andrew Wiggins and his key areas of highlight/criticism going forward. Enjoy.
Jacob: All three of us wrote about Wiggins. Kirk, in your film room series. Joe, in your position rankings. Me, in my analytics review. Obviously, I’m the token analytics guy and you two are in more of the traditional scouting realm. It’s a great combination. So I thought it’d be fun to ask you some questions that remain on my mind.
Kirk, you initially had Wiggins below Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid. Joe, you wrote that you had Wiggins atop your theoretical big board. But both of you specifically pegged Wiggins as a small forward. David Griffin said he saw him as a “big 2-guard.” What was your reaction to that declaration amid Wiggins’ transition to the NBA?
Kirk: It certainly caught me off guard for Griffin to come right out and say that. Obviously, Wiggins has the athleticism and skills to cover both wing positions, so it doesn’t matter much on that end. I think it makes sense to understand that versatility. However, I disagree that he’s best equipped to be a 2-guard long-term.
I hate to think that was a ploy to a potential free agent small forward target (I’m not even saying solely for LeBron James) that they could come to Cleveland and still start at the three. It seems to put a lot a focus on Dion Waiters and/or imply what we’re already speculating: that he’s being dangled on the trade market.
A shooting guard generally has more ball-handling responsibilities, is a little bit shorter, a little less athletic, and relies on mid-range, curls, cuts, and long-distance shooting. A small forward doesn’t have to worry about ball-handling duties quite as much, but they are generally more athletic, rebounding a little better and finishing at the hoop. Maybe it’s just me, but they seem to get more of the stand-alone corner threes and kickout opportunities. The elite ones like James and Kevin Durant obviously do it all and handle the ball more, but the average three usually uses their athleticism to create opportunities.
In short, positional qualities continue to blend, but I don’t see Wiggins being the second-most capable ball handler on the floor or a knock-down shooter. He relies on his athleticism to score, and to me that, along with his size, makes him a better candidate for the small forward spot.
Joe: I was a little surprised, too, on how quickly they announced that Wiggins will be a big 2-guard before he even played in the NBA. But I think it doesn’t really matter that they consider him a big 2-guard because he can guard that position. For me, defensive assignments are what determine a player’s position. Wiggins has the ability to guard point guards, shooting guards, and small forwards. He has athleticism to stay in front of smaller quick players and the length to guard the bigger players.
Wiggins is still developing his offensive game, so he may be more of a slasher small forward type in his current form. But, the Cavs drafted Wiggins because they think they can develop him and mold him into the player they project (big 2-guard). The Cavs are banking on Wiggins improving his shooting consistency and scoring aggressiveness. He already has good technique as a shooter and has shown glimpses of taking over a game (especially when Embiid was out). So the Cavs considering him a 2-guard is more for the future and their projection of his talents.
It could be a mistake to assign Wiggins to this spot because of the development he must do to fully be a shooting guard. An item in the Cavs favor is David Blatt and his offense. He will not force things down a player’s throat. He will build the offense around the team’s and players’ skills.
Jacob: It’s interesting to hear you film guys say a lot of the same things I might with regards to the difference between 2-guards and small forwards in today’s NBA. Positions really are overrated. But given the roster and given Wiggins’ offensive issues currently, I simply was surprised by this. Glad to see you’re mostly siding with me here.
Diving into Wiggins’ future, I can’t help but be concerned by some of the overall analytics projections. His collegiate stats were mostly underwhelming. His main “discernible skill” might be his defense. But we, as the media, analysts and fans, are still really bad at enumerating defensive value. That being said, I still have some significant questions about the offensive film I did watch.
Going back to you, Kirk, you noted but didn’t show video of Wiggins’ oft-discussed hanging around on the perimeter. Do you see that as a substantial negative moving forward given the Kyrie-Dion duo?
Kirk: I’m going to explore this soon in another film room installment, but it remains a concern. I’m of the opinion that, barring some sort of blockbuster deal, the Cavaliers should hold onto Waiters and see what David Blatt and Tyronn Lue can do in installing the new share-friendly offense.
If you do still have Kyrie and Dion, Wiggins absolutely won’t have to be relied upon too heavily on that end of the floor. Hanging around the perimeter could constitute more open threes. I think it’s more of a mindset and coaching point for Wiggins rather than some fundamental long-term problem.
He has shown the ability in spurts to backdoor cut, cut to the basket, and slide from corner to wing to find a shot. He just needs to more consistently show that effort.
What I’m more concerned about is Wiggins sharing the basketball to Blatt’s liking. He’s not what I call selfish with the basketball, but in the same token, he didn’t create a lot of opportunities for his teammates to score. That task will still weigh more on Irving and Waiters for the Cavs as currently constructed.
Jacob: Now, Joe, you wrote that Wiggins “uses his athleticism to get to the basket with ease.” Watching film, it actually seems he doesn’t do this that frequently and he certainly doesn’t finish that well in non-transition opportunities. Dean Demakis had an analytics article on this topic specifically. How much does this concern you and how can he improve?
Joe: I agree with you that he doesn’t drive often enough. His aggressiveness is a major question for me. He has to learn that he can be more dangerous driving to the basket rather than stepping back for a jumper. He is too passive at times when he has a chance to get past his defender.
The only real issue skill-wise is that he needs to get even better at dribbling and learning to use his dribble to his advantage. He has a quick first step so if he can add better handles, then he would be really lethal in penetration. I also believe that he will improve his penetration when he becomes a better shooter. Defenders will then have to guard Wiggins closer enabling him to more easily beat defenders.
In terms of finishing, I believe he will get better when he starts filling out his frame. He needs to add strength so that he can finish through contact. He has the athleticism and length to finish in acrobatic ways, but he still needs strength when he is faced with contact. Finishing is not a huge question for me because of his good frame to add more strength along with his athleticism and length.
Jacob: Wrapping up, one of my overall concerns is that Wiggins’ current offensive deficiencies are only spotted in 5-on-5 basketball. He easily could’ve wowed the Cavs (and reportedly Dan Gilbert) with his individual workout, but that and even his leaked workout video don’t alleviate my scouting concerns. At Kansas, it seemed he was unable to affect games with his left hand, not strong enough to finish inside in traffic and often hesitant with his decision-making. Any thoughts on that and what’s next?
Joe: There is no question that he is very raw on the offensive side of the ball. He has the makings of a very good offensive game, but needs time to develop it. His left hand is something he needs to add to his game. I have seen times where he has used his left hand, but not enough times. He has such a strong right hand that he leans on it too much. He will learn pretty early that he cannot keep doing that. He must learn to be more ambidextrous so that defenders do not cheat to the right. As I stated earlier, I do not believe finishing is a huge problem because he can fill out and gain more strength.
His decision-making is another part of his game where he needs to be more aggressive and attack the defense. He is too often just making the swing pass and not trying to get the ball inside. Another example is his shot selection. He often relies on his jump shot instead of going inside on a drive. He has a good step-back jumper, but with his athleticism and talent, it’s a waste of talent to penetrate to the basket more frequently. He is a willing passer, but must learn to better choose when to pass or when to keep the ball.
Wiggins is an exciting talent and one with huge upside. He is already a NBA-level defender with athleticism that few players have in the NBA. I think over the year he will improve and get better on offense. Sometimes he will look dominant and then other times disappear. But we must be patient with his offensive game. In time, he can be a lethal dual threat on offense.
Kirk: I found several scenarios where he was able to finish in traffic (again, more on that soon), so I do object to that notion a little bit. He had several finishes high off the glass as a defender crashed into him, he was active on the offensive boards, and he’s going to get stronger as he gets older one would think. As I mentioned above, I do worry about his decision-making as it pertains to creating high-percentage opportunities for others. He’s not a black hole on offense, but when he’s not shooting, he’s kicking out for reversals rather than setting someone else up for a dunk, open three, or layup.
When he drives, he’s predictable right now with his right-hand drive, spin left, and finish back with his right hand in the middle of the lane. He needs to develop secondary moves to react to the defense setting up for a charge, stepping in to stop the drive, and playing his right hand.
Wiggins had some remarkable games for a freshman at the collegiate level (five games with 26-plus points, 11 total 20-plus point games). He just has to be coached to a more balanced contribution at the next level. There will offensive bumps in the road early, but I think Wiggins can average 12-plus points per game on what his current skill set are alone right now.