Draft Day: Andrew Wiggins – Franchise Savior or Project?

With the field for the 2014 NBA Draft starting to materialize now that the seasons for many of the best college basketball players have ended, the big coup of the draft right now is Andrew Wiggins.  With a press conference that some related to LeBron James’ “Decision” broadcast, it is official that Andrew Wiggins is on the way to being an NBA player. The Celtics will obtain a lottery pick in this year’s draft and if they are to get an especially high pick in the draft this year, the question that should be on the minds of Celtics fans is: If the opportunity arises, do we pick Andrew Wiggins? 

Why The Celtics Should: Andrew Wiggins is one of the most athletic athletes that I have ever seen.  If you don’t believe me, check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlyuIIXLbCE In essence, he is a physical specimen.  He has a nearly 7-foot wingspan, which is a considerable advantage for someone playing at the small forward position.  Wiggins runs up and down the court with ease and jumps with an insane balance of grace and power.  Every time he touches a basketball, fans sit up just a little bit more to see the next highlight play that Wiggins makes.  When I have watched him play, the immediate comparison that he lends himself to is Tracy McGrady, in the sense that they both make the game seem so simple in comparison to their counterparts. Wiggins has the ability to take over games (see: 41 points, 8 rebounds, 5 steals at West Virginia). Watching him go for blocks or accelerate off of a fast-break for the slam dunk, you sometimes wonder if he’s even trying.  He’s also a very smart basketball player.  He understands the game and reacts well in different game-time situations.  You won’t have to worry about him calling a timeout that the team doesn’t have or consistently dribbling into double teams that will undermine an offense because he is highly aware of what’s going on during the game.  However, in my opinion, one of Andrew Wiggins’ most important traits is that he has great instincts.  He just knows where he needs to be on a basketball court and what he needs to do in order to be as effective as possible.  As fans of the game, often times we tend to focus too much on a player’s athleticism and less on their instincts.  Yet, the best NBA players (Kobe, LeBron, Durant, etc.), rely on their instincts most of all in order to excel at the game of basketball.  The elite players in this league are elite because they see the game differently than the rest of the league does.  Andrew Wiggins has that and that bodes well for whichever team picks him in the draft.

Why the Celtics Shouldn’t: Andrew Wiggins is like a younger LeBron James.  Those are the quips that salivating NBA GMs, coaches, and fans ate up unquestioningly prior to the beginning of his college career.  The statement is correct, but not in the manner that any GM, coach, or fan would like. So why not draft a younger LeBron? The fact is that as of right now, Wiggins is too passive on the basketball court.  Wiggins has the jaw–dropping propensity to show up in a major way for portions of the game and completely disappear for the rest of it.  He sometimes looks like he’s trying to spare the competition that he plays against, which is okay in college where there is few other star or superstar players to play against consistently. In a game versus UTEP, Wiggins posted a mere six points, while shooting a dismal .222. That just doesn’t work in the NBA where the talent level is inordinately higher.  It is one thing to be a facilitator, and it’s entirely another to shrink when the lights are at their brightest (Wiggins did far too much of the latter in his time at Kansas).  He did step up when Joel Embiid went down for a few games, especially with a 41 point, 8 rebound, and 5 steal game against West Virginia, but when he struggled early against Stanford and their zone, he backed off in terms of his intensity for the rest of the game as Kansas was felled by the Cardinals in a close game.  In the NBA, that won’t be as much of a problem as pacing oneself is key to getting through a 82 game season, but in the big moments, namely in the playoffs, Wiggins must show a competitive edge and ferocity to his game that, as of right now, has only been seen in spurts. He’s also not the greatest jump shooter in the world though repetition will remedy that situation.

Verdict: Andrew Wiggins is a project, despite his high IQ and elite athleticism.  At his best, he could dominate the league for nearly the duration of career and give the NBA the next great star that they will need once Durant and LeBron leave the league.  However, it would be helpful if he went to a team that has a talented coach that’s great at teaching and developing talent and a GM that is willing to be patient in order to find a more sustained level of success.  Luckily, the Celtics possess both of those in talented, young coach Brad Stevens and skilled GM Danny Ainge, though Ainge seemingly has been less than impressed by this year’s class, saying, “There aren’t any game changers in the draft.” Ainge also noted that none of the players could turn a team around in a season or two, which though sounds pessimistic at first, does show Ainge’s willingness to be patient with whomever he drafts.  With Jabari Parker looking like he might stay at Duke for another year, Wiggins automatically looks much more appealing on the board and with the ceiling that he possesses, the Celtics have to look long and hard at Wiggins if they get a top–3 pick.

(Photo: Footbasket.com)

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