Andrew Wiggins was anointed the presumptive number one pick in this draft the moment he reclassified into the high school class of 2013. At the time, he looked like the best wing prospect since LeBron James with his otherworldly athleticism. He measured at an enormous 6’8 with a 7’0 wingspan and reported 44-inch vertical leap off two feet. While Joel Embiid and perhaps Jabari Parker passed Wiggins on some draft boards during this college season, the center’s injury issues have again made Wiggins a favorite to be drafted in the top two. Despite what some might call a slightly disappointing freshman year at Kansas, no major draftniks that I am aware of him have him falling below the Milwaukee Bucks with the second pick.
Wiggins’ strengths have been well-chronicled by others, including his excellent wing defense, good motor and of course that athleticism. But despite those strengths I would not draft him before the fifth pick in this draft.
The main problem is Wiggins’ lack of upside as a scorer. While he is a fantastic leaper with great length, he does not often translate those physical gifts into finishing that befits them. One interesting study by Dean Demakis, conducted through January 31*, showed that Wiggins had dunked on only three of 44 finishes at the rim in the halfcourt. During the season, he really only had two or three spectacular dunks on an opposing defender. But more troubling than the relative paucity of dunks is how many layups he misses. Great finishers have a knack for it, possessing the ability to feel the defense and maneuver the ball and their body to avoid the block and still make the shot. Wiggins just does not have that feel right now, and he misses a ton of layups. The video below (also by Demakis) shows a number of Wiggins’ missed layups. It is truly disconcerting how many easy finishes he simply cannot convert. He shot 63 percent at the rim according to Hoop-Math.com, a disappointing figure for a player of his athleticism who gets out in transition as often as he does.
*Demakis does not have updated season-long numbers, but they might be a bit better as Wiggins finished the season strong. Also, it should be noted that I don’t necessarily agree with the author’s conclusion that Wiggins’ aggressiveness is a problem so much as it is simply lack of feel.
Another issue is his lack of off-the-dribble game. He doesn’t really create any separation with his dribble moves, possessing little shake and playing very upright. Again, he simply is not a natural when it comes to handling the ball—it often looks like he is just executing his moves in one place without getting anywhere. It is going to take a lot of work to make him a capable player out of the pick-and-roll from a handling and passing perspective. When Wiggins did make an effective drive, it was almost invariably to his right. He has two actual moves he can use regularly at this point: that straight line righty drive into a spin move back to his left and a step-back J going to his left.
Wiggins is excellent in transition, showing an ability to juke defenders with his long strides to avoid picking up charges and get to the basket before the defense gets set. But what a player does in the halfcourt possessions that make up the vast majority of the game in the NBA is far more relevant. Indeed, there is even some evidence that getting an inordinate amount of offense in transition is an indicator against NBA success relative to college because those points do not translate as well.
Shooting from the outside is an area in which Wiggins is more advanced, as he shot 35 percent from deep with may of the attempts of the difficult variety. Still, one would think his pretty shot would go in more often. While that can be projected (and I believe it will be an adequate weapon in time), there is also the very realistic possibility he does not become an elite shooter either. Certainly we have not seen enough to be confident of this result.
His trainers at P3 athletics are reportedly working with Wiggins to boost his dribble game by playing lower to the ground and improve his core strength to help with finishing at the rim. But it is indisputable that he does not possess those skills at the moment, and there is no guarantee they ever develop. Rudy Gay (a player whose upright, static off-the-dribble game he mimics at this point) never really got the shake despite his athletic gifts, and Thomas Robinson still struggles to finish at the rim in the pros. The possibility Wiggins never fixes these issues must be priced into his evaluation despite his youth.
Even if he does, most though not all observers would likely agree that his offensive ceiling is more Paul George than a true scoring wing superstar like Kevin Durant or Dwyane Wade. And “ceiling” is often a misinterpreted word. Many, without thinking of it, think of the ceiling as what the player is most likely to become if all goes according to plan in his development. But in reality, it is what happens if all goes as well as it possibly could. If Paul George is Wiggins’ best-case offensive scenario from a scouting perspective, it must be noted that the more likely outcome is somewhere well below that. In the lofty strata of the top two picks in the draft, a non-big should at least have the potential of becoming an offensive superstar. I believe his lack of natural scoring ability very likely precludes that.
Perhaps nothing is more terrifying for a talent evaluator than when his opinion so differs from conventional wisdom. And Wiggins does have the raw physical tools to make me potentially rue this evaluation someday. However, my scouting assessment is somewhat emboldened by analytics models, as I have not seen one which ranks him higher than 10th. Kevin Pelton’s draft rater has him as the 19th best prospect in the draft.
“A possible No. 1 pick, Wiggins didn’t perform like one during his lone NCAA season,” Pelton writes. “Wiggins is better than his projection because of his potential as an on-ball defender, but nothing in his stat line suggests likely superstardom. In particular, his projected usage rate (18.8 percent) is unspectacular for an NBA-bound wing, highlighting the improvement Wiggins needs to make handling the basketball.”
Pelton’s take agrees with my own scouting-driven analysis. The bit about his low projected usage rate in particular dovetails with my observation that he doesn’t have the knack for shot-creation at this point. It is possible that may come in time, but most great scorers had shown the ability by this point in their careers. Based on the entirety of his freshman season, Andrew Wiggins has yet to do so.