Andrew Wiggins has had a lot of hype surrounding him for several years now, often drawing comparisons to LeBron James. Wiggins was under the microscope in his one and only season at Kansas, which ended with a disappointing loss in the Round of 32 to Stanford.
Wiggins put up 17.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.2 steals, one block and 2.3 turnovers per game. He shot 44.8 percent from the field, 34.1 percent from beyond the arc and 77 percent from the free throw line. While his statistics do not remind anyone of LeBron James, Wiggins showed flashes of why he is so highly regarded among talent evaluators, such as when he scored 41 points against West Virginia on March 8.
Wiggins has good shooting mechanics, despite his inconsistent results. He can knock down set shots and shots off the dribble, though he often settles for difficult jumpers to avoid contact. Nevertheless, with more time and practice, it looks like Wiggins will be a very good shooter in the future.
Wiggins is also great in transition. He uses his athleticism and long strides to outpace his opponents for easy finishes at the rim. However, in half court situations, Wiggins is not as effective with the ball, as he struggles to change directions quickly. This in part explains why Wiggins will often settle for a long two-pointer, rather than trying to use his athleticism to get by defenders. As his ball-handling improves, hopefully his assertiveness will too. Too often Wiggins seemed complacent, playing within the team structure as opposed to taking a game over himself when the situation called for it. To be fair, LeBron was criticized early on in his career for being too unselfish and looking to setup teammates for clutch shots. At just 19, Wiggins has time to continue developing his offensive game, which will hopefully lead to increased confidence, allowing him to take over games when his team needs it.
On the defensive end, Wiggins showed throughout his freshmen season that he has all the physical tools and instincts to be a lockdown defender. A good comparison for Wiggins is Paul George. Both players have the physical tools to be great wing defenders, but more importantly, both players have the desire to be great defensive players. As Wiggins adds more muscle to his frame, he will be able to guard bigger players as well, which will make him one of the best two-way players in the NBA.
With that said, Wiggins is facing tough competition for the number one spot in the draft. Jabari Parker is another talented forward who could potentially go number one, and many believe he is more ready to contribute in the NBA than Wiggins. Parker can score in a variety of ways, has a bigger frame than Wiggins and can potentially play as a small-ball four. However, the Cavaliers are not a fringe championship contender that is one piece away from winning it all. Instead, they are a team with a collection of young, talented players that need to grow together. While a player like Parker can be a part of such a core, it does not make sense to pass on a player with seemingly unlimited potential—like Wiggins— for a player that may put up slightly better stats in his rookie season, but does not have the same upside.
Similarly, Joel Embiid is another player that many believe could go number one. However, the Cavaliers in recent drafts have made some questionable picks (passing on players like Klay Thompson, Andre Drummond and Victor Oladipo) and need to get this one right. Embiid is a gifted big man, but sat out a number of games late in the season with a stress fracture in his back. While recent reports suggest that the back issues are cleared up, it would be a terrible scenario for Embiid to suffer major health issues while players like Wiggins and Parker are emerging as the future stars of the NBA. Embiid is a special talent, but there are many examples of big men being plagued by injuries, such as Bill Walton, Yao Ming and Greg Oden, just to name a few.
The Cavs are both fortunate and unfortunate. They are fortunate to have the first pick in a very talented draft, but will be picking first for the third time in four years. After another season missing the playoffs, recently firing former head coach Mike Brown (for the second time) and unexpectedly winning the lottery, the Cavs are under a lot of scrutiny around the league. If they mess this pick up, it will be something that others will be very critical of. Fortunately, the Cavs are picking from a crop of very talented players. But none of them have the star potential that Wiggins has. He may not be LeBron James, but he doesn’t really need to be. With Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett, the Cavs have plenty of young talent to build around. Rather than waiting around hoping for LeBron to come back, it’s time for the Cavs to move forward, with Wiggins as the lead man.
– Jesse Blancarte