The talent available in the upcoming 2014 NBA Draft is no secret. With the Kings doing not-so-great at a perfect time, I figured it would be interesting to delve into who exactly Sacramento would be playing for (or not playing for, depending on how you look at it).
I plant to do a series of informative posts on many of the top draft prospects over the next few weeks. These are the guys that have become household names and that seemingly everyone has going possibly in the top 5, but definitively in the top 10. The college season has started, and at Christmas time, we have seen the prospects enough to get a good feel for their game against better competition. The majority of these players will not fluctuate much across the board, but anything can happen (see: Nerlens Noel injury). I watch and read a lot about college basketball, so these posts are a culmination of both what I have seen personally and what I have read/heard from analysts, writers, etc. I hope you guys enjoy the series, and if there's anything you think I missed or that you don't agree with, I would love to hear so in the comments. It's always interesting to get different perspectives. I will start off the series with (who else?) Andrew Wiggins.
BACKGROUND: Dubbed the best basketball player since LeBron James, Wiggins was thrust into the spotlight quickly. He was said to be a lock for the #1 overall NBA pick even back during his junior year in high school, but when he reclassified to the class of 2013 to bump Jabari Parker to the #2 best prospect, the world didn't need to wait much longer to see him on television in the collegiate game.
- Athleticism. He is one of the best athletes in the world. His leaping ability is incredible. His quickness is seldom matched. His explosiveness is jaw-dropping. Vertically, laterally, backwards, this guy has the genes (literally; his mom is a former Canadian Olympic track-and-field sprinter and his dad, Mitchell Wiggins, is a former NBA player).
- Driving to the Hole. Wiggins is great at getting to the whole and finishing with his athleticism. While he isn't as dominant as in high school (the opposing defense is now bigger and stronger), this is still a strength for him. How this will translate over to the NBA, where defensive stalwarts like Howard, Bogut, and Hibbert await, remains to be seen. Nevertheless, he is still a very good finisher, both with his touch (very good) and power (dunking very quickly, but usually not over people).
Transition Buckets. Wiggins is a monster in transition. On a fast break, you might as well just give him two points. Like LeBron and Tyreke, he is a monster on the run. Few can stop him, and this is where he really excels. Whether it's slicing through defenders or dunking over them, his gazelle-like speed gets him to the bucket in a remarkable fashion.
- Good Mid-Range Jumpshot. To complement his athleticism, Wiggins has a trustworthy mid-range jumper. He can hit it consistently in the event that he cannot drive to the basket. His long-range game is also quickly developing, and he is hitting the three with much more consistency than before. He has a quick release and great elevation.
- Great Defender. Wiggins has all of the tools to be a great defender, and is already most of the way there. Unlike many, he shows the desire to play defense. In the match-up against Jabari Parker, Wiggins did a great job in the second half to slow him down (but he's still Jabari, so he found ways to score), showcasing his ability to guard star players. Jabari is also 40 lbs heavier, giving hope that Wiggins can guard multiple positions with ease, a la LeBron.
- No Real Weaknesses. Besides his freakish athleticism, his biggest strength is that he really doesn't have any major weaknesses. He does everything solid at the very least, meaning that you know you will get a guy that will always contribute in some manner. If his jumpshot is off, he can drive. If the defense is clogging the lane, he can shut down an opposing star. If his teammates are hot, he knows to feed them and stay consistent.
- Size and Weight. While Wiggins is listed at SF for most, he has also been listed as a SG, and for a good reason: He is only 200 lbs or so. He is on the shorter side for a SF (some say 6-7, others 6-8), but he can't make up for it with his weight. He could definitely play SG with his superior athleticism, but SF may come as a challenge against some. He did, however, definitely hold his own against Jabari Parker (who is an inch or two and about 40 lbs heavier), so maybe it won't be a problem after all. Still, something to take into consideration if he is being drafted as a SF.
- Killer Instinct. This goes back to the LeBron James comparison. With such a comparison comes the expectation that Wiggins will be the star player to take over any game at will. The problem: That just isn't Wiggins' game. Yet. He tends to be more passive, but has shown the willingness to take over games at times. He's still on the borderline when it comes to this category, and no one knows how he will turn out. He'll never have the Kobe instinct, but that's not necessarily a problem unless you expect it out of him. He has yet to really take over a game at Kansas, so it seems that he is more likely to be the star-powered Pippen to someone's Jordan as of this time. We shall see how everything plays out.
- The Intangibles. While solid in many areas, Wiggins does not go far beyond that in some categories. He sees the floor okay, but not well. He does tend to be passive at times, but doesn't always see the best pass. He is a soft-spoken guy and isn't the leader type (like Tyreke Evans). Wiggins will not provide a ton extra beyond what the box-score reads, but again, these aren't necessarily big weaknesses; just areas he isn't doing great in.
OVERALL ASSESSMENT: As mentioned, he is likely not the next LeBron James. While he has all of the tools and God-given abilities, that is not his game at this time. If he develops a killer instinct and decides he wants to dominate everyone, he could easily be one of the best basketball players alive. Only time will tell. Some say he's like Tracy McGrady. Others say Rudy Gay and Paul George. Wiggins doesn't have the size or girth of any of those players (the other big factor that could hold him back), but the ceiling is still the limit for him. At rock-bottom, he ends up being a borderline all-star who is solid at everything. At best, he dominates the league.
Wiggins against Florida. Does a fantastic all-around job, showcasing just about everything, including his great defense.
Wiggins vs Parker. Parker won this battle, but Wiggins still played very well in one of the most anticipated match-ups in recent memory. Showed he could indeed handle the spotlight, and on a night when just about everyone in America was watching.