I firmly believe there are levels to how good players are. Players like Andrew Wiggins will always tantalize us in believing that everything is possible, even the unobtainable. Yet, we don't think anything is unobtainable for a talent like Wiggins. Our eyes definitely can play tricks on us but sometimes you have athletes so talented the unattainable is within reach.
Are our expectations out of whack about Andrew Wiggins? Is it because Wiggins was the #1 prospect in the country projected #1 overall pick before he stepped foot on a college basketball floor? When Wiggins committed to Kansas, he was expected to at least contend for an NCAA Tournament Championship, if not win it. Kansas was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the second round by Stanford 60-57. Wiggins scored 4 points on 1/6 shooting and Pat Forde roasted Wiggins on Yahoo.com, “falsely hyped as the greatest talent to grace the game since LeBron James." Wiggins remained the #1 prospect coming into the 2014 NBA Draft and scouts picked at him, "What concerns me is his motor. Does he care enough? Does it matter to him? I just don't htink he as any of 'f--- you' in him." The same scout also conceded a bit and said, "He still average 17 and 6 in one of the best conferences in America as an 18-year-old. This is a bit of display of how warped our perspectives are."
In a recent ESPN.com article by Brian Windhorst, Tom Thibodeau said, "Winners come in all personality types. Some guys have that quite confidence, and they really go after you." In the same quote Thibodeau said, "So you look at the actions more than anything else." Andrew Wiggins, unlike say a Kawhi Leonard, has been spotlighted his entire basketball life. Leonard was able to quietly become an elite NBA player with added expectations. HIs every step, shot, dribble, smile, frown, word, etc. wasn't scrutinized. It's kind of insane that we question if Wiggins has the competitive motor to be elite while Leonard, who like Wiggins doesn't display much outward emotion, doesn't get the same scrutiny.
This is probably where we run afoul about Wiggins. We have an expectation of what he’ll become (LeBron James BITW) and yet forget that he must go through some growing pains to reach the level we expect of him. Kevin Durant as a rookie shot 43% overall, 28.8% from 3-point, scored 20.3 points per and grabbed 4.4 rebounds. The Seattle Supersonics was 20-62 and drafted Russell Westbrook the following year. Durant averaged 25 PPG but the Oklahoma City Thunder record was 23-59. Year 3 the Thunder finished 50-32 and made the playoffs.
I don’t expect Andrew Wiggins to be Kevin Durant. I’m using an elite comparison because I do expect Wiggins to be in the discussion of elite NBA players. This is where we discuss levels again. There are different levels of elite NBA players. LeBron James is the tippy top top of elite. There isn’t another player in his sphere. The next guy is arguable. Kevin Durant is who I consider #2. Stephen Curry is next. After these three, it’s all preference and how you see them play and what you consider more important. There are probably just five or six truly elite players. The next levels are your stars and then so on and so on. So yeah, I expect Andrew Wiggins to get into a level of star and well above role player and just regular starter.
Watching more than 120 games over the last 2 seasons, I’ve firsthand witnessed Wiggins’ improvement. Below is Wiggins’ rookie year broken up in his first 26 games and his final 56 games. In the first 26, Wiggins scored 20 or more in just 4 games. From games 27 to 40 Wiggins scored more than 20 points 10 times.
These are only three NBA player rookie years who are considered elite players. In traditional statistical categories, Wiggins compares pretty equal mostly, if not better against them.
Here are two lists of NBA players, 1, Harden, Westbrook, Cousins, LeBron James, DeAndre Jordan, Wiggins. List 2, Harden, Cousins, DeRozan, DeAndre Jordan, Drummond, Westbrook, and Wiggins. These two lists are total free throw attempts for a season. List 1, is Wiggins’ rookie year. He took the 6th most free throws. Last season, Wiggins took the 7th most free throws. From year 1 to year 2 Wiggins increase his free throw attempts by 99 without a change in percentage made.
Is Andrew Wiggins an enigma? Sometimes when piecing together what we think he should be as a player makes watching him puzzling. Like, Wiggins is extremely athletic, why does he not grab more rebounds? Is it because he’s not aggressive ? Aggressiveness is possible but it could also be how the Wolves were as a team. The Wolves were tied for the 2nd to the bottom in total rebounds per game. Wiggins finished 5th on the roster in rebounds per. Wiggins was beat out by Towns, Dieng, Kevin Garnett and Ricky Rubio. Rubio has always been an above average rebounder for his position. Rubio rebounding also allows the Wolves to get up in transition and attack faster. I don’t know about you, but I’ll sacrifice a few rebounds from Wiggins for him to run the floor like Randy Moss ran the go route.
Wiggins might be a little underrated as a passer and creator (he hasn’t had to do it much). I say might because Wiggins doesn’t have good numbers on advanced stat assists percentage. He still averaged 2 assists per game last year and was almost never a secondary ball handler let alone a primary.