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Cavaliers Draft Prospect Profile: Andrew Wiggins

With the Cleveland Cavaliers wrapping up important workouts later this week with top prospects, they should be close to determining who they will take with the number one pick (if they don’t trade it).

Last week I talked about center Joel Embiid and a week prior to that I focused on forward Jabari Parker. This week, I’ll end the look at the Cavs’ potential pick with Kansas freshman wing Andrew Wiggins.

 

There's no doubt about it. Andrew Wiggins is a high flyer.
There’s no doubt about it. Andrew Wiggins is a high flyer.

2013-14 stat line: 32.8 Min., 45% FG, 34% 3PT, 17.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.0 BPG, 1.2 SPG, 2.7 PFPG, 2.3 TOPG

 

Andrew Wiggins was the top prospect coming out of high school last year. Native of Ontario, he has a chance to become the third Canadian-born player to be drafted by the Cavs in the last four years (Tristan Thompson in 2011 and Anthony Bennett in 2013). Wiggins garnered a lot of hype coming out of high school, as any number one prospect in the nation would, and ended his season with mixed results. He became the top scoring freshman in Jayhawk history (597 points), surpassing Ben McLemore’s mark of 589 set the year prior.

However, Kansas’s season ended on a bitter note, being upset by #10 Stanford and their zone defense in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, denying head coach Bill Self’s team a Sweet 16 bid. Wiggins was highly criticized after this game, finishing with just four points, four rebounds, an assist, and four turnovers.

Overall, Wiggins gets lauded for his extremely rare athleticism, defense, and dunks. But some question his passiveness, ball handling, and shooting ability. Let’s take a look at which critiques are real and which are perhaps a bit exaggerated. (Games evaluated: v. #4 Duke, @ #19 Florida, v. #24 Baylor, @ West Virginia)

 

Offense:

If you’ve heard anything about Andrew Wiggins, then you’ve heard about his out-of-this-world athleticism. Some will try to downplay this, stating that in the NBA, everyone is athletic which will compromise Wiggins’ abilities. While the former is true, Wiggins has athleticism that perhaps only a select few in the NBA will be able to match. This athleticism enables him to be a great player in transition and be a guy that plays above the rim.

 

(1:27:40-1:27:48) Wiggins’s teammate #34 Perry Ellis gets the steal and the former immediately starts to run the floor from the post. By the time he gets to the ball he’s in front of everyone and is able to dunk it home while taking a hit from Jabari Parker.

 

(34:28-34:36) #31 Jamari Traylor gets the rebound and gives a quick outlet pass to Wiggins. He turns on the burners past half court and then picks up his dribble as two Gators meet him. For most players, this would be enough to force them to just go into their half court set, but Wiggins takes the ball over the defenders and in just two steps is able to lay it up and in.

 

Wiggins’s athleticism also helps him be a heavy contributor on the boards, even on the offensive side (2.2 per game).

 

(44:29-44:35) Wiggins crashes the boards as soon as the shot goes up. He then tracks the ball off the rim and uses much of his 44-inch vertical to out jump everyone and grab the rebound.

 

(50:19-50:25) A few minutes later in the game, Wiggins gets another offensive rebound. This time, he shows that along with the ability to go up and get the ball, effort is critical in grabbing offensive rebounds. He taps it up to his right hand (probably by accident, but still) and taps it in with his right hand between two Baylor Bears.

 

Right away, Wiggins should be able to contribute on offense as a cutter/slasher, being able to get to the basket, especially off the ball. With the ball, he’s had some serious problems that he will need to fix to fulfill the potential he has on offense.

 

(22:23-22:29) This is a great overall play for Kansas. #21 Joel Embiid dribbles out of the post and Wiggins recognizes the gaping hole he leaves in the middle of the paint. He quickly cuts through the lane and Embiid gives him a nice pass for an efficient bucket.

 

(44:47-44:54) This is one of my favorite offensive plays I’ve seen from Wiggins. He gets momentum at the top of the arc on a pass by #1 Wayne Seldon Jr, who then sets a pick forcing Duke defender #2 Quinn Cook from Seldon to Wiggins. Wiggins is able to get initial penetration, but when Cook meets him, he’s able to perform a right-to-left spin move – a move he loves to use – to split him and his initial man, #5 Rodney Hood. From there, Wiggins is able to shoot it over Parker, through contact, and is able to bank it off the glass into the rim.

 

Wiggins isn’t just a supreme athlete that happens to play basketball. He has translatable skills going into the NBA on offense. He isn’t the most polished and has some serious work to do, but he has a pretty good foundation to start from, especially with his jump shot.

 

(1:20:49-1:20:54) In this game at West Virginia, Wiggins scored 41 points. He was able to show the promising range he can have in the NBA, coupled with his ability to get to the rim.

 

(50:23-50:29) Wiggins, above the arc, gets a pass from Embiid. He’s wide open for the shot, but jumps forward, causing him to miss long. I didn’t notice Wiggins make this mistake often, and his shooting mechanics are pretty solid. While he didn’t shoot at a high clip from 3, there’s no reason he shouldn’t (double negative!) be able to improve on that in the NBA.

 

Though Wiggins can get to the rim with the best of them, he has mixed results throughout the process, from beginning, to middle, to the end. What I mean by that, is that sometimes he is passive, which has been the narrative – one that I buy into right now. His ball handling and finishing have also been criticized, and rightfully so. These three aspects of his game aren’t atrocious, but will more than likely take some time to fix – especially his dribbling.

 

(1:05:11-1:05:17) Kansas struggled against zone defenses last year, which is what Florida runs. It was very hard for their wings to penetrate off the dribble. Wiggins has a great chance to do that here – he has a one-on-one matchup and at the very least could’ve drove middle to suck defenders in and then kick it out. He also could have, and probably should have, done a ball fake to the left and dribble right. I think sometimes he underestimates the athletic prowess he has over his opponents. Most of the time he’d have the upper hand athletically, giving him a good chance to drive. But sometimes, like he did here, he would just pass it up.

 

(31:58-32:03) Wiggins has two good options here, none involving turning the ball over like he did up top. It would’ve been reasonable had he taken that somewhat long 3. Also, his defender was closing so hard, he probably could’ve given a hard pump fake – something he should try more often – and drive to the hoop.

 

(37:16-37:22) Wiggins is an inconsistent ball handler, and just flat out struggles driving with his left. That’s exactly what happens here, as he tries to get into the paint but loses the handle as he tries to pick up is dribble. Losing the dribble is one thing, but this is also an example of Wiggins picking up his dribble too soon, which he does too much. As I said before, sometimes it seems as if he underestimates his ability when he can just blow past guys.

 

(40:37-40:43) Even though he drew the foul here, this is a shot I’d like to see him finish more often. He’s not a bad finisher through contact, just a bit inconsistent. He does a good job of using his body to shield the defender and then his long arms prevent the defender from blocking his shot. As Wiggins’s body fills out, he should be able to finish more shots in the paint through contact.

 

There are other parts of Wiggins’s game to be optimistic about. He’s made some good passes, none spectacular. He’s shown sparse post ability, though that would just be icing on top and not something he should grasp right away.

 

Also, like I touched on with Embiid, Kansas didn’t have great distributors that would set up teammates. Their point guard, #10 Naadir Tharpe, made some good plays for them, but sometimes was more interested in making a spectacular play than making the smart one.

 

(41:37-41:42) Tharpe gets doubled up top and has Wiggins wide open in the corner, but never sees him. Instead, he passes to Seldon, who drives and gets swatted down low.

 

If you’ve read this far, enjoy this picture of Dion Waiters’s buzzer beating game winning shot to make the Cavs go bonkers and steal a win in Detroit.

The night Dion Waiters became a Cavaliers legend, probably.
The night Dion Waiters became a Cavaliers legend, probably.

 

Defense:

 

This is the part of Wiggins’s overall game that has the highest floor, due to his athleticism. He still has things to clean up, as every prospect does, but it shouldn’t be long until he’s someone’s lock down defender.

 

(16:12-16:17) I know it sounds like I’m beating a dead horse, but Wiggins once again shows off his athleticism. He’s able to cheat inside the paint as #14 Rasheed Sulaimon drives. He kicks it outside to the corner where #12 Alex Murphy thinks he’s about to get off a 3 pointer. Nope. Wiggins closes in on him in a hurry and is able to block Murphy’s shot right out of his hand.

 

Wiggins played a great defensive game against Baylor, and this play was no different. If my memory serves me correct, he was only driven on twice during this game and eventually Baylor’s sharpshooter (and fellow Canadian), #5 Brady Heslip, was getting hot from deep. Wiggins was then put on Heslip and was basically shut down whenever guarded by Wiggins. Here are two of those plays:

 

(53:53-54:00) Wiggins shows off his transition versatility, closing in on Heslip and makes him think twice about shooting that 3, making him look like a deer in the headlights.

 

(57:57-58:08) Here, Wiggins does a nice job of getting around the weakside screen and chasing Heslip, who gets the ball on the opposite side of the court. He knows Wiggins is behind him and gives a pump fake, which Wiggins does a nice job of not completely falling for. After Wiggins gets through a pick, with the help of Ellis’s hedge, he’s able to recover on Heslip and force him to shoot a deep, contested 3.

 

(25:27-25:35) Wiggins’s athleticism is nice, but that’s not the only thing that helps in transition, and he displays that here. He gets good positioning to deny the rim and is able to poke the ball out. After West Virginia regains possession and puts a shot up, Wiggins rejects it into the eighth row (not really, but it was pretty far).

 

(2:24-2:31) Gator #24 Casey Prather gets the ball on the arc and quickly drives to the paint. However, Wiggins gets great first and second steps to beat him to a spot, forcing Prather to pick up his dribble. He tries a shot from there, but Wiggins is able to block his shot. It’s just a well-read, executed play by Wiggins.

 

For all the good that comes with Wiggins on the defensive side, there are still some fixable things that he can get rid of.

 

(1:09:15-1:09:22) Wiggins is guarding Sulaimon one-on-one at the top where #21 Amile Jefferson sets a screen on him. Wiggins has enough space to go over top of the pick, but instead makes full contact with Jefferson, forcing Embiid to come out on Sulaimon. As Wiggins recovers, he and Embiid get tangled with each other, allowing Sulaimon to get initial penetration. At times, Wiggins doesn’t read the screen correctly, and also isn’t able to power through some screens. This is something that can be learned through repetition and improved by getting stronger.

 

(1:25:36-1:25:42) Wiggins gets a good first step as his man starts to drive. But as they get closer to the paint, Wiggins starts to pull away, perhaps trying to avoid a foul (he did have four at this point in the game, when Kansas was trying to make a comeback). Nonetheless, this is something that I’ve seen him do on multiple occasions. Instead of trying to beat his man to a spot – which I showed he has done – it’s as if he’s just following the movements of the ball handler and following him.

 

Bottom Line: Wiggins is an easy player to fall in love with watching. The level of athleticism (the “athleticism” count is up to 9, in case you’re wondering) he has will be beyond most that of the players already in the NBA. At the very worst, he’ll be a reliable defender, a good off-the-ball slasher and a versatile transitional player on both ends of the court. As I said earlier, he’s not as polished as, say, Jabari Parker is offensively. He will have to work long and hard to get his dribble to become a reliable/elaborate weapon – he’s already shown he can have an effective spin move. Luckily for him, he already has a respectable shot. That and his defensive ability should be able to keep him on the court a good amount of time as a rookie.

Looking at all three top prospects – Wiggins, Embiid, and Parker – they’re all great options for the Cavs. These guys would arguably be the top prospects in other drafts as well, so GM David Griffin has a tough decision to make between the three. The draft is less than two weeks away and I have finally come to a decision of who I want the most out of three…

I’ll have that for you next week.

Cavaliers Draft Prospect Profile: Joel Embiid

A lot has been circulating around the Cavs this past week, ranging from possible coaching hires to veterans they could be targeting via trade. Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowksi had a busy day on Monday breaking somewhat (unsettling) Cavs news (that has since been refuted). But one thing remains constant: they still have to figure out who they will take number one in the draft later in the month.

Last week, I took a look at Duke freshman Jabari Parker as a possibility for the Cavs top choice. This week, I’ll be going over the first of two Kansas freshman: center Joel Embiid. I’m going to do things a little different this week, with more clips from actual games to highlight his strengths and weaknesses. With that said, let’s get into it.

Kansas center Joel Embiid
Kansas center Joel Embiid

2013-14 stat line: 23.1 Min., 63% FG, 20% (1-5) 3PT, 11.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.4 APG, 2.6 BPG, 0.9 SPG, 3.4 PFPG, 2.4 TOPG

The one thing that almost always came up when watching Kansas play last year was the story of how Joel Embiid came to play basketball.

Until about the 18 minute mark, you’ll hear ESPN’s crew talk about how Embiid was integrated into the sport of basketball.

 

Offense:

The comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon have been constant ever since, and for good reason. Starting basketball at such a relatively old age, he’s been able to limit the amount of bad habits one could pick up from playing a lifetime of basketball since middle school. Here’s a big reason why Embiid draws some Olajuwon comparisons:

Hakeem Olajuwon explains his patented “Dream Shake” (goes until about the 1-minute mark)

http://youtu.be/5Irvvb7Y4-w?t=3s

Embiid fakes twice and gets his man to hesitate (watch the defender’s head turn every which way). Embiid finishes him with his smooth, quick feet and his length allows him to under the rim and finish on the other side. Another thing I noticed on this, and other plays, was Embiid’s awareness of the rim, no matter where he was at – which is crucial for someone who does his scoring in the paint. That’s not to say he doesn’t have a good jumper, because he does.

 

http://youtu.be/lvx20ZejUyU?t=39s

He shot a respectable 69% from the free throw line, and could get better. He has a sweet stroke and showed off his soft touch wherever he shot from on the court – including the three-point line.

In the 4 games I delved into this past week (v. San Diego State, v. Oklahoma State, v. Baylor, and at Baylor), Embiid got doubled, if not most of the time, then every time. He usually did a good job of dribbling out of it and was able to show off his great court vision in distribution ability. Sometimes though he wasn’t convictive enough and would turn it over or get called for a foul.

 

Embiid gets doubled and dribbles to the outside to force one of the defenders to cover his original man. From there, he takes advantage of his quickness and destroys his man, drawing the foul.

 

This is downright impressive. Embiid gets doubled and as he dribbles out, he takes a peak across court to point guard #10 Naadir Tharpe. He takes another dribble to clear space and fires an accurate pass across court to set up Tharpe for the three and an assist for himself.

 

Embiid is too far outside to dribble any further, especially while being trapped in the corner like that. In this instance, he should’ve quickly passed it to #31 Jamari Traylor on the post but instead commits an offensive foul.

 

Embiid has to know with three guys on him to get the ball out. He had #1 Wayne Seldon next to him on the 3-point line or #34 Perry Ellis across the court from him – a difficult pass, yes, but one he’s made before. Instead, he tried to dribble out of it and gets it stripped.

Embiid committed a lot of turnovers even though he just averaged 23 minutes per game. Something that will help him is that if the Cavs were to pick him, he wouldn’t see as many doubles. Even still, at times he needs to be more decisive on what to do with the ball and utilize his great court vision.

Embiid is an athletic freak – not an understatement – for his position. He runs in transition exceptionally well and can dunk over just about anyone and catch just about anything.

Granted, this dunk is over 6’3 guard Marcus Smart, but it was heavily contested and he slams it home like there’s no one in front of him.

 

Defense:

Embiid also has the potential to be a great defender as well as offensive player. His athletic ability alone enables him to do a lot of things that some big men struggle to do. This includes things like hedging on pick-and-rolls, recovering to his man, and leaping to block shots. While he still has some polish left to be done on this side of the court – i.e. better positioning, timing on blocks – his athletic ability is good enough to where at worst he’ll be a solid defender.

 

Embiid’s ball denial in the backcourt is astounding here. No matter where his man goes, Embiid is there to prevent him from getting the ball. He shows off his athleticism, quickness, and intensity.

 

Here’s Embiid covering ground on an inbounding play underneath the basket. As soon as he sees the guard cutting free to the basket, he’s right behind him and his able to use his length to block the shot. It’s an impressive play that Embiid makes look easy.

 

For all the great plays Embiid makes, he makes some fixable mistakes as well. A lot of his mistakes are due to either cheating inside the paint/on a hedge or jumping on a pump fake, allowing an easy bucket.

 

Embiid’s man fakes a screen and Embiid cheats to hedge Oklahoma State’s guard. Embiid’s man cuts to the basket and Embiid is caught out of position, giving his guy an open lane for a dunk.

 

Embiid comes off his man, who cuts to the post, to cover another Aztec cutting to the paint and getting the ball. Ellis comes to help, but Embiid jumps on #22 Josh Davis’s pump fake, leaving his original man open for a dunk.

 

Embiid is also a good rebounder. You would think I wouldn’t have to say that since he’s a 7-footer, but Ryan Hollins played for the Cavs so I feel like I should say it just to make sure. Sure, Embiid gets a lot of these rebounds because of his length, but he also puts effort into boxing out as well, something many NBA players don’t pay enough attention to.

 

Embiid is alone in the paint when the shot goes up. Some guys just feel around for the opposition when the shot goes up, but Embiid goes and searches for someone to put a body on. While he didn’t get the rebound, he prevented his man from possibly cutting into the paint and getting it.

 

Embiid powers through three San Diego State players to get the rebound and has the strength to go right back up and fish through contact to get the and-1.

 

Bottom line: One last thing I noticed about watching Embiid with Kansas is he set a lot of screens, both off the ball and on the ball. When he would set a screen for the ball handler, he would rarely be passed to.

 

Embiid is ready for the ball after he sets the pick, but Tharpe drives into 3 defenders and gets swatted.

 

The problem with Kansas’ offense was a lack of a consistent distributor. Tharpe was more interested in making a game-breaking play than setting up his teammates. This limited the amount of time Embiid got to see the ball, especially outside of the paint. With the Cavs, I would image whoever is brought in to coach would capitalize on Embiid athleticism and shooting promise, letting him star as a pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop player, along with being a lethal threat on the post. Embiid would also give the Cavs a legitimate rim protector, something they haven’t had in a long time.

If the Cavs pick him, the fan base will have to be patient with his progression. While he’s one of the more advanced big men to come out of the draft, it still takes time for his position to find their place in the league. Also, Embiid was in foul trouble quite a bit and will more than likely have to go through a growing period in this area. He only averaged a bit more than 23 minutes per game at KU, so don’t look for him to get more than that as a rookie.

The big issue with Embiid is his health. In early March, he suffered a stress fracture in his back that kept him out of the Big 12 Tournament and NCAA Tournament. There’s been huge speculation and argumentation about how serious this will be with Embiid in the future, but only the Cavs will truly know (insiders only) how serious or not serious it is. If they think it’s 100% sure it will be a problem going forward, then they can’t pick him. Anything less than that, he has to be heavily considered to be the pick for the Cavs at number one with Andrew Wiggins. Speaking of Wiggins, I will dive into why he could be the top pick next week.