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).
Andrew Wiggins will work out for #Cavs next Wednesday and Jabari Parker next Friday, source tells The Plain Dealer.
— clevelanddotcom Cavs (@PDcavsinsider) June 13, 2014
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.
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)
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.
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.