When I first heard the Cavs had landed the #1 pick my very first thought was "Great! We’re going to add Andrew Wiggins!" I had watched Wiggins in college and was excited at the prospect of adding such a dynamic wing to our roster. I originally had an entire 1.5 page section written up about Joel Embiid and why both are great options but Wiggins should still be the top pick, but all of that was made unnecessary following the news of Embiid’s injury.
Wiggins has the most upside of anyone in the draft, if he ever maximizes his physical gifts he has the potential to be a first ballot Hall-of-Famer and the best player in this draft class. Wiggins has the natural tools to be a top 5 players on both sides of the ball. He has a much higher ceiling than Jabari Parker due to his ability to impact the game on the defensive end. He is faster than Parker, jumps out of the gym, and will be one of the best transition players in the league from the first day he steps onto the court.
The Wiggins Criticisms
1) Andrew Wiggins can't dribble!
Andrew Wiggins had some problems at the collegiate level creating for himself. This was due to a multitude of factors; it was not due to his complete inability to handle a basketball. Wiggins does some things at an elite level, some things poorly, and some things in between:
Straight line dribble drive: Wiggins has a truly elite first step, capable of blowing by any defender with his first dribble, his straight line drive is exceptional, and will be exceptional in the NBA. This is an elite skill and he will abuse any slow footed defenders. He really needs to develop a jab-step to help create space to make this an even more effective tool in the NBA. Once he spends some time working on the triple-threat position he will be able to better parlay the first step, step back, and jab step.
Spin Move: Wiggins has an above average/elite spin move that he used often at Kansas. Wiggins is such a fluid athlete he is able to seamlessly spin to his left off of his right-hand dribble. He can spin into a layup, floater, dunk, or jump shot. His spin became so effective it almost made him predictable in the half court. While he needs to vary the way he finishes coming out of the spin, ease of which he spins round the opponents will serve him well at the NBA level.
Cross-Over: Wiggins has an average to above average cross-over. His mechanics are not the best but he is so quick he makes it effective anyways. He needs to work on this move to reduce the wasted motion, and he needs to add an element of hesitation as well. His cross is not devastating but it is consistently effective given how quick he is. Again,. Wiggins is such a good athlete he doesn't need to be phenomenal dribbler to get past his defender.
Left Hand drive: Wiggins flat-out did not use his left hand very often at KU, and when he tried, he was often unsuccessful. He has trouble changing direction and his dribble gets too high when he tries to use his left in traffic, this often lead to turnovers. Wiggins desperately needs to keep his dribble lower. His left needs work, but as I said he is a very coordinated athlete I would expect substantial improvement in this by year 3. It is a weakness, but it is not a devastating weakness like it is for Harrison Barnes.
Dribbling in Traffic: Wiggins has developed a bad habit of allowing his dribble to get too high when he is surrounded in the lane. This is a bad habit that he needs to eliminate completely. Again, this is a fixable problem but it is a glaring hole in his game. He will have to spend a lot of hours learning what to do when a straight-line drive to the rim is not available.
2) Wiggins has no "killer instinct"
This is the worst criticism as it can’t be quantified; however I believed I have identified the primary cause of this concern. Wiggins does not have a very refined understanding of which situations he should attack the basket, and which situations he should just move the ball. He doesn’t always recognize when help is too far away from the hoop. After watching film on him (Sorry I don’t know how to edit my own film and save it as clips that can be converted to gifs or I would do so here) Wiggins often has his man available for an isolation play with no one under the rim and he often seems very unsure what to do. This may have also been a function of the KU offense as it did not feature much dribble penetration by any player. I believe this is correctable with time. He too often would pass the ball back around the perimeter, or take 2-3 dribbles then pull-up for a jumper.
Look at the following example:
In this instance Wiggins should clearly go to the hoop as he only has 1 man to beat. He does not recognize this and takes 2 dribbles into a long step-back jumper. I believe this is correctable with time spent in the film room.
It is also important to understand the distinctions between the college game and the NBA game. In college, teams can literally sit their center directly underneath the basket so he is already pre-rotated towards an opposing slashing player. This usually gives up a lot of threes but does an effective job of locking down the paint. This makes slashing to the basket far more difficult than it can be in the NBA.
The Pick & Roll, the staple of any NBA offense is used far less in college as very few big men are adept at setting screens and rolling or popping out for a shot. This mean when Wiggins handles the ball on the PnR, he is often working with someone who is not taking proper angles which would allow him to penetrate immediately after the pick. These distinctions make Wiggins’ primary offensive skill (Slashing) less effective. In the NBA, Wiggins will see more space coming out of the PnR as the primary ball handler. This will allow him to use his physical gifts to get to the rack and finish at a high rate. Wiggins will also eventually add enough size to set screens for Irving as the pick and pop or roll man. Wiggins was already incredibly effective at getting to the line in college, something that will serve him well in the NBA.
3) Wiggins can’t finish
Wiggins struggled to finish around the rim in college and I believe this is due to two primary factors:
1. Zone defense, opposing bigs can just stand under the hoop.
2. Kansas offensive sets did not really do him a lot of favors in terms of clearing their bigs out to setup driving lanes for Wiggins.
3. Wiggins needs to add more bulk so he can absorb contact at the rim. At 6"9 and weighing only ~210LBS, Wiggins has broad shoulders and should be able to put on 50 or so pounds over the next 10 years. What made LeBron so insane coming out of high school was that he already weighed 240lbs, most 18 year olds simply cannot add muscle that quickly.
With Wiggins insane leaping ability, I have no doubt he will be able to elevate and finish over 7 footers at the NBA level. He will just need some time to develop his body, and to learn the necessary tricks to finish around the rim, Wiggins has great body control and will quickly improve at finishing. He is too big and will eventually be too strong for opposing players to stop him and his 44+ inch vertical.
4) Wiggins can’t shoot
I won’t spend much time on this criticism as it is quite frankly ridiculous. Wiggins has outstanding form on his jumper and will be an excellent shooter if given enough time to work on it. He shot a respectable 34% from 3 in college. All Wiggins needs to do is shoot well enough from 3 to force close-outs at the NBA level. He can then parlay those closeouts into pump fakes and drives to the rim for monster dunks. Wiggins is so gifted athletically that he doesn’t need to be a 40% shooter from 3 to be effective. All he needs to do is force the defense to tilt in his direction so he can create the required separation for a drive to the rim.
1) Pedigree – Both of Andrew’s parents are professional athletes. This means Wiggins has direct access to the type of work ethic and preparation that is required to a professional basketball player. This is evidenced by him being in peak physical condition for his workouts, whereas Jabari Parker showed up to his weighing 254lbs with 11% body fat. As we saw with Anthony Bennett, understanding nutrition and how to work can have a substantial impact on your ability to play basketball. I have no doubts that Wiggins will arrive at camp in peak physical condition.
2) Work Ethic – Wiggins is reported to have an excellent work ethic, this is incredibly important given his overall potential. In order to reach that potential Wiggins is going to need to work incredibly hard to forge the skills required to go along with his incredible physical gifts. His work ethic will determine how far he goes in the NBA. I have seen no reports that criticize Wiggins’ work ethic, and I have no doubt he will be committed around the clock to basketball.
3) Transition Scoring – Wiggins will be an elite transition scorer from day 1 in the NBA. Wiggins is so fast and strong that he can simply race past defenders in the open court. With his incredible leaping ability and stride length, Wiggins can dunk from the three point line in two steps. I have no doubt David Blatt will utilize Wiggins leaking out on the break to great success. The Cavs general manager has mentioned he wanted a more high powered offensive attack to go along with our young athletic players. The idea of Wiggins and Dion both leaking out on the break should give opposing teams’ fits in transition.
4) Off-ball cutting - While many have criticized the offensive system used at KU, that system did develop Wiggin’s ability to move without the ball. KU had no guards on their roster that were able to create offense for Wiggins, so Wiggins had to develop a way to use screens and pin-downs to get open looks. Aside from a few months of Luol Deng, and a year of half-dead Anthony Parker, the Cavs have not had a player that knows how to move within an offensive system without the ball in the last 4 years. Wiggins only needs a half step on his opponent to get to the rim. I have no doubt Blatt will come up with creative ways to get Wiggins the ball moving towards the basket in the half court.
5) Athletic Ability – Everyone knows this so I won’t spend much time here. Wiggins is 6"9 with over a 7 foot wing span and can jump 4 feet in the air. He could probably dunk on a 13 foot rim. He is as fast as most point guards and is quick enough to play the 2. Once he adds some bulk and gets a few years under his belt, I have no doubt Wiggins will learn to enter the post to abuse smaller defenders.
6) Shooting – Wiggins has a gorgeous jump shot and should be reliable shooting from all over the court in the NBA. Wiggins needs to cut down on some of the long 2s we saw him make in the Kansas offense. After a few years of refinement I fully expect Wiggins to be a threat from the 3 point line in the NBA.
7) Defense – I am stating this without hyperbole. In 4-7 years I fully expect Andrew Wiggins to be the best, most impactful perimeter defender in the NBA. His length, quickness, and anticipation on defense are ahead of LeBron James at the same age. Capable of guarding three positions (And point guards for limited stretches) Wiggins will be an all-star on the defensive side of the ball. He will be years ahead of the curve and able to defend at an average level in as early as his first season.
8) Rebounding – Andrew Wiggins will be an elite rebounder, particularly on the offensive end for a three in the NBA. While I expect Wiggins to leak out on the break often which will hurt his defensive rebounding numbers, his length and bounce under the hoop will yield Wiggins a multitude of put-backs on offense. I expect him to get several baskets a game based on his ability to get up quickly for put-backs.
9) Fit – You know who fits really well next to both Bennett and TT? Andrew Wiggins. Wiggin’s ability to impact the game on both ends allows him to fit with our mixed bag of PFs without making any substantial roster changes. I would also like to point out that Wiggins has played with TT and Bennett since they were kids on the Canadian national teams. They will already have chemistry and work well together. All reports I have read say they like each other and get along well. Camaraderie is important during the course of a long season.
I have heard arguments that Dion will need to be moved but I don’t really agree with that. Wiggins is going to take a few years to improve his handle, in the meantime he would benefit greatly from guards who are able to get into the lane and create open looks for him. Wiggins will be a good enough spot-up shooter to stretch the floor and he will move well enough without the ball to be effective right away. In the right system I can see him playing mostly off the ball his first year and still averaging 17 PPG. He will eventually develop into a more ball-dominant player, and when that happens we can adjust the roster accordingly. I see Wiggins being diverse enough to operate both aspects of the pick and roll.
With all the excitement and then disappointment surrounding Embiid, it has somehow become lost that Andrew Wiggins is projected to be a perennial all-star in the NBA. A habit too many people fall into is they try to prop up a player they like by tearing another player down. I have chosen not to do this for this article as I believe Wiggin’s talent is enough to merit the top selection. I do like Jabari Parker as an NBA player, just not nearly as much as I like Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins by all accounts has an infectious personality. For all the hype he has had his entire life you don’t hear stories of Wiggins acting like a prima-donna. In fact he chose Kansas over a more high profile school like Kentucky specifically to try and avoid some of the spotlight. This is particularly importantly given the volatile nature of the Cav’s locker room. Wiggins will be the third best player on the team the second he steps onto the court, and will likely develop into the team’s best player within 4 years. (Sorry Kyrie). I fully expect Wiggins to be a perennial all-star quickly gaining fan popularity with electrifying dunks. Wiggins and Kyrie will form the core of the Cavaliers with 2 legitimate stars than can be built around to contend.
I understand that Jabari Parker will be a better scorer his rookie year, but I believe taking him for this reason alone is too short-sighted for a franchise that desperately needs to get this pick right. The Cavs will likely not be in the lottery again in the near future. I have confidence that our coach will design an offensive system that will finally leverage this team’s offensive gifts and adding the most athletic wing prospect in 10 years will be a giant boon for the organization.
Wiggins is not a perfect prospect, no one is, he has weaknesses, but his weaknesses are not "fatal." Wiggins has no horrible flaws that he will be unable to overcome. As coordinated as he is I fully expect his dribble to improve, along with his outside shooting. His passing improved noticeably over the course of his lone season at Kansas and he is now VERY good at entry passes to the post. A skill few wings develop in college.
……………He also fits perfectly with LeBron James…. Just saying.