The 2014 NBA Draft class is said to be the best since 2003. There is talent, depth and stardom waiting in this draft. On top of many draft boards is Canadian-born forward Andrew Wiggins from the University of Kansas – a player with lots of talent, potential, and expectations.
Andrew Wiggins is a physical specimen who keeps on improving. He stands at 6'8 and roughly 200 pounds. He has great up and down speed and moves well laterally. Wiggins is a good ball handler, a good shooter, a willing passer and can defend up to four positions.
For those who aren't as familiar with him, here is a quick highlight tape from his earlier playing days.
Wiggins, 18, has been labeled as a "phenom" and "the next big thing" in the NBA. He's been watched worldwide for the last few years and no one has had this much hype at such a young age since LeBron James. Wiggins has appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated and Slam Magazine and has been compared to the likes of Wilt Chamberlain and Danny Manning as they were both extremely successful players at Kansas and in the NBA. There is so much pressure on Wiggins to succeed and reach the hype and many are placing unrealistic expectations on him. Nonetheless, he has done well so far and looks to be only getting better.
Through nine games so far this season at Kansas, Wiggins is averaging 16.4 points per game, 6.1 rebounds per game, 1.2 assists per game and 1.0 steals per game. He has scored in double-figures in eight of the nine games he's played in and he is coming off a 26 point, 11 rebound performance Tuesday night against the Florida Gators. He is shooting 51% from the field, 37% from three point land, and 71% from the free throw line.
These numbers aren't eye-popping and considering the Kansas Jayhawks are 6-3 to start the season, one might wonder if Wiggins will live up to the hype. If there are any questions about Wiggins, they should stop right now. This kid is for real and has proven it several times throughout the early part of his college career. He has consistently performed in crunch time and in the second half of games he has turned it up a notch. He competes on both ends of the court and demands a lot of attention when he has the ball. For a kid who is only 18 years old and is getting adjusted to the college game, he has been very impressive so far.
Wiggins may not be as polished as Duke forward Jabari Parker and he doesn't have Parker's body, but Wiggins is one of the most skilled and athletic wing players we have seen in a long time. He makes it look effortless as he soars through the air and he has a quick burst of speed that separates him from his defender. He has a skinnier figure which reminds us of a young Kevin Durant. Durant was scrutinized for being too skinny and many critics said he would never last in the league. Durant proved all of them wrong and is one of the best, if not the best, scorer in the NBA. Wiggins has the drive, the focus and he is humble. All of these things will help him moving forward as he strives to be the best player he can.
The season for Wiggins is young and there are still several games left for him to show what he can or can't do. He will continue to be in the National spotlight throughout the year and when March Madness arrives, all eyes will be on Wiggins in his efforts to separate himself as the consensus number one pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
With Anthony Bennett being selected first overall in the 2013 NBA Draft, even more pressure is on Wiggins to follow it up and make it two years in a row that a Canadian was selected first. Whether he gets drafted first, second or fifth, Andrew Wiggins is going to be a star in the NBA. He definitely has the highest ceiling of any player entering the draft and could be a franchise changer in only a couple of years.
Being in the spotlight is certainly not easy. With so much attention, everything you do is up for debate. There will be admirers who praise your game and there will be skeptics who try to drag you down. Wiggins seems to have a good head on his shoulders and a strong supporting staff consisting of close family and friends. He seems up to the challenge and having a strong mental focus will go a long way for him.
Andrew Wiggins has all the talent in the world and could very well go down as one of the best players to ever play the game. While it's fun to compare him to others that have played the game, that is exactly what we shouldn't do. Instead of trying to make comparisons with other all-time greats, we should just admire the player he is and allow his play to do the talking. Each player is different, each circumstance is different and each supporting cast is different. It is impossible to make accurate comparisons between players.
Wiggins has roughly 30 games left as a member of the Kansas Jayhawks before he heads to the NBA. Let's hope he continues to improve, continues to impress and continues to stay healthy as he shows the world what he is capable of. On June 26, 2014, we will know which team Wiggins could spend the rest of his playing career with and that could ultimately determine his fate. It's going to be exciting. It's going to be nerve-wracking. Stay tuned.
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