In October of 2012, Andrew Wiggins opted to forgo his senior season to declare himself eligible for the 2013-14 college basketball season. In the months following that decision, Wiggins has received hype comparable to former high school stars LeBron James and Sebastian Telfair.
The question is, which of those career paths will Wiggins follow?
In a perfect world, every high school star would reach his potential at the collegiate and NBA level. Unfortunately, a No. 1 recruiting rank is the furthest thing from a guarantee for next-level stardom.
For instance, Avery Bradley was the No. 1 recruit in 2009 over the likes of John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors (via ESPNU 100).
As we draw back on our previous comparison, LeBron has become the top star in the world and Telfair is the backup point guard on the Toronto Raptors. While upside is a fun word to toy with, high school success is difficult to measure.
With that being said, Wiggins is the real deal.
Performances at the McDonald's All-American Game or Nike Hoop Summit don't tell the story with this young man—it's all about abilities.
While we're quick to jump the gun on how a player performs at high school events, we must not get caught up in the hype. Dominating against that caliber of player is in no way indicative of how well you can perform in the NBA.
It's all about your skills and what can or cannot transfer to the next levels.
Most high school basketball stars will rise to fame due to their elite athleticism and the word "upside." In Andrew Wiggins' case, however, the most promising aspect of his game is the fact that he's fundamentally elite.
We hear that term quite often, but what does it really mean?
The strongest aspect of Wiggins' offensive game is his ability to anticipate and see a play before it happens. Another way to term this is by saying that Wiggins plays the angles.
To explain, Wiggins has an uncanny ability to see how a defender closes in on him and attacks in a manner that forces the opposition to turn in ways that the body does not naturally permit.
This is the key for Wiggins, as he moves well off the ball, attacks with the rock in his hands and moves out of the post due to this very strength. This enables Wiggins to work a solid mid-range jump shot or get into the lane and either draw contact or finish in traffic.
One way or another, it all comes back to anticipation.
Wiggins is capable of scoring out of the post, but he's at his best when a defender enters his base and he can enter the lane in the opposite direction. When a defender is long enough to lock off the angles, Wiggins can both pass out of the post or face up for a jump shot.
This makes his game within 23 feet all the more dangerous.
Due to Wiggins' physical gifts, he's also tremendous at finishing in the paint with ferocious dunks or crafty layups. With extraordinary length and explosive leaping ability, Wiggins is more than capable of rising up and releasing his jump shot at an untouchable height.
Both physically and fundamentally, Wiggins has everything it takes to be an elite read-and-react playmaker at the next level.
It goes beyond the realm of rationality that elite offensive players who thrive on anticipation are so often out of position on defense. In the case of Andrew Wiggins, however, his offensive gifts are often trumped by his on-ball defense.
Patience and length take center stage here.
Wiggins has a balanced base on defense and rarely commits to one angle more than the other. While this can lead to spacing on an opposition's jump shots, it also allows Wiggins to block off driving lanes and make plays on the ball.
Believe me, Wiggins knows how to do just that.
Wiggins has the rare combination of being able to play the passing lanes and swipe the rock right out of a ball-handler's grip. Wiggins is also an explosive enough leaper to defend shots in the lane, thus aiding his timing as a shot-blocker.
Wiggins will receive more praise for his offense, but the tools are in place for him to be a perennial All-Defensive Team selection, as well.
At 6'8", Wiggins has the size necessary to defend either forward position in this era of small-ball offense. Although currently 200 pounds, Wiggins has the frame necessary to bulk up to, at least, 230 by the time he enters his prime.
With a 7'0" wingspan, Wiggins is halfway towards being an elite prospect from a physical perspective.
Paired with his build, Wiggins also possesses rare athletic gifts. Not only is he an explosive leaper, but he moves smoothly across the floor both vertically and laterally.
This permits both smothering on-ball defense and the type of explosive offensive attack that has made players such as LeBron James and Andre Iguodala so difficult to stop in the open court.
In the half-court, these physical traits enable Wiggins to burst off of the dribble and attack openings to enter the paint. They also permit Wiggins to finish in traffic in a variety of ways, as he can either rise over a defender or go around him with his length.
Whether we're taking this from a physical or skill perspective, Wiggins has every tool necessary to be the basketball world's next great superstar.
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