Andrew Wiggins Decision: Can No. 1 Recruit Possibly Be Worth the Hype?

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Andrew Wiggins Decision: Can No. 1 Recruit Possibly Be Worth the Hype?
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Wiggins, Canada's gift to basketball, might be the most hyped basketball recruit of all time.

And Wiggins' hype is a product of three things: what the talent evaluators say, a ridiculous mixtape and an anticipation that he has created by delaying his school decision until May 14.

We're all here waiting and building in our minds what Wiggins could be as time passes. And all most of us really have is that mixtape.

Watch it and your jaw will drop.

Son of a professional basketball player and world-class sprinter, this 6'8" phenom hit the genetic lottery. He jumps, dunks and has the body control of LeBron James. 

The expectation is that Winggins' impact—wherever he lands—will be similar to what LeBron James could have done in one season of college ball. That would not have been fair for college defenses. The comparison is not fair to Wiggins.

It's a setup creating the illusion that Wiggins is a transcendent talent when there's at least a possibility that he's merely really, really good. 

On April 20, Wiggins played in the Nike Hoop Summit, the finale of several weeks of crisscrossing the country to play in All-Star games. That was the last time Wiggins played in front of a national audience.

I tuned in.

I had never watched Wiggins play from start to finish.

I was ready to experience one of the greatest talents of my lifetime for the first time.

And...I was underwhelmed.

Wiggins' numbers were good—he put up 17 points, four assists and nine rebounds—but if I knew absolutely nothing about any of the players going into that game, he would have hardly stood out. The best talent on his team, on that particular day, looked to be 17-year-old Dante Exum out of Australia. I doubt you've heard of Exum.

I did not come away convinced that Wiggins wasn't still the best individual talent on the floor that day. But I did come away thinking it's at least a possibility that Wiggins could be the Greg Oden to Kevin Durant of his class.

Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Spo

It is entirely possible that we really don't know yet whether Wiggins will be a superstar, just a really good player or a footnote in a long line of can't-miss high school prospects who later live in obscurity.

So I went to a friend in the coaching profession and posed this possibility to him.

"He's awesome," he said. "I believe that."

He came back at me with 26 games and 677 minutes of data that told me a lot more than what I had witnessed in Wiggins' 31 minutes at the Hoop Summit. 

These 26 games were from last summer's EYBL League, which is comprised of the best 40 Nike teams in the country and about half of the top-100 players in the 2013 class participated. 

Wiggins averaged 19 points and seven rebounds, but those numbers alone are not what sold me. 

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

In those 26 games against competition comparable to what he'll see in college, Wiggins used 28 percent of his team's possessions and had an offensive rating of 129. Last year, Nate Wolters led the nation in offensive rating for players who used at least 28 percent of possessions with a 123.5, according to KenPom.com.

In 2007, Kevin Durant's offensive rating at Texas was 116.5. 

Wiggins shot 35 of 97 from three (36 percent), made 63 percent of his twos and shot 71 percent at the line. He grabbed 18 percent of opponent's misses and 8 percent of his team's misses. He also averaged one block and one steal per game.

And these were only 32-minute games.

Those are amazing offensive numbers at any level. Even if the defense isn't the greatest in summer league and the intensity does not match what Wiggins will see next year, those numbers had my attention.

"Nobody else's numbers are that good," my friend made sure to add. 

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This is why the talent evaluators are not hesitant to add to the hype. This is why North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas and Florida State fans will react to Tuesday's news like they've either won the title or lost it. 

Wiggins' impact will be great. He will make the highlight shows. He will entertain. But trying to predict next season's national champion off of where one player goes to school is not a foolproof plan. And believing Wiggins is destined to become a star is ignoring the other factors that will come into play. 

Wiggins has the tools. He has the opportunities to be great. But he's never handled the pressure he's about to handle. He's never seen the spotlight he's about to experience. No one knows how he will handle all of that. 

I believe there is a possibility—even if it's just a sliver—that he could end up viewed as a bust. I'm just less convinced it could happen than I was a day ago. I've been bitten by the hype bug. 

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