Kansas Jayhawks star freshman Andrew Wiggins is one of the top players in the country, but he'll need to improve his defense in order to become the complete package.
Wiggins believes his defense is underrated, as Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star reports. Sure, Wiggins has his moments on defense, but there's clearly room for improvement. Maybe if he improved his defense, he wouldn't have to complain about it not being appreciated enough.
His views on his own defensive play are neither here nor there, though.
To be fair, Wiggins has had some success playing defense this season. In Kansas' victory over Towson last week, Towson forward Jerrelle Benimon opened the second half on a 5-for-6 run from the floor. Wiggins, who had been assigned guarding somebody else, asked head coach Bill Self if he could guard Benimon.
The end result?
Wiggins was on Benimon for three possessions. Benimon turned it over once, nearly turned it over a second time and had all his angles cut off as he had to dish to a teammate on the final possession.
While it was a very small sample size, Wiggins played strong defense in those few minutes against Benimon. He was motivated to play hard on that end of the floor and proved that he has the potential to be an above-average defender.
That's just it, though. He has the potential. He isn't there just yet.
Wiggins certainly has all the tools to become a great defender. He's long, which helps him keep opposing players on the perimeter in check by limiting their angles and lanes. That length also helps him on the glass and when he guards taller offensive players. He's also very quick and has decent footwork. That could make him a solid on-ball defender along the perimeter with a bit more experience.
Some of the best players in the NBA are lock-down defenders. It's that aspect of their game that makes them great.
LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are two of the best defenders in the NBA at their respective positions. LeBron possesses all of the same physical tools as Wiggins (although James' skills are obviously much more developed), whereas Bryant relies on his quickness and instincts to make stops or intercept passes.
It goes without saying that James and Bryant are both the complete package.
Does Wiggins have what it takes to be a lock-down defender?
Wiggins has the offensive potential to be up there with James and Bryant one one day as well. However, Wiggins will never be put in that same discussion unless he makes a conscious effort at improving his defense.
That might be hard to do in just one year at Kansas. He appears ready to be a one-and-done freshman bound for the NBA. Learning how to be a lock-down defender on the fly in the NBA may not be the best strategy. It's hard to fault Wiggins for wanting to leave for the pros if he puts up good numbers on offense, but working on his defense at Kansas before jumping ship may be the smarter move.
According to Cameron Tomarchio of the Herald Sun, Wiggins is the best NBA prospect since James, but that's not a fair assessment given Wiggins' defense.
In a few years, Wiggins might be on par with James. Maybe. But first, he'll need to work on perfecting his defense.