Let's be honest here—whether you still believe Andrew Wiggins is the No. 1 pick or not, he hasn't met the ridiculous height of the bar that's been unfairly set.
The hype wasn't his fault. It was YouTube's and Twitter's. And they sure picked a tough year to mess with him given the strength of his competition.
General managers are looking at a loaded menu here with a lot to choose from. Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Marcus Smart and even Aaron Gordon are all appetizing options, with each offering No. 1 overall upside of their own.
At the end of the day, Wiggins' draft stock is ultimately protected by long-term potential, which essentially represents his bulletproof, or poor-performance proof, armor. A few two-of-nine or three-of-eight showings won't alter the perception of his NBA ceiling, which still sits a story above everyone else's.
However, while an average or up-and-down year might not change the height of his ceiling, it could influence a scout's opinion on Wiggins' chances of reaching it. Just because his ceiling shoots through the roof doesn't mean his elevator was built to get there.
Right now, it looks like Wiggins has a longer journey ahead of him than guys like Parker, Randle or Smart. He's still raw and lacks polish while his competitors are all at the point where they can consistently take over games.
I'm sure the majority of general managers will still covet his potential, even if he does struggle as a freshman. But there's bound to be a few who demand a little more NBA-readiness, especially when you consider who else is on the board.
So far, Parker, Randle and Smart have given us a little more assurance that they'll hit their NBA ceilings, even if their payoffs are slightly less. Wiggins has emerged as what looks like the higher-risk, higher-reward prospect, given he's not as advanced at this stage in his development. And I'm not sure that's how Wiggins envisioned entering the NBA draft.
There's no doubt about it—this is not the one-man race it appeared to be over the summer. To maximize the interest surrounding him as a prospect, Wiggins will want to prove he's more than just an athlete with towering upside.
Wiggins will obviously need to improve fundamentally but working on his jumper and ball-handling skills are more longer-term projects. To reverse his borderline sluggish start at Kansas, his approach to the game could use a little jolt.
Become More Assertive
Based on his role at Kansas and where he's at in his development, there's a lot that's out of his control.
Smart gets to run his offense at Oklahoma State. At Duke, the offense runs through Parker. They feature Randle over in Kentucky.
Wiggins is playing the role of an opportunistic scorer—when the shot is there or the lane is open, he'll take it. But creating those shots and lanes hasn't been a regular occurrence.
It's not necessarily a knock. He's letting the game come to him by playing within the offense. And it's resulted in a solid 14.3-point-per-game average on a respectable 49.3 percent shooting.
But this efficient yet conservative approach is allowing him to blend in instead of stand out.
Even though his role in Kansas' offense isn't a go-to one, Wiggins has still looked overly passive. He hasn't been an every-game impact player—something he'll need to be in the pros to justify No. 1 overall value.
Wiggins finished with six points on nine shots in 34 minutes against UTEP. He only had 10 points on eight shots in Kansas' loss to Villanova.
If Wiggins wants to maximize his output as an opportunistic scorer, he has to do a better job of hunting down shots and recognizing opportunities.
In all three examples below, Wiggins was in prime position to make a move or be aggressive. And in all three examples, he chose to pass without attempting a shot.
You almost get the feeling he's a afraid to take a bad one. That might sound admirable, but it's not the mentality a general manager will want from his projected franchise player.
Bring Up the Intensity
The biggest criticism of Wiggins coming in was a perceived lack of competitive fire. He's got the tendency to drift through stretches of a game. Many have questioned his killer instinct—whether he had that cold-blooded mentality of guys like Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant.
Based on Wiggins' first eight games as a Jayhawk, this criticism seems reasonable. I know, there were reports that he was sick during the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament late in November. But you're kidding yourself if you thought scouts noted that atop their evaluations.
Ill or fresh, Wiggins got 30 minutes in Kansas' loss to Villanova and you barely knew he was active.
He just doesn't play with the passion of some of the other top prospects. Smart looks like he's ready for war when he suits up. Parker's positive energy can be felt throughout a game. Randle appears hungry enough to eat someone.
Not only do their motors contribute to extra points, boards and steals, but it increases their likability as NBA prospects. It's only natural to generate a connection with a guy who foams at the mouth when the game is on the line.
Wiggins doesn't necessarily need to embrace Russell Westbrook's intense approach to the game. Kawhi Leonard has been successful without making a peep. However, when you're gunning for that No. 1 spot on the board and you've got guys like Parker, Randle and Smart making serious noise, blending in and keeping quiet won't maximize your appeal.
With so many good-looking prospects on the board, all with super-high ceilings, further-developed skill sets and superstar mentalities, Wiggins has given skeptics ammo and scouts' reason to nitpick.
Right now, Wiggins' sales pitches center strictly on potential. It's just unclear how long that pitch can hold up on its own.
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