Before he becomes the NBA superstar everyone's been dreaming about, 2014 NBA draft prospect Andrew Wiggins must address a few key flaws.
At this point in his freshman campaign at Kansas, we've been able to identify some shortcomings with Wiggins that need attention. Some are related to specific skills and trends while others are related to intangibles like anticipation and his aggression.
Averaging 15.5 points on 46 percent shooting, Wiggins has delivered some impressive games and sequences during the first couple months of the season, but a couple of hot shooting nights and sporadic dunks aren't going to make him a great NBA player.
The Jayhawks' Big 12 conference schedule is right around the corner. It will be his biggest challenge yet, but it's also an opportunity for him to grow and prepare for the Association.
NBA fans and media alike are expecting huge things from Wiggins down the road. What exactly does he need to work on? Let's take a look.
If we're judging Wiggins' defense only on talent and desire, he earns stellar marks and has the look of a potential stud at the NBA level. His length and quickness make him a one-on-one matchup disaster for opponents.
However, there are a couple key areas he needs to work on as a stopper.
First, he needs to fight through ball screens better. Wiggins has encountered several situations where he could have avoided getting waylaid by picks.
After watching Wiggins struggle intermittently against Kendall Williams and New Mexico, former Jayhawk Travis Releford explained Wiggins' ball-screen shortcomings to the Topeka Capital-Journal:
Releford could see some things defensively similar to freshman mistakes he made early in his career. There were times against UNM that Wiggins got caught on ball screens, a term KU coach Bill Self likes to call “velcro.”
“It’s just something he’s going to have to learn," Releford said. Wiggins, like many of his teammates, also seemed to defend with the mindset that on ball screens, there would always be someone behind him to help.
In addition, Wiggins must do a better job of preventing good position for opponents. Part of this is linked to his lack of strength, but it also involves awareness and anticipation to beat his man to the spot and break up passes.
Wiggins is aware of his need to improve fundamentally, telling the Capital-Journal in the same piece that he's "just trying to stay disciplined with the little things. Just always being in a defensive stance, digging on the post, how to play the post."
These defensive issues shouldn't affect his draft stock, but he will need to address them if he wants to become a superstar defender.
Once he becomes more consistent with jump shot execution, Wiggins will be a potent perimeter threat in the Association.
Early this season, he has been battling some minor mechanics issues, which result in inconsistent shooting performances. Some nights, he's splashing multiple three-pointers and mid-range shots, but those outings have been too infrequent.
Wiggins gets great elevation on his attempts, and for the most part, has a smooth, quick delivery when he launches his shot. Unfortunately, his shooting hand slips towards the left on his release and follow-through, giving him a higher chance of error.
YouTube channel BballBreakdown caught Wiggins' shooting flaw on film a couple times.
On several occasions, Wiggins has flashed his natural shooting talent, displaying a nice step-back jumper and deep range on his triples. He definitely owns the material necessary to be a dangerous and efficient scorer in the NBA.
It will simply take focused practice and countless hours of repetition throughout the season and summer by Wiggins to develop a mistake-free jumper.
If Wiggins wants to be a dominant force and consistently generate offense for himself and teammates, he'll need to expand and sharpen his ball-handling skills.
He's a good dribbler in the open floor, with the ability to take the rock coast-to-coast or execute simple slashes and spins. In half court, though, he struggles to get around his man or cleanly pull off moves in traffic.
On crossovers, in-and-outs and hesitations, his dribbling isn't as tight as it could be. His wide-ranging and somewhat unsteady handle has led to some turnovers and a handful of missed opportunities.
Draft Express scout Jonathan Givony noted that Wiggins owns a decent kit of moves, but "his ball-handling skills in the half court still haven't quite caught up."
His inability to efficiently thread his way through defenders hurts his scoring numbers, but it also denies him extra chances to utilize his passing skills.
As far as skill development goes, this is the most important obstacle for Wiggins to hurdle in his quest for NBA stardom.
With a thin 6'8", 200-pound body, Wiggins is at least 25 pounds away from being able to achieve everything he needs to on the court.
Right now, he's too slender to dominate at the NBA level, which means he must spend a healthy chunk of this spring and summer in the weight room.
Jonathan Tjarks of SBNation.com wrote that if Wiggins can't bulk up, he won't be as in the league:
Strength could be an issue for Wiggins going forward. He's a wiry 200 pounds and doesn't have the frame or shoulders of a guy like Parker. On the next level, he may have to make a living on the perimeter.
Let's go over the main areas that would be enhanced by Wiggins gaining some additional muscle:
- Boxing out for rebounds
- Defending the post
- Jockeying for post-ups and seal-off position
- Driving smoothly through reach-ins and bumping
- Finishing buckets through contact
It's extremely uncommon for rail-thin players to flourish in the NBA, and almost every player performs better with increased strength. Wiggins should aim to gain 20-40 pounds within the next couple years in order to maximize his overall upside.
The biggest concern surrounding Wiggins isn't a skill or a tangible flaw.
It's his approach to the game. He's not consistently assertive or regularly domineering on the court, often seeming like a sidekick more than anything else.
The most puzzling part about Wiggins is that he sporadically shows the kind of aggressiveness and command that NBA coaches want to see all of the time, as ESPN analyst Jeff Goodman tweeted:
When Wigging plays with intensity and a chip, he's a different player.
Jeff Goodman, December 21, 2013
Unfortunately, he doesn't play with that chip all the time. Wiggins' lack of aggressiveness and complacent tendencies manifest themselves in some key areas.
When he catches the ball on the wing, he sometimes settles for jumpers or passes instead of drives to the basket. He also doesn't demand the ball as much as star-type leaders usually do. Wiggins just doesn't seem to have the same demeanor as other top NBA prospects.
He won't be a franchise-changing player if he can't take over games and make his teammates better through his action-based leadership. That's something NBA GMs hope he can quickly grow into.
Dan O'Brien covers the NBA draft for B/R. Follow him on Twitter: