He remains a thrilling specimen, and we frequently see glimpses of his long-term potential—he has the raw material of basketball stardom. However, he's been too inconsistent to retain his status as the clear-cut No. 1 pick in June's draft.
Wiggins' impact has been somewhat of a roller coaster, as he's highly effective one night and soft the next. NBA scouts haven't detected much of an alpha dog mindset, nor have they witnessed an efficient brand of hoops.
After a strong showing against Toledo to end 2013, he faded against San Diego State and Oklahoma to start the new year. In the past two games, Wiggins went 6-of-23 from the field and showed some lapses on both ends of the floor.
Why isn't he consistently producing, and how does this effect his NBA outlook?
Offense: Mentality and Methods
Skill-wise, there isn't one crippling weakness preventing Wiggins from scoring 20 points per game and shooting at an ultra-efficient rate.
But his early-season struggles can be traced to one simple reason: He's not assertive enough.
Wiggins has been unselfish to a fault on several occasions, seeming hesitant to attack and make the most of his finishing abilities. He readily defers to teammates or shoots from the perimeter as a default.
For a stretch, he was settling for too many outside jumpers, especially in situations where he could have slashed and put some pressure on opponents.
Lately, he's been doing a better job of driving instead of settling. Now, his next step is to be more aggressive on those forays.
Wiggins' trips to the rim often become abbreviated drives, where he attacks for a couple dribbles and takes flight too far from the bucket, resulting in an errant five- to seven-footer or an acrobatic scoop try.
After one such semi-aggressive attempt against Oklahoma, ESPN color commentator Jay Bilas criticized his aggressiveness:
The moral of Bilas' story is that Wiggins' aggressiveness and shot selection could be better. A steady diet of less-favorable chances makes him prone to inconsistent production.
Now that we've addressed the mental side of things, what about the methods and execution? Where are his deficiencies as an offensive player?
Not unrelated to the abbreviated drive problem is his lack of strength. Wiggins is unable to finish some plays or regularly pluck offensive boards because he's out-muscled by opponents. In situations where most scorers would lean into the defender and create space, the young freshman is shaky.
Then there's the ball-handling issues. His dribbling is a little sloppy and wide-ranging at times, which leads to the sporadic turnovers and makes it tougher for him to successfully create shots. As B/R's Tyler Conway noted, Wiggins has rarely been able to convert drives to the left according to Synergy.
As a long-range shooter, he shows promise, but a slight torque in his release and follow-through needs to be smoothed out. He's shooting just 30 percent from downtown, but NBA fans shouldn't be alarmed at this stage.
Fortunately, he's exhibited flashes of brilliance in these areas. For example, threading between double-teams or catching fire from distance against Florida.
If Wiggins can cultivate a more assertive mindset and keep working, the ball skills (and NBA stardom) will eventually take care of themselves.
Defense: Focus and Fundamentals
As a stopper, Wiggins possesses all the necessary tools to thrive at the next level. His length, lateral quickness and vertical explosiveness will empower him to guard positions 1 through 4.
What he must improve upon at this juncture is his possession-by-possession focus and game-long commitment to fundamentals.
Most of the time, he applies himself and serves as a weapon for Bill Self. But every once in a while, he gets complacent while his man is off the ball, and he either loses his man or provides subpar help defense.
Here's a peek at his help defense during the Jayhawks' loss to San Diego State. Wiggins was in the paint and seemingly in position to help thwart the Aztecs' drive. Instead of steering the attacker away or drawing a charge, he allows penetration:
That kind of defense won't fly in the NBA. The many talented scorers in the Association make defenders pay for lackadaisical footwork and complacency.
How Does Wiggins' Inconsistency Affect NBA Outlook?
Wiggins doesn't always put himself in favorable positions on the court, and consequently, he's turned in some head-scratching performances.
He hasn't sabotaged his draft stock, as he still showcases enough upside to warrant a No. 1 selection. The difference between today and three months ago? He left the door wide open for others to join him in the No. 1 discussion. Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid are both legitimate options at the top.
More than anything, Wiggins' tendency to play passively and inability to dominate undermined his previously skyscraping value.
Once he enters the NBA, his short-term impact won't be as powerful as we hoped. It may take him a bit longer than anticipated to develop and sharpen his mid-range creativity, so he won't be able to lead his squad offensively for a couple years.
The sky isn't falling, though. Wiggins' worst-case scenario is still pretty darn good: A top-five lock in the draft followed by a productive career at small forward. His best-case scenario is tremendous: No. 1 pick, quick growth into stardom and perennial greatness.
The first step for him to reach his ceiling is to show that he truly wants it.
Dan O'Brien covers the NBA Draft for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter:
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