It took nearly two months, but it looks like the freshman wall has suddenly come into play.
Andrew Wiggins hasn't been able to sustain any offensive rhythm as of late. And at times, it doesn't even look like he wants to. We'll chalk it up as a combination of things—his role on the team, the system itself and a genuine lack of assertiveness.
But despite his inconsistent and somewhat underwhelming efforts, Wiggins' upside still glows whenever he's actively involved.
The question to ask is—are those sporadic flashes of brilliance enough for us to comfortably overlook his present-day weaknesses?
Wiggins will make your jaw drop on some plays and your head itch during long stretches. The hope is that one day, those sporadic flashes will turn into routine, every-quarter play.
Over his last five games, Wiggins hasn't been overly productive or efficient—particularly in second halves, where he's frequently disappeared:
|Versus New Mexico||3-11||11||1|
|Versus San Diego St.||4-14||14||6|
In Wiggins' most recent performance against Oklahoma, his final bucket of the game came with 10:56 left in the first half. And this game wasn't a blowout, either. Kansas pulled away to win by seven points, and Wiggins had got himself into foul trouble, but he just wasn't a factor at all the last 30 or so minutes.
Does it really matter in the long run? Is his inconsistency just a result of youth and inexperience, or is it a sign of things to come? Should the low-basketball IQ plays reflect on his future outlook?
These are the type of questions NBA decision-makers will have to answer when organizing their draft boards.
Let's take a look at a few of Wiggins' mishaps against Oklahoma.
Though rock-solid defensively, his tendency to mentally drift can overshadow his lockdown tools.
Below, you'll see Wiggins inexplicably leave his man, an excellent three-point shooter (36 percent), to go down and double-team 6'8'' Ryan Spangler, who's being guarded by 7'0'', 250-pound Joel Embiid. Spangler immediate kicks the ball out to his open shooter, whom Wiggins left open. And that shooter knocks down an easy catch-and-shoot three-pointer.
A play like this reflects more on Wiggins' tendency to lose focus more than anything else, but it's definitely something he'll have to work on. Basketball IQ, awareness—these weaknesses might hold different weight depending on whom you ask.
Toward the end of the game, Wiggins' lack of poise was also evident. With his team up six in the closing minute, he got trapped on Oklahoma's side of the floor. All he had to do was hold the rock and wait for the foul.
But Wiggins panicked and ultimately tried making a reckless pass across the floor. It was tipped, intercepted and taken the other way for two and a crucial four-point swing.
Again, these are little things, but some might question his internal makeup as a disciplined, trustworthy leader. And that's not so easy to change.
Offensively, he takes what's given to him. Wiggins shot 2-of-9 against Oklahoma, but he didn't necessarily miss any bad shots. In Kansas' offense, he just has trouble creating many good ones.
Still, despite the miscues and his minimal offensive impact, it's those two or so plays a game that keep you from jumping off the wagon.
There wouldn't be any question as to who the top prospect was if Wiggins could consistently make step-back jumpers like the one below:
Arguably the most head-turning play for Wiggins against Oklahoma came on a nifty drive to the rack, where he split the defense and drew the foul above the rim. It pretty much illuminated his upside in one single play.
His stop-and-start acceleration makes him impossible to stay in front of. You just don't see this type of quickness or athleticism from a 6'8'' wing with a 7'0'' wingspan.
Again, when evaluating Wiggins, it all comes down to how much stock you put into his current flaws, and if you think they'll prevent him from reaching his ceiling. Because his ceiling is certainly worthy of a No. 1 overall pick, even in a draft as talented as this one.
Scout's Take: Wiggins vs. Duke's Jabari Parker, Kansas' Joel Embiid
There really doesn't seem to be a consensus No. 1 at this point. Some scouts have fallen for Wiggins' potential, others love Parker's advanced game and maturity. I've heard Embiid is a strong candidate based on his two-way ceiling, but his lengthier developmental timetable could make him less attractive as a No. 1.
"I don't think anything has changed. All three [Wiggins, Parker, Embiid] could go No. 1 depending on the team and its needs," one NBA scout told me.
"Wiggins' lack of aggression is slightly concerning, more so if the team that drafts him does not already have a vocal leader," says the scout. "I think the whole lack of aggression thing is overhyped with him, though, partly due to the offense he is in and just college ball in general."
He's right in that Kansas' offense is predicated on sharing the ball, and Wiggins' disappearing acts might be a result of that more than anything else.
The race to No. 1 is likely to come all the way down to the wire. And it will ultimately depend on who wins the lottery.
C.J. Wilcox, Washington, 6'5'', SG, Senior
Projected specialists and role players need some love, too. Wilcox isn't likely to offer anything more than athleticism and shooting, but that's enough to generate interest from playoff teams looking for an NBA-ready skill.
Wilcox has hit 14-of-30 from downtown over his last four games and is currently at 41.9 percent from three on the year. If he finishes over 40 percent as a senior, it would mark his third time doing so in four seasons at Washington. Averaging a career-high 19.8 points a game, look for Wilcox's name to start picking up steam.
Rodney Hood, Duke, 6'8'', SF, Sophomore
Hood has gone into takeover mode during his last two games, scoring 27 points back-to-back against Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. He's 10-of-17 from three and 12-of-12 from the line during the stretch and seems to have an answer from every angle on the floor.
His offensive versatility is tremendous, and at 6'8'', he's got the size and scoring touch to compete on the NBA wing. After sitting out the 2012-13 season (transfer), Hood looks poised to make a run at the 2014 lottery.
Jabari Parker, Duke, 6'8'', SF/PF, Freshman
Parker had his least effective week of the season and was even benched by Coach K down the stretch of Duke's loss to Notre Dame.
Given how confident he is in his jumper, Parker tends to settle too much on the perimeter, and his shot selection has been questionable. He finished just 2-of-10 against the Irish for a season-low seven points and followed with just 12 points in a rout over Georgia Tech.
“Yeah, I’m human too,” Parker told Barry Jacobs of the News Observer. “I’m going to make mistakes. We won the game, so that’s all I’m happy for. My time will come again, hopefully. But if it doesn't, as long as we win, as long as I can do other things, that’s my focus.”
Parker will ultimately need to try and get to the rack a little more (only 5.3 free-throw attempts per game), as well as improve on the defensive end. But he'll bounce back soon enough.
Jahii Carson, Arizona State, 5'10'', PG, Sophomore
We know Carson can put points on the board, but NBA scouts aren't interested in a 5'10'', ball-dominant scorer. They want to see him facilitate and run an offense.
Over his last three games, Carson has a total of just four assists to 14 turnovers, a somewhat incomprehensible stat. Entering the year, he was probably a fringe first-rounder, and though he's had a few monster games as of late, the top 30 will be tough to crack unless he convinces teams he can manage a game effectively.
|5||Marcus Smart||Oklahoma State||PG/SG||Sophomore|
|12||Adreian Payne||Michigan State||PF||Senior|
|13||Gary Harris||Michigan State||SG||Sophomore|
|21||Glenn Robinson III||Michigan||SF||Sophomore|
|22||P.J Hairston||North Carolina (dismissed)||SF||Junior|
|28||T.J. Warren||North Carolina State||SF||Sophomore|
|29||Olivier Hanlan||Boston College||SG||Sophomore|
Jusuf Nurkic, Bosnia, 6'10'', C, born 1994
Jusuf Nurkic started making a name for himself last year in Croatia, the Adriatic League and Euroleague, and he's now experiencing a breakout season for KK Cedevita.
He's recently coming off a 19-minute, 14-point game in Eurocup and an 18-minute, 14-point game in the Adriatic League.
Nurkic is an absolute monster at 6'10'', roughly 280 pounds. Similar to Minnesota Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic, Nurkic uses his ridiculous frame and body to score around the rim.
In only 16 minutes a game, he's averaging 11.3 points and 4.2 boards for the second-place team in the Adriatic League. It's unclear what his goals are in terms of declaring or waiting a year, but now draft-eligible, Nurkic has become a name to watch overseas.
Wang Zhelin, China, 7'0'', C, born 1994
At 7'0'', 251 pounds, Wang Zhelin pretty much dominates over in China, averaging 23.2 points and 11 boards on roughly 60 percent shooting.
Fresh off a 35-point performance, Zhelin is definitely worth a mention here. Scouts are fully aware of his presence, too, as he took part in the 2012 Nike Hoops Summit, where he went for 19 points, eight boards and two blocks.
A giant with a soft touch around the key, Zhelin should at least be in second-round consideration if he chooses to declare in 2014.
- You knew Duke's Jabari Parker would cool off eventually. It will be interesting to see how he responds after two rough games—if he looks to attack the rim more or continues playing the same style of ball. Regardless of what he does, Parker isn't leaving the conversation for the No. 1 spot. Look for him to get back on track soon enough.
- I wasn't a fan coming in, but UCLA's Kyle Anderson has made me a believer. He's averaging 15.1 points, 8.9 boards and 6.6 assists, and his jumper looks like a completely new, sharper weapon. Based on his 6'9'' size and unique floor game as a point guard, he's a big-time risk-reward option in the 2014 field.
- Ohio State's Aaron Craft has his obvious limitations, but his leadership, hustle play and overall likability might allow teams to overlook his flaws as a second-round option. He's arguably the best perimeter defender in the country, and though not much of an offensive threat, Craft seems like the underdog capable of making a final roster. He's been playing his butt off as of late, and he remains the key reason why the Buckeyes are one of the top teams in the country.
- Oklahoma's Cameron Clark is making a case for most improved player in the country. He's raised his scoring average from 6.5 to 18.7 a game and recently went for 32 points on Andrew Wiggins and Kansas. He's developed the ability to create and make shots from as far out as 23 feet and reminds me a little of Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler. You can officially welcome Clark to the 2014 NBA radar.