Breaking Down How Andrew Wiggins Can Shed His Inconsistency Problem

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Breaking Down How Andrew Wiggins Can Shed His Inconsistency Problem
Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Some days, Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins looks like that superstar NBA prospect many had hyped him up to be. 

And other days, he does not. 

If you've been watching Wiggins every game to try and determine if he is in fact the real deal, you're probably just now reaching a state of total and utter confusion. 

The theme of the conversation centering around Wiggins seems to shift by the week. He's a golden child one minute and a letdown the next. 

While it's still his long-term potential that drives his NBA upside, his inconsistent presence and fluctuating performances have allowed others like Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid, Duke freshman Jabari Parker and even Australian guard Dante Exum to knock on the No. 1 overall door. 

Take a look at some of the highs and lows for Wiggins this season, with the yellow-highlighted rows representing the lows: 

Inconsistency: Standout Games versus Duds
Game Date FGM-A Points Rebounds Assists
Villanova 11/29 3-of-8 10 3 0
UTEP 11/30 2-of-9 6 7 1
Colorado 12/7 7-of-11 22 5 0
Florida 12/10 7-of-15 26 11 0
New Mexico 12/14 3-of-11 11 4 1
Georgetown 12/21 3-of-10 12 1 4
Toledo 12/30 7-of-14 20 5 1
San Diego St. 1/5 4-of-14 14 5 1
Oklahoma 1/8 2-of-9 9 6 1
Kansas St. 1/11 7-of-13 22 5 2
Iowa St. 1/13 7-of-16 19 17 3
Oklahoma St. 1/18 1-of-5 3 2 1
TCU 1/25 8-of-13 27 5 5
Iowa St. 1/29 10-of-16 29 7 0
Texas 2/1 2-of-12 7 5 1

ESPN

He hasn't been able to string together many standout performances in a row. With every solid game or week, a dud or two have been sure to follow. 

So what's the deal? How is it that he can ball out for 29 points in a terrific win over Iowa State, and then score seven points on 2-of-12 shooting in a loss to Texas three days later?

To Wiggins' credit, he's playing in a methodical system on a team with weapons, upperclassmen and depth. The opportunity to take over just isn't always at his fingertips. 

But there's no denying that Wiggins has been overly passive, a perceived weakness of his entering the 2013-14 season. There are opportunities that he misses throughout a game to attack or at least threaten the defense as a playmaker. 

And when your game is completely powered by confidence, the way Wiggins' game is, passive is not the approach to take if you're looking for consistent results. 

Confidence is Wiggins' fuel. And it's usually fairly obvious when he's got a full tank and when he's running on empty. 

For Wiggins to find that confidence and hopefully sustain it throughout a game, he needs to practice a little selective aggression and shot recognition. 

It's all about picking your spots—knowing when to attack, when to pull up, when to check the heat with a step-back jumper or when to make the simple pass.

Wiggins ultimately needs to find a way to stay aggressive by playing to his strengths without jeopardizing his shot selection. That means identifying the quality scoring opportunities from the bad ones. 

Here's a successful example of Wiggins passing on a tough shot for an easy one:

ESPN

Instead of shooting a tough three or passing it off to a teammate, he's able to identify an easy scoring opportunity by dribbling into space on the right and taking a high-percentage floater in his comfort zone:

ESPN

Seeking out those quality scoring chances is even more important for a guy like Wiggins, whose game is predicated on rhythm. It's just tough to establish any rhythm when you're not involved in the offense. Often times, you'll see him simply pass out of a situation like the one above, as opposed to attack it as a go-to scorer. 

In a bad loss to Texas, Wiggins went the first six minutes and 23 seconds without taking a shot. And anyone who's ever played a game of pickup ball knows what that feeling is like when you've gone long stretches without a shot—you get to that point where you tell yourself, "the next opportunity I get, I'm going to shoot."

It's a mentality that usually leads to predetermined low-percentage shots. 

With just over 13 minutes left in the first half against Texas, Wiggins decided that it was time to hoist up his first shot of the game. So he rushed a difficult, long two-point jumper that clanked off the rim.

This might not have been a bad shot had he made a few prior to it. But without any rhythm, it's not an easy one to make.

He followed by missing a three-pointer a few minutes later, and before you knew it, 13 minutes had gone by and Wiggins had nothing to show for it. So he naturally started to press, overthink and take shots that aren't really in his wheelhouse, for the fear the game would end without him getting any looks or shots. He finished just 2-of-12 shooting, with seven of those misses coming on jumpers. 

“I think that he settled a lot today,” Kansas coach Bill Self told Jesse Newell of the Topeka Capital-Journal. “They played him smart, and kept him out of the paint, and made him shoot jumpers. When you don’t make jumpers, you can not look as good."

Wiggins certainly didn't want a repeat of what happened against Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State, when he finished with just five shots and three points. 

In his most recent game against Baylor, over 15 minutes went by in the first half before Wiggins took a shot. Having not made much of an impact, he came out on the attack in the second half. But with now only 20 minutes left to do damage, he had to work fast. 

So again, Wiggins began to rush shots in an attempt to find a rhythm before the game ended. Shots he wasn't taking in the first half were now being forced up in the second. All of a sudden, the kid who seemed shy and hesitant is now launching long, step-back two-pointers with 30 seconds on the shot clock. And the result wasn't pretty:

He would eventually hit a clean, open jumper with over nine minutes left, which led to a backdoor alley-oop and a dunk in transition. 

Like I said before, Wiggins is a rhythm player. Usually, one made jumper can lead to another, which can then lead to something else, like a strong take to the rack. And then before you know it, he's making plays all over the floor. That's what happened against Baylor, when he finally found the zone 30 minutes into the game.

But it's establishing that zone or rhythm, particularly early in a game, that's been such a challenge for Wiggins so far. He has to find ways to get himself going in order to generate the confidence he needs to last 40 minutes.

Unlike the recent games against Baylor and Texas, when he was pretty much nonexistent during the first half, Wiggins came out firing against TCU and Iowa State. And to no surprise, he was a major factor in the 30-plus minutes he played in each.  

Remember those long stretches when Wiggins wasn't getting any shots off? Check out his play-by-play shooting results from his recent 27-point outburst against TCU:

First-Half Eruption versus TCU
Time Makes (scoring plays) Misses
19:07 Pull-up Jumper
17:23 Spot-up three-pointer
13:16 Fouled in transition
12:32 Pull-up jumper
10:48 Missed Three-pointer
7:33 Alley-oop
6:00 Fouled on Drive
5:14 Fouled on Drive
3:58 Spot-up three-pointer
3:14 Step-back jumper
2:04 Missed jumper

ESPN

After sinking his first couple of shots, both within the first three minutes of the game, Wiggins had that confidence and rhythm that allowed him to dominate the rest of the way. 

Pull-ups, spot-ups—Wiggins even nailed an isolation step-back, as it appeared he'd been looking at a hula hoop attached to the backboard instead of a regulation size rim.


ESPN

He was just as lethal in the next game against Iowa State, when he went for 29 points. Wiggins was active and aggressive, only he was able to channel that aggression into good shots instead of forced ones by finding a rhythm early in the game. 

And when his confidence is there, those jumpers start falling. 


ESPN

It's all about using that jumper, along with the rest of the shots in his repertoire, at the right times that will determine just how effective they can be. Allowing himself to take a backseat for long periods of time hurts his ability to establish rhythm, confidence and momentum—the three things he needs to maximize the crazy talent he's been given. 

If Wiggins wants to avoid alternating good games with bad ones, he has to figure out how to get involved without disrupting the offense's flow or taking bad shots. Just blending in isn't enough. 

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