The Case for and Against Andrew Wiggins as No. 1 Pick in 2014 NBA Draft

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistMarch 14, 2014

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins dunks during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Conference men's tournament in Kansas City, Mo., Thursday, March 13, 2014. Kansas defeated Oklahoma State 77-70 in overtime. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Associated Press

The lucky team that wins the 2014 NBA draft lottery will have some tempting prospects to choose from, and Kansas' fabulous freshman Andrew Wiggins may be the most tempting of all.

He entered the 2013-14 season as one of the most-hyped young players in basketball history, so naturally, he didn't quite live up to the hype. Athletically, he was as good as advertised, but his skill level and reserved demeanor were disappointing.

However, Wiggins finished the regular season strong and is now making some serious noise in March. His 41-point outburst closed the regular season, and he kicked off the Big 12 tourney with a 30-point effort against Oklahoma State.

Are his tools and upside enough to warrant the No. 1 overall pick this June? Let's break down the case for and against the Jayhawks star landing first.

The Case For Wiggins as No. 1 Pick

Unparalleled Athleticism and Upside

Wiggins' unique advantage over any other prospect is his unmatched long-term upside. He could be a lethal scorer and a multidimensional superstar. Of course, there's risk involved in that, but the reward may be tremendous.

He's a shade quicker and more explosive than the rest of the contenders at the top, which means he'll be able to do things they can't do if he hones his skills and wants it bad enough.

The ease with which he converts plays at the college level gives you an idea of how dangerous he could be as a professional once he grows comfortable there. When he smells a scoring opportunity, he glides and soars above the competition, unlike Jabari Parker or Julius Randle.

We've seen him throw down some amazing dunks, but what's even more impressive is his ability to switch hands in midair or hang over the traffic and hit a floater or bank shot.

Watch how easily he executes some of these plays:

As he gains more confidence and expands his repertoire during his first couple years in the NBA, Wiggins will be able to do more with his physical gifts.

If you combine advanced ball-handling and finishing dexterity with his natural athleticism, it's a recipe for stardom. He's going to be able to drive and score in the lane, set up his teammates and draw tons of defensive attention. Wiggins will also be able to create jump-shot opportunities and elevate to convert them.

Don't forget about his defensive potential. With his quickness, 7'0" wingspan and positional versatility, he could be the absolute best defender in this draft. He could dominate the game on both ends of the floor, whereas Parker doesn't project to stand out defensively.

TSN Toronto Raptors beat writer Josh Lewenberg knows Wiggins' upside is nearly impossible to dismiss:

It's as simple as this: If you pick anyone other than Wiggins with the No. 1 pick, you're not picking the player with the highest ceiling. Joel Embiid may come close or even match Wiggins' upside, but there's no one in this draft whose best-case scenario is better than Wiggins' best-case scenario.

He's Not as Raw or as Unassertive as We Thought

Mar 13, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Andrew Wiggins (22) celebrates after scoring during the second half against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the second round of the Big 12 Conference college basketball tournament at Sprint Center. K
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout much of the regular season, the reviews about Wiggins were far from glowing. He wasn't as polished as guys like Parker and Randle, so he was painted as a raw prospect who presented considerably more risk.

Wiggins also didn't help his draft stock with eight games of 12 or fewer points, including five single-digit games. He didn't always play in attack mode and sometimes seemed a bit complacent. Many followers, including myself, wondered if he had the mentality necessary to be an NBA star.

It looks like it was just a matter of him growing comfortable at Kansas. From mid-February onward, he scored at least 15 points in every game (minus the the Texas Tech blowout).

His combined 71 points against West Virginia and Oklahoma State this week showed that he's not terribly raw. In fact, he created loads of buckets for himself and looked confident and assertive in his skills.

Sure, he's more raw than Parker. And he may not have that killer instinct of Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. But NBA scouts know that he has that takeover ability, and he'll eventually be able to apply it to the NBA.

That NBA scout seems convinced there's no way you can pick someone ahead of Wiggins.

Well, we're going to break down the case against him, because after all, he's not completely assured to be the next NBA megastar.

The Case Against Wiggins as No. 1 Pick

LAWRENCE, KS - NOVEMBER 22:  Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Kansas Jayhawks in action during the game against the Towson Tigers at Allen Fieldhouse on November 22, 2013 in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

If a general manager opts not to take Wiggins with the first overall selection, it's for two main reasons:

1. The word "upside" doesn't automatically turn your team into a title contender.

2. Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker are phenomenal. They're highly attractive options.

The point is, Wiggins isn't guaranteed to access his ceiling. He offers as much athleticism as any coach would need, but he's far from a complete player. His shot-creating repertoire isn't as expansive as the top-tier scorers in the NBA, and his defensive execution isn't as sharp or intense as the best stoppers.

In mid-February, B/R NBA Draft Lead Writer Jonathan Wasserman did a comprehensive breakdown of Wiggins vs. Parker, examining their pros and cons.

He finished it with this telling statement about Wiggins' risk vs. Parker's safety.

...At this point (February 14), I've got more confidence in Parker, considering I've already seen everything from him I'm hoping to one day see out of Wiggins. There's a chance that Wiggins does evolve into the better player down the road—I just wouldn't take it with Parker and the certainty he offers on the board.

Wiggins has often been compared to the likes of Tracy McGrady and Rudy Gay, and those were upper-echelon NBA stars. But what if he's no better than that (or even worse, falls short of those comparisons)? A poor man's hybrid of McGrady and Gay isn't worth taking over Parker's blend of Carmelo Anthony and Paul Pierce.

As for his back-to-back 30-plus-point games? Those don't necessarily prove that he's got the killer instinct to dominate the Association. Dunks and slashes against an unathletic Mountaineers squad don't automatically translate to a Jordan-esque career.

Wiggins' own teammate, Embiid, could emerge as a more attractive option for certain teams. If the 7'0" center is healthy and effective, he offers an extremely rare concoction of length and low-post potential.

DURHAM, NC - MARCH 08:  Jabari Parker #1 of the Duke Blue Devils during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 8, 2014 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

There's a reason Embiid leapt to the top of many draft boards in January—he shows terrific footwork and uncanny instincts for someone still learning the game. It's not too often you find a true center with a 7'5" wingspan who has nimble moves.

Wiggins' case to land before everyone else is certainly compelling, especially after his latest brilliant exploits. But there's definitely a case against him, as he's not an airtight lock to be better than his 2014 peers.

You've heard both sides of the argument. What do you think? Vote in our poll and give us your take in the comments section below.

Dan O'Brien covers the NBA Draft for Bleacher Report.

Follow him on Twitter: @DanielO_BR


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