Andrew Wiggins Yet to Answer Biggest Question Surrounding His Game

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistMarch 23, 2014

AP Images

With four points on 1-of-6 shooting in Kansas' shocking 60-57 loss to Stanford, Andrew Wiggins' final audition for the NBA draft was disappointing to say the least.

After four straight games of 19-plus points and double-digit shooting attempts, including two 30-plus outings, it seemed like he was starting to shake the "unassertive" label. It looked like the days of single-digit scoring and complacency were behind him.

Sunday's underwhelming performance doesn't damage his draft stock, but it does bring back the biggest question surrounding him throughout the year.

NBA scouts have loved (and always will love) Wiggins' off-the-charts athleticism. His potential on both ends of the floor remains extremely high, and he's still one of the most attractive options at the top of the draft.

But unfortunately, the way he finished the season failed to ease the concerns about him being a featured weapon at the next level. Games like this one against Stanford will be in the back of executives' minds for the next few months.

Wiggins, for his part, did his best to take responsibility for the uninspiring performance, via The Topeka Capital-Journal's Jesse Newell: "It’s my fault we lost. I know it’s my fault we lost. I didn’t play good. I played really bad. I didn’t do anything to help my teammates this game. I blame myself for that."

We had already established that Wiggins is not LeBron James, and he may never be a franchise-changing, once-in-a-generation NBA star.

That being said, many executives are wondering if he can at least be the lead dog on a title team. Because, after all, that's the end goal of every franchise, and that's what front offices look for in a premier draft pick. 

The most tantalizing thing about Wiggins is that the potential is there. We've seen flashes and even some decent stretches of it. He can get in a groove and play on a different level than his college competition, with the ability to athletically dominate and attack. It's tempting.

Pro clubs aren't sweating his four-point outing against the Cardinal. They are, however, viewing it as part of an inconsistent freshman resume.

Wiggins scored single digits six different times this season, and he notched 13 points or fewer on 10 separate occasions. He also had 10 games in which he attempted nine or fewer shots. Those numbers aren't necessarily distressing, but they do reflect his game-to-game tendencies.

Not everyone can have the Kobe Bryant scowl or the LeBron James dunk-and-roar, but NBA teams looking for a cornerstone like to see intensity on a regular basis.

Earlier this month, one NBA scout discussed Wiggins' demeanor with Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders. Remember, teams with high lottery chances are trying to decide whether he's worth the No. 1 pick.

I’m not sure about his body language. He’s not a pouter or anything, but it just seems like he’s either happy or overwhelmed. I’d like to see him get angry and fired up. I really haven’t seen any competitive emotion from him....I could see him making a major impact on a team because he is such a great athlete, he can get by anybody and he shows flashes of brilliance.

Every so often, he’ll make an incredible move and then you just don’t see it again for a long time. That consistency has to improve.

Not everyone is cut from the same cloth, and not everyone can be a leader. But at the very least, NBA decision-makers want to see more assertiveness in Wiggins' actual playing style.

During his time at Kansas, Wiggins was able to take advantage of some scoring opportunities and utilize his superior athleticism. When he caught the ball on the baseline with room to roam, he attacked the basket and often scored or drew fouls. He also showed off a promising jumper that should be a productive tool in the pro ranks.

Mar 20, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Andrew Wiggins (22) holds basketballs during their practice session prior to the 2nd round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Championship at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY
Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

That's a good start, but NBA teams are still uncertain about him being a prolific swingman. In order to be a top-tier small forward or shooting guard in the Association, you've got to be able to seek out and create scoring opportunities.

It means consistently catching the ball, squaring up your opponent and trying to beat him. Wiggins only did this intermittently this season; most of his buckets came off mismatches, transition opportunities or open lanes to the hoop.

Of course, he can improve upon those tasks and become highly effective in the future. Upgraded skills paired with his athleticism could be a superb combo.

But "highly effective" and "superb" aren't enough. They're not the only words general managers want to attach to No. 1 overall picks.

They want to say "cornerstone," "leader" and "championship."

In their minds, Wiggins' hasn't yet proven he fits those descriptions.

When you look back on all of the recent No. 1 draft picks, the vast majority of them were picked with the intent of the prospect becoming a championship alpha dog. Guys like Andrea Bargnani and Anthony Bennett are the exception, especially when Cleveland had already landed an alpha dog in Kyrie Irving two years prior.

Does Wiggins positively have that appeal as a contender? The jury is still out, and that may affect his ability to land first—or even second or third—on draft night.

We're not trying to poke holes in Wiggins' ceiling or suggest he's not a competitive kid.

But it takes a whole different level of dominance to be a truly elite NBA player. And to this point, he's left us wondering if he'll ever reach it.


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

Follow him on Twitter: @DanielO_BR