Pros and Cons of Philadelphia 76ers Selecting Andrew Wiggins in 2014 NBA Draft
The City of Brotherly Love is abuzz with all things Andrew Wiggins at the moment. According to multiple reports out of Philadelphia, the 76ers squired Wiggins about town in relative secrecy on Monday before bringing him in for a Tuesday workout ahead of the 2014 NBA draft.
You don't need to read tea leaves to see that the Sixers have their sights set on the former Kansas Jayhawk. Per ESPN Insider Chad Ford (subscription required) Philly's brass has already spoken with its Cleveland Cavaliers counterparts about moving up from No. 3 to No. 1 in next week's draft with the aim of securing its shot at Wiggins.
There's a lot to like about the Toronto native: his size (6'8", 200 pounds), his freakish athleticism, his pedigree (his dad, Mitchell Wiggins, spent six seasons in the NBA) and his tremendous upside (he's just 19) chief among them.
But is Wiggins really worth the hype and the hubbub, particularly for Philly's flailing franchise?
Before the Sixers make their selection, let's consider the pros and cons of Wiggins becoming Philly's next "Fresh Prince."
Pro: What He Can Do Now
As he is, Andrew Wiggins is nothing short of a blue-chip prospect—which is to say, he's already really good and figures to get even better as the years go on and his game blossoms.
The Toronto native led his team in scoring (17.9 points) and steals (1.2) and finished third in rebounding (5.9). Those would be impressive feats for nearly any collegian, but especially one who turned 19 in mid-February and spent the vast majority of his time working off the ball. For his efforts, Wiggins was named the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, first-team All-Conference and second-team All-American.
At the pro level, Wiggins' impressive skills and physical abilities suggest that he could be a playmaker of significant impact on both ends of the floor from day one. He doesn't need the ball in his hands to be effective, and playing next to a ball-dominant point guard like Michael Carter-Williams, he might not see it much anyway.
That should bode well for Wiggins' development as a pro. Rather than having to bear the burden of being his team's go-to guy, he can bide his time as a scorer/rebounder/defensive stopper while learning the ropes of the NBA, before he has to be "The Man."
Con: He's Not a Surefire Superstar
But will Wiggins ever be "The Man?"
That's the multi-million-dollar question that's been dogging him ever since he emerged from the shadows of his decorated prep career in West Virginia and into the spotlight at Kansas.
As one anonymous NBA scout described Wiggins via The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Bob Wolfley:
He’s an elite athlete and a great on-ball defender. I think he will be a very good shooter in the NBA. I have questions about his ball-handling and his ability to get past defenders in our league in the halfcourt. I’m also not sold on his basketball IQ. He does some of the same moves a lot of the time and didn’t make the right reads against defenses. The other major concern I have is whether he has a killer instinct and whether he can be a star.
Among those elements of the game that are either difficult to teach or cannot be taught is a "killer instinct." The game's very best players—from Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant to LeBron James and Kevin Durant—are all driven by an intensely competitive desire to be the best, sometimes to an almost psychopathic degree.
Wiggins didn't always seem to display that fighting spirit during his freshman season. He registered six single-digit scoring games therein, including a paltry four-point effort in the Jayhawk's loss to Stanford during the round of 32 in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
Wiggins may have all the physical tools of which a coaching staff could dream, but if he doesn't have the mindset (or the handles) to be an all-court threat on the wing, is he really worth such a prime pick for the Sixers, especially if the team might trade up to take him?
And especially after Philly's recent frustration with another gifted but (somewhat) disappointing wing, Andre Iguodala?
Con: The Culture in Philly Might Not Suit 'Drew
For what it's worth, Wiggins would seem to have little doubt about his prospects for success in any NBA city. "I think I’ll be a star wherever I go," he told Wolfley. "That’s just how confident I am in my ability."
Still, it's only fair to wonder whether Philly is the best place for him to continue his development as a basketball player. After all, the Sixers aren't exactly a picture of stability: They cycled through a whopping 23 different players over the course of their abysmal 19-63 season in 2013-14.
Of course, that shuffling wasn't without cause. Philly's program of intentional putridity wasn't exactly a well-kept secret. If the team was going to lose—and lose a lot—it might as well have used its campaign to audition unheralded youngsters for more permanent roles with the franchise going forward.
That being said, the losing, by design or otherwise, appeared to take its toll on the players, particularly those with definite futures in Philly. Carter-Williams, the NBA's Rookie of the Year, was practically given free reign to take bad shots and attempt boneheaded plays, and he often performed accordingly. Much the same went for Thaddeus Young, who was thrust into a role as the team's de facto veteran voice after Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes were shipped out for scraps ahead of the trade deadline.
Unless GM Sam Hinkie and head coach Brett Brown have the Sixers' ship in order by the fall, Wiggins, too, could prove vulnerable to the creeping up of bad habits that has already victimized his would-be teammates. And considering how young and raw Wiggins is, neither he nor the club can completely ignore the risk that a union between the two would run at this point.
Pro: There's Mutual Interest
In any case, the interest here appears to be mutual.
Clearly, Philly has taken a shine to Wiggins, as the team's surreptitious attempt to show him around town would suggest. And according to Chad Ford (Insider subscription required), Wiggins' "camp" prefers the Sixers to the other teams picking in the top three (i.e. the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Milwaukee Bucks).
Not that this should come as any great surprise. The Cavs have been in turmoil since LeBron James left in 2010 and remain without a head coach after Mike Brown's second ouster in four years. The Bucks play in what is arguably the NBA's least desirable city and are under new management.
As terrible as the Sixers were last season, they at least have a plan of action in place and have already begun to follow it on their proposed path back to contention. Their GM (Hinkie) is regarded as one of the brightest young minds the profession has to offer. Their coach (Brown) specializes in player development and hails from Gregg Popovich's hallowed incubator of management talent in San Antonio.
And as far as exposure is concerned, Philadelphia—the fourth-largest media market in the country, per Nielsen—easily outstrips Cleveland (19th) and Milwaukee (34th).
If nothing else, it's a good sign for the Sixers that Wiggins wants to play in their city. Better that than their coveted draft pick angling for a way out from the moment he sets foot on their streets...
Con: Acquiring Wiggins Could Cost the Sixers Dearly
Getting Wiggins to his destination of choice could prove costlier for the Sixers than they might otherwise want.
According to Chad Ford (see intro), Philly has talked to Cleveland about swapping spots in next week's draft. That move would come at a price, with the Cavs demanding an asset of some value in addition to the No. 3 pick if they're to give up their prime piece of draft-day real estate.
For now, the Sixers are unwilling to throw in the No. 10 pick they earned as penance from the New Orleans Pelicans for last year's Jrue Holiday trade, as well they should be. In a class as long on talent as this one seems to be, the Sixers could snag another future star with that selection to grow alongside Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel and whomever Philly flags toward the top of the order.
Instead, Philly has floated Thaddeus Young as a possible sweetener for such a deal. Young angled for a way out of town during the recent catastrophic campaign and would fill a need on the wing for the scoring-deprived Cavs.
But Young is about as close to a mentor as the Sixers might yet find for an impressionable prospect like Wiggins. Removing Young from the equation would thrust the teenage phenom right into the fire, perhaps without a veteran voice to whom he can turn when times are tough.
Cleveland, too, might demand more than that. The No. 3 pick wouldn't guarantee the Cavs a chance to address their deficit in the middle with fellow Jayhawk Joel Embiid. As such, they could require that the Sixers mortgage even more of their assets—perhaps a future pick or two—as compensation for the risk the Cavs would be assuming in moving that far down.
All of which would make the idea of moving up for an imperfect prospect like Wiggins that much more dangerous for Philly.
Pro: Wiggins' Athleticism and Upside
Fortunately for the Sixers, Wiggins could fall into their collective lap at No. 3 anyway.
The Cavs were reportedly impressed by Embiid during his workout and interview with the team. The Bucks have entertained a slew of prospects at No. 2, though Jabari Parker's "maturity and desire to play in Milwaukee," per Ford, could win out.
Philly would indeed be lucky to land Wiggins without having to jump through any hoops before draft day to do so. For all the faults in Wiggins' game and the never-ending nitpicking those faults have inspired, he's still a tremendous basketball player right now.
More importantly, he's only going to get better. He's still 20 months shy of being able to legally buy himself a drink in the States. That should afford him ample time to refine his strengths and eliminate his weaknesses on the wing while working with a professional staff of coaches and trainers around the clock and the calendar.
And again, it's not as though Wiggins will be some schlub upon his debut. His basketball skills have a long way to go before they catch up to his physical tools, but that's more to praise the latter than denigrate the former. His length, lateral quickness and leaping ability are otherworldly for a player at any position.
Those can't be taught and have probably done plenty to promote Philly's current infatuation with one of the most tantalizing talents the basketball world has seen over the last decade.
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