Andrew Wiggins was a high school phenom, hyped as a future NBA superstar before he ever went to college.
When he finally got onto the court at the University of Kansas, the hype began to fade. He was good, but not as dominant as you’d expect from a guy who was talked about as The Next LeBron.
NBA talent evaluators began to temper expectations: citing his young age, occasional lack of aggressiveness on offence, and overall need to develop.
Going into the draft, Mike Schmitz of Draft Express noted that Wiggins would need time to grow as a player:
To reach his full potential, NBA teams will want to see Wiggins become more aggressive with the way he approaches the game. He has somewhat of a laid-back demeanor on the floor… Part of that might have to do with his youth, lack of experience and strength.
To his credit, Wiggins only recently turned 19 years old, and is obviously nowhere near a finished product.
Despite being taken with the No. 1 overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers, most NBA people expected No. 2 pick Jabari Parker to win Rookie of the Year.
When he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves as part as the Kevin Love deal, Wiggins was talked about in terms of potential, not in terms of what he could do on the court right now.
Now, five months after getting traded, Wiggins is coming on stronger than anyone anticipated.
He’s the clear-cut favourite for Rookie of the Year, leading all rookies in scoring at 13.9 points per game.
The most exciting part is that his numbers are skyrocketing as the season goes on. His points and rebounds per game have improved in each month of the season. Through four games in January, Wiggins has been on fire, averaging 23 points on 52% shooting to go with six rebounds and two assists per night.
Wiggins is riding a hot streak that will cool off, but in the meantime, he’s blowing people away with his composure on offence. Wolves head coach Flip Saunders recently said:
“It’s very gratifying, because I think everyone in here knows, the biggest question the national media always asks me, ‘Is he passive?’ That was the question coming out, and he’s showing more and more that he’s getting more aggressive.”
Wiggins isn’t getting the attention he would be getting if he played in a big market or next to LeBron in Cleveland, but the numbers he’s putting up and the skill he’s displaying are becoming harder and harder to ignore.
In a 27-point performance against the Sacramento Kings, Wiggins showed off a variety of impressive moves.
A smooth blow-by for a dunk in the lane:
A face-up and spin move that resembled one of Carmelo Anthony’s patented moves:
On his way to scoring 25 points on 10-16 shooting against the Suns, Wiggins showed off even more versatility, particularly on the fastbreak. A side-step to a big dunk:
Another quick spin move on the break for a smooth finish:
Wiggins’ defensive potential was always highly touted, with ESPN NBA analyst David Thorpe saying, “If he doesn’t become a First Team All-NBA Defensive player, it’s a failure by him and his coaching staff. You can’t say that about a lot of guys, but that’s his future.”
Wiggins’ overall game is coming along much quicker than people anticipated. After a matchup with Dwyane Wade, Wade reportedly asked Wiggins if he wanted to be “great,” and then told him to keep doing what he’s doing. Kobe Bryant said playing against Wiggins was “like looking at a reflection of myself 19 years ago.”
Wiggins has growing to do on both sides of the ball, as all rookies do. But he’s only 19-years old! He’s younger than Giannis Antetokounmpo, the exciting Bucks phenom who’s still miles behind where Wiggins is in his development.
As a 19-year-old with a fairly polished offensive game and elite potential as a wing defender, the league should be scared of what Wiggins will become.
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