Earlier today, to the surprise of no one, Andrew Wiggins declared for the draft. He’s locked up a top-three spot and will surely factor into discussions of the No. 1 pick. Yet all season long, people have argued whether he’s even the best swingman in this class. Jabari Parker may or may not come out this year–GMs are starting to get worried that he’ll stick around Duke for his sophomore season–but the Blue Devil stud has been consistently productive from the very first game.
We’re still a few months away from the 2014 NBA Draft, but it’s never too early to speculate. Today, we’re debating which player GMs will draft first: Andrew Wiggins… or Jabari Parker? We argue. You decide.
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There are too many people who are trying to channel Flava Flav circa ’88 in their assessment of Andrew Wiggins.
The wave Kansas’ 19-year-old forward rode into Lawrence would have derailed even a Paul Bunyan-sized legend. When people are comparing you in stature to LeBron James coming out of high school, being rational gets thrown out the window.
Wiggins started slow and left the door open for Jabari Parker to steal the headlines that had been reserved for him. Even after defeating Parker’s Blue Devils in ESPN’s Tip-Off event, the scoring prowess of his peer dominated the early headlines. Parker was the more skilled, “NBA ready” prospect, or so the story goes.
A funny thing happened along the way: Wiggins came close to matching him in the vast majority of statistical categories. In the scoring department, Wiggins scored 17.1 points on 44.8 percent shooting, while Parker scored 19.1 on 47.2 percent shooting. Both shot in the mid-30s from three-point land, with Parker edging out the Canadian product by a score of 35.8 to 34.1 percent.
This is despite playing in systems that adversely affected their play. Coach K largely had his team play through Parker on the offensive end, taking advantage of his diverse skills. His field goal percentage can be at least partially attributed to playing more around the basket, often at the pivot for Duke.
Conversely, Wiggins was stationed around the perimeter for much of his time under Bill Self, forced to wait for a lacking group of point guards to get him the ball. Too often, this turned him into a bystander within his offense, as seen in a forgettable final game against Stanford. This led to the formation of a trope that claimed Wiggins was not aggressive enough, and that he lacked the “killer instinct” of a player like Parker.
Conveniently, Parker got a first-hand look of what Wiggins’ aggression looks like.
The numbers don’t support the idea either. It’s hard to say that he should have used more of his team’s possessions; Wiggins took 21.8 percent of his team’s shots, even sharing the load with two other preseason lottery hopefuls, Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid. Without forcing his shot, Wiggins was still able to generate offense without disrupting the team’s flow. Free throw attempts are a fair measure of a player’s willingness to charge into the paint, and Wiggins registered 6.5 per game in comparison to Parker’s 6.1.
For someone allegedly not as aggressive and skilled as Parker, Wiggins has more than held his own. But it’s his athleticism and defensive chops that give him the nod over Parker, and stirred the preseason chatter that got us all going to begin with.
On nights that the shots aren’t falling or simply aren’t there, Wiggins still brings intensity to the other side of the court. If he’s not as aggressive as expected on offense, it’s probably because he cares just as much about getting stops as scoring buckets.
As Rustin Dodd reported for The Kansas City Star earlier this year, he relishes the challenge of defending an opposing team’s best player, and even pleaded to defend Parker down the stretch in their early-season showdown. Wiggins is able to leverage his insane athleticism into harassing opposing players, and does so with great passion.
Parker, on the other hand, boasts no such credentials. Versatile on offense, Parker lacks the lateral quickness to guard wings and the brute strength to bang in the post. He was often a liability, culminating in his coach taking him out for defensive possessions against the likes of Mercer. The level of athleticism in the NBA will only exacerbate this, and drafting a player you need to hide on one end isn’t an ideal outcome from a top-five pick.
Wiggins’ athleticism will be right at home in the league. The son of former NBA player Mitchell Wiggins and Olympic track medalist Marita Payne, his genetics shine through frequently. Watching Wiggins dunk and grab rebounds at the peak of their flight while bigger players are still rooted to the ground is awe-inspiring, like the majesty of a bald eagle snatching its prey.
His game has yet to fully round out, but Andrew Wiggins has already proven to be an effective player even with holes in his game. If you followed his meteoric rise through the high school ranks, the progression of his shot mechanics from “poor” to “very good” is an indication of his dedication to improvement. When he’s able to turn his full attention to basketball, there’s no limit on what he can become.
All due respect to Parker, but Wiggins turned in performances that are unmatched in the last 15 seasons of college hoops. Sign me up for the dynamic two-way player and Canada’s best export since Steve Nash.