A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Evaluating the Andrew Wiggins and Paul George comparison

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Although as I predicted going into the year Andrew Wiggins has not been as exemplary a prospect as expected, he is still in the mix for the 1st or 2nd pick.

One of the players Wiggins is compared to is Paul George, who has become one of the superstars in the NBA.

Is a Paul George and Andrew Wiggins comparison justified?

First, what both George and Wiggins share is excellent lateral mobility. This has helped George become one of the best wing defenders in the league, while Wiggins is expected to become a great defender in the NBA.

Like George, Wiggins is not as explosive attacking off the dribble as his side to side athleticism. Part of this is flawed ball-handling skills for both players, in George’s case an adequate first step more than elite. Wiggins may have a better first step, but I do not see Dwyane Wade in that area either.

So this combination of lateral athleticism, forward athleticism and ballhandling, draws George comparisons. However, there are other strengths I see in George I don’t see as strongly in Wiggins:

To start, George is a taller, longer player than Wiggins is and his strength level has filled out nicely. Wiggins remains skinny, albeit he has time to build his strength, or even grow taller like George did after his draft.

More importantly, George has become a terrific shooter for a small forward. He hits 37.1% of his 3s on 6.3 attempts a game this season, with an 87.0% FT. He has also excelled as a midrange jumpshooter this year.

How does college Wiggins compare to college George as a shooter? As a freshman George hit 44.7% from 3 on 4.1 attempts a game, but only 69.7% from the FT line. As a sophomore his 3P% dropped to 35.3%, but the other indicators greatly improved. His 3 point attempts per game jumped to 5.8 and his FT% 90.9%. George was known as a slick shooting prospect coming out of Fresno St.

Wiggins this season is 34.5% from 3 on 3.6 attempts a game and 76.5% from the FT line. These numbers are perfectly respectable, especially compared to freshman George. But one has to be careful assuming that just because X became a great shooter after his freshman season, it doesn’t mean Y will. What Wiggins 3P%, 3 point attempts volume and FT% all tell me is he has the chance to be a great shooter, but he also has the chance to not be much of a 3 point shooter at all.

But perhaps the biggest difference is Paul George is one of the most fluid players in the NBA, with a truly exceptional feel for the game. Everything George does is controlled, smooth and at an extra gear of craftiness offensively than his opponent. These instincts are also as big a reason as his physical tools for his defensive excellence. Feel for the Game is where I feel misrated Wiggins most coming into the season. I do not see the special fluidity or control a player like George shows.

Personally, the philosophy that has driven most of my draft analysis, is the theory that 2/3s of talent level isn’t physical tools. Paul George is a player who still looks impressive in the non physical 2/3s, due to his shooting skill and feel for the game. Without any physical advantages he may still be Mike Miller-like. When I look at Andrew Wiggins I am not as impressed in the non physical tools 2/3s of the game.

And in addition, in the 1/3 of physical tools, I wouldn’t call him a transcendent force either. I do not see him as his position’s equivalent to college Andre Drummond, John Wall, or Blake Griffin, for example. For a player who’s vertical leaping skills have been so lauded, he’s been surprisingly tame exploding around the rim. Nor has his speed off the dribble blown away the NCAA. At some point one has to ask whether his reputation as a few times a generation athletic force, is built on past reputation or present evidence. Furthermore what many of the most physically gifted prospects lately such as the before-mentioned Drummond or Wall had, is uniquely bulky body strength for their position for their explosiveness, which Wiggins is a less special physical force without. Note that I rate strength as no less important than height/wingspan, whereas the media is typically far more skeptical of prospects who lack the latter. Wiggins is a good physical talent, but good will not be enough if his skill level and feel for the game remain as underwhelming as it looks.

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Written by jr.

March 10, 2014 at 10:18 pm

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