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Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Wiggins

Are Andrew Wiggins and Brandon Ingram’s starts for real?

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Minnesota Timberwolves v Sacramento Kings

The hopes for Wiggins career have been resurrected. Last season felt like the nail in the coffin for ever living up to his contract, putting up a woeful 18.1 pts, .493 TS%, 12.4 PER, .012 WS/48 and -2.9 BPM in his 5th season, which should have been a make or break year. This year he is at 25.9 pts, 22.2 PER, .563 TS%, .154 WS/48, 1.4 BPM.

Compared to last year, his ratio of FGA attempts per area (via basketball-reference):

2018-2019

At rim: 26.3%

3-10 ft: 14.6%

10-16 ft: 12.2%

16 ft-<3pt: 18.1%

3pt: 28.8%

2019-2020

At rim: 26.5%

3-10 ft: 21.7%

10-16 ft: 9.1%

16-23 ft: 11.3%

3pt: 31.3%

His eFGs from those areas:

2018-2019

At rim: .621

3-10 ft: .341

10-16 ft: .340

16-<3pt: .329

3pt: .339

2019-2020

At rim: .689

3-10 ft: .460

10-16 ft: .429

16-<3pt: .385

3pt: .361

He has increased his FTA rate from 4.1/game to 4.8, and FT% from .699 to .736. His rebounds at 5.1, assists at 3.6 and blocks at 1.1 are also career highs.

The biggest change in his shot selection is changing long 2s for 3s as seen by his 3pt attempts going from 4.8 to 6.5, and his % also increasing from 33.9% to 36.1%. He has also improved his efficiency from every area despite taking more FGAs overall at 20.9 instead of 16.6.

If Wiggins genuinely improved his shooting from midrange and 3, his %s from each area so far are not unsustainable compared to other wings around the league. However through his first 5 years he has not been a consistent shooter despite teams playing him for the shot, nor is his career 73.5% FT elite. His increase in FGA attempts does not show yet that he’s being more selective taking good shots. Therefore the most likely scenario is he hits a cold streak and his midrange falls under 40% and his 3pt falls under 35%. Still, if he continues to take 3s instead of long 2s and passes the ball better he can have a better season than he did last year. And if he continues to be an over 35% 3pt shooter and over 40% midrange shooter, he could legitimately stick at all-star level, even if it’s a DeMar Derozan type of all-star that doesn’t hold up as well to analytics.

Brandon Ingram is putting up 25.9 pts, .633 TS%, .153 WS/48, 2.8 BPM, a major breakout from his season last year. His ratio of shots per area in each season:

2018-2019

At rim: 34.0%

3-10 ft: 18.5%

10-16 ft: 20.4%

16-23 ft: 14.1%

16-<3pt: 12.9%

3pt: 12.6%

2019-2020

At rim: 21.0%

3-10 ft: 20.4%

10-16 ft: 17.3%

16-23 ft: 11.1%

3pt: 30.2%

His eFG in each area:

2018-2019

At rim: .681

3-10 ft: .437

10-16 ft: .389

16 ft<3p: .437

3pt: .330

2019-2020

At rim: .647

3-10 ft: .515

10-16 ft: .607

16 ft<3p: .444

3pt: .469

Ingram averaged 5.6 FTA/game in both seasons, hitting .675 last year and .720 this year. His rebounds at 7.3 and assists at 3.9 are both career highs.

Of the two players, Ingram’s is the one that looks most unsustainable. He is driving to the basket less than he did last season, but making up for it with massive jumps in both %s and attempts (1.8 a game to 5.4) from 3 and also hitting an unsustainable number from 3-10 and 10-16 ft. Like Wiggins, improvement as a shooter is plausible and Ingram has the type of long body to get his shot off from midrange, but at a career 66% FT shooter and yet to average more than 0.7 makes a game from 3 so far in his career (averaging 2.6 this year) until proven otherwise his shooting appears too big a leap to trust for Ingram. With that said Ingram is averaging Durant like scoring numbers per minute (29 pts per 36, .633 TS%) so nobody is expecting him to keep up those numbers, and he could have his obvious regression and still end up having an all-star breakout season like D’Angelo Russell last year. He’s also been in the league for less time making genuine improvements more plausible.

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Written by jr.

November 16, 2019 at 5:08 pm

Andrew Wiggins: No guaranteed star

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Andrew Wiggins is the crown jewel of the Minnesota Timberwolves. His rookie of the year campaign backed up the heralded prospect status making him the #1 pick. To some all that’s left is a surefire path to stardom.

What has scouts salivating is his athleticism. Wiggins has the speed and springiness of a track star. His rare natural athleticism has drawn comparisons to Tracy McGrady and Michael Jordan.

But athleticism is one part of the game. For example Steve Nash has two MVPs and the more athletic Gerald Green couldn’t stick in the NBA his whole prime. And every GM would take Marc Gasol over Javale McGee. Gasol’s strength, skill, basketball IQ and motor overwhelm the advantage McGee has in athleticism.

Athleticism can never be a superstar’s only strength. For example Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin are two widely regarded top 10 players who are driven by athleticism. Both however are also elite ball handlers for PG or PF, have stronger builds than their peers, are talented passers and have special motors.

What Wiggins career depends on is his secondary abilities outside of athleticism. Right now he is not known as a ball handler or shooter. His motor sometimes was criticized at Kansas. No one has a problem with his basketball IQ but also doesn’t hang his reputation’s hat on it yet. His length can be an asset. It is above average for a SF and strongly above average for a SG. Is this enough?

One may ask “If he had these flaws how come he won rookie of the year going away?” Wiggins did have a fine rookie season finishing 37th in the NBA in points per game at 16.9 per game. By other statistical measures he wasn’t as impressive. A PER of 13.9 is below league average of 15.0. A WS/48 of .034 is below league average of .100. His RPM is -1.66. He used possessions inefficiently at .517 TS% and 103 ORTG. At 4.5 rebounds, 2.1 steals, 1.0 steals and 0.6 blocks per 36 minutes he didn’t stand out in areas besides points. An encouraging peripheral is 5.7 free throw attempts per 36 minutes.

Despite these stats Wiggins rookie season could be the first step towards stardom. But it’s not a rookie season unanimously good enough to make him a cinch. The scoring is nice, but rookies such as Tyreke Evans, O.J. Mayo or Michael Carter-Williams have done even better in the category and it didn’t guarantee them anything. Wiggins needs more than 16.9 points per game as a rookie to prove he’s a superstar in the making.

Written by jr.

September 8, 2015 at 9:04 pm

Predicting the Kevin Love trade

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Here is my prediction for the Kevin Love trade. I believe the following deal is legal:

Minnesota trades:

Kevin Love – 15.7 million
J.J. Barea – 4.5 million

(19.9 million outgoing)

Minnesota gets:

Andrew Wiggins – 5.5 million
Thaddeus Young – 9.4 million
Highest of CLE 2015 1st, MEM 2015 1st, MIA 2015 1st

(14.9 million incoming)

Cleveland trades:

Andrew Wiggins – 5.5 million
Anthony Bennett – 5.6 million
Highest of CLE 2015 1st, MEM 2015 1st, MIA 2015 1st

(11.1 million outgoing)

Cleveland gets:



Kevin Love – 15.7 million

(15.7 million incoming)

Philadelphia trades:

Thaddeus Young – 9.4 million

(9.4 million outgoing)

Philadelphia gets:

Anthony Bennett – 5.6 million
J.J Barea – 4.5 million

(10.1 million incoming)

WHY for Minnesota:

The vibe I’ve been getting from Minnesota this whole time, is Flip’s dream is to come out and win 45 Gs next year. That’s why they were coming so hard after the Klay Thompson and David Lee package over one like Boston was offering.

Now Andrew Wiggins may be their “offer they can’t refuse” when it comes to accepting youth/prospect power instead of win now vets. But by flipping Young for Bennett, they still move in the direction of their original plan of a winning record next year. Minnesota could envision Wiggins and Young as a productive two way SF and PF combination immediately next year. The lineup of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin, Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young and Nik Pekovic is a balanced starting lineup, with some shooting off the bench in Mo Williams and Chase Budinger, some athletes like Zach LaVine and Corey Brewer and some defense in Luc Mbah a Moute and Gorgui Dieng’s promise as the 3rd big. I’m not saying this is necessarily the right plan from my point of view, just that it could be what Flip would be happy with.

WHY for Cleveland:

It appears they are already offering Wiggins and Bennett so not much is needed to delve into here. The move is a no brainer from the Cavs end to put the best possible team around Lebron right now. Trying to plan for a window years in the future is dicey because Lebron could decline or Wiggins and Bennett’s development could disappoint or someone could get injured. This way contention is guaranteed, now. And if Love signs long term eventually, they’re still a longevity-friendly core.

A very important part of this deal for Cleveland is they keep the John Lucas III/Erik Murphy/Malcolm Thomas unguaranteed contracts they got from Utah, which allows them trading power to find supporting role players around their stars.

WHY for Philadelphia:

It was reported after the 2013 draft Philly would’ve done the Holiday trade if any of Noel, Oladipo or Bennett were available at #6. While it’s hard to take Philly of all teams at their word about draft targets, after the draft was over they’re less likely to have been smokescreening.

Either way, there’s a solid chance Philly likes Bennett who had a productive and analytics-friendly UNLV season and who’s rookie year was marred by injury. He would both be a decent fit with Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid long term because of his perimeter spacing, or just puts up enough statistics to be good trade bait. For an expiring Thaddeus Young who they appear to have no chance or interest in resigning, picking up Bennett’s talent and upside is probably as favorable a return as they can ask for. Barea is just an expiring contract who they may buy out if they’re too worried about him winning games next year.

Written by jr.

July 29, 2014 at 7:10 pm

Free agency advice column: Ask Dr. Offseason

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Dear Dr.

We just got back together with Lebron James and are SO EXCITED. But what should we do next? Should we make the leap for Love? Minnesota keeps asking us for Andrew Wiggins. We love the idea of Wiggins being our defensive, Scottie Pippen-like compliment to Kyrie Irving and Lebron James. We think this could be like when the Lakers added a young James Worthy to a team with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on it. It may take a few years, but is it worth giving that up for Kevin Love?

– Dan, Cleveland, OH

Dear Dan, I understand why you would be scared to pull the trigger, but you have to make this deal for Love.
First, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Andrew Wiggins is not a guarantee to be a star like Kevin Love. Consider the dichotomy between these two players. Love in college was labelled as having a ceiling beneath star, because despite all the skill, strength, feel for the game and motor in the world, his average athleticism was supposed to limit him. Wiggins is getting called a guaranteed star because he has all the athleticism in the world, despite skill, strength, feel for the game and motor being concerns. Do you see where I’m going with this? If it goes wrong, Wiggins may not be a star for the inverse reason of why Love is one.

Secondly Dan, it’s just about age. To be honest your team with Lebron, Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Ray Allen, Mike Miller, Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, Anderson Varejao and Chris Anderson, isn’t good enough. The supporting cast members are either too young or too old Dan. Rosters like the Spurs and Thunder are more talented and deeper.

The problem is the cost of waiting 2 or 3 years for Wiggins and Bennett to develop. Lebron will have his 12th season next year. Here’s some 12th seasons of recent superstars:

Shaquille O’Neal: 2003-2004
Kevin Garnett: 2006-2007
Kobe Bryant: 2007-2008
Tim Duncan: 2008-2009
Dirk Nowitzki: 2009-2010

All had a relatively short window by this point, to win a title at their apex. Like them Lebron will remain an elite player after he slightly declines, but the Cavs should want to strike when the iron is hottest, while Lebron is still at a greatest of all time level.

Kevin Love is perfect for the Cavaliers, Dan. He’s old enough to immediately contend now and young enough to be a star until Lebron is in his late 30s. With Lebron, Irving, Love and shooters like Allen and Miller, the Heat become the most unstoppable offense in the league. To me this is a no brainer. Love is the way to go.

Dear Dr.

We have a chance for Love, but when they kept asking for Klay Thompson, we backed out of it. We love how Klay and Steph fit together in the long run and don’t feel the difference between David Lee and Kevin Love is worth an all-star caliber starting SG. Are we making the right decision Dr.? Or are we thinking with our hearts instead of our heads?

– Joe, Oakland, CA

Joe, this is crazy. Think about what you’re doing because it’s crazy. I can’t see where you’re coming from here at all.

Look Klay Thompson is an exciting shooting guard and David Lee’s production is underrated, but this is a superstar you can trade for. As complex and wonderful as the NBA is, succeeding is as simple as getting multiple, mid 20s superstars at the same time. When you team up a pair like Steph and Love everything falls into place around them. Not to mention having defensive talent like Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut is perfect for those two. If the Warriors make this move they’re as big a title contender as anyone, instead of looking at a 5th or 6th seed season.

I can understand the argument that Klay Thompson and David Lee combined may be as productive as Kevin Love next year, even if I’d disagree. Where this really becomes a no brainer is the long term. Neither player’s current value is constant. David Lee is 31 and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2 years. Klay Thompson is on his rookie scale, but judging by Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons deal, will be on a maximum salary as soon as he can get it. In other words, eventually instead of Lee and Klay, Lee expires and Klay’s salary means that you can’t replace Lee’s production on the free agent market. The Warriors just end up with Klay Thompson instead of the superior Kevin Love. In the long run a superstar is the way to go. Superstars are the biggest financial bargains available, with how the CBA restricts their real value. Kevin Love will give you more bang for your buck than Klay making the same salary.

I have to be honest Joe, I haven’t liked the Warriors moves much since you came aboard, with a short-sighted Andre Iguodala deal leading the way. But Kevin Love is all but fallen into your lap. If you get him contending will be easy. The history of the NBA says target the superstars, always target the superstars. The Warriors are far more likely to regret turning down Love than jumping for him.

Dear Dr.

Kevin Love wants out of here. I know we haven’t been able to give him everything he wants, but he was our hope to get back to the playoffs. Without him, now what? We go back to the lottery? We end up in the middle of the league, picking 13th or 14th in the lottery but not making the playoffs? This doesn’t sound good to me. We’re still damaged from David Kahn, what if we had Stephen Curry and Kevin Love right now? I don’t know what to do

– Flip, Minneapolis, MN

Flip, you just have to pick up the pieces and make the best decision you can. Here’s my advice: Don’t worry about fit. Just get the most valuable assets and make it work later.

I wouldn’t be so bent on the Klay Thompson and David Lee package if I were you. Klay is going to get a max salary soon and will lose a lot of his value to a franchise. Lee becomes less valuable when he expires. Those players still leave your roster with a lot of work to do.

As for a potential Cleveland offer of Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, I’m mixed. Although I’m lower on Wiggins talent than most, I’m higher on Bennett’s and feel he could be an all-star PF for you. On the whole it’s a decent move to trade Love for those two, giving you young talent around Ricky Rubio and Nik Pekovic long term.

You could also trade Love to the Chicago Bulls for a package like Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic. The problem is this is a lot of good but not great. Taj Gibson is 29 so he’s not the most youngest of pieces to rebuild with. Still it gives the Wolves potentially 3 starting caliber players and if you want to win, it’s an option.

Of your options I say holding out for the Cleveland kids is the best way to go. Yeah you may not win the most games next year, but in the long run you could have starters at SF and PF, along with cap flexibility to rebuild the team with. You wouldn’t be starting from ground zero.

Dear Dr.

WOW, this is a disaster. We thought we were getting Chris Bosh for sure if Lebron James left Miami, but then he resigns in Miami? We traded away Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik just to make this happen, so now what should we do? How do we rebound?

– Daryl, Houston, TX

Daryl, this is a tough spot for you. Chris Bosh was the perfect player for your team and what’s more, holding out so long to sign Bosh or Carmelo only to get neither, along with Chandler Parsons offer sheet putting you on the clock, severly limits your options. Sure, you could go after Luol Deng or Trevor Ariza, but do they fit a team with Parsons? You could wait for Goran Dragic or Rajon Rondo next summer, but do they fit with James Harden?

I’d have loved to see Isaiah Thomas on the Rockets but then BAM, Phoenix signs him, off the market.

So I don’t have a solution for you Daryl. Maybe you should try the less sexy but safe option. Call up Danny Ainge and see if he wants to trade you Jeff Green for your capspace. Yeah he’s not Chris Bosh, but he spaces the floor, is competent defensively and can be a glue guy. You have an awesome team Daryl with Harden, Dwight Howard, Parsons and Patrick Beverly. Jeff Green may be a rebound guy but maybe he’ll turn into Mr. Right.

Dear Dr.

Dr, I don’t know what to do. Lance is one of the most exciting players we’ve had, we’re a team that needs this talent and dynamic ability. But he can also be an egotistical jerk and rubs our players the wrong way. Last year his rise to prominence led our team chemistry to fall apart. Sometimes we watch Lance’s antics and are like wow, is this really us, didn’t we swear this off after Ron? But if we let him go, we don’t feel we’re a sexy enough option for other free agents and may just end up with a drip. We tried bringing in Evan Turner as a replacement and BOY, that did not turn out. I’m not letting Sam Hinkie trade me a player again, the 76ers give it up so easy, no wonder they only have losers to trade. Dr, what should I do?

– Larry, Indianapolis, IN

This is one of the toughest decisions of the summer, Larry. I agree Lance has a negative influence on your team. I have to be honest Larry, before Lance became a star, the Pacers were like a Christian rock band. Yeah they weren’t the coolest band around, but they had good chemistry, played hard and didn’t mess around with distractions. But Lance becoming a star is like if the band hired a non-Christian guitarist who was a sex addict and brought drugs with him on tour. He made their band sound better, but soon enough his negative influence led the others to slip and to fight with each other. Maybe it’s time to go back to your Christian rock band roots.

But on the other hand, this league is about talent Larry. You can’t just walk up against teams like the Spurs and Lebron’s Cavaliers and expect to win on hard work and chemistry. You need dynamic players and game changers. That’s why giving up on Lance is so hard. He has the star upside to take you over the top.
Here’s what I recommend: I say resign Lance. But here’s what you do. Play out next season and see if the Pacers can get it together and become elite again. If the team self-destructs in chemistry, then just trade Lance after next year. His talent and youth will make him have trade value and you’ll get assets for him. By resigning Lance, you can try the “no Lance” option at a later date. But if you let Lance go, you’ll never have the chance to go back and try it with him again.

Hey Jabari, Sorry

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Jabari Parker is considered a surefire top 3 pick and possible #1 overall. Currently he rates outside of my top 10 talents in the draft. I wanted to dig deeper into my reservations with how he is getting rated by conventional wisdom

Consider this article on ESPN.com between Chad Ford and Kevin Pelton. Ford starts the article stating:

Jabari Parker is such an interesting player from a draft perspective. He clearly looks to be the most NBA-ready of the players on our Big Board. His offensive game seems like it will obviously translate. Everyone uses words such as “NBA-ready” and “low-risk” when describing Jabari.

Ford is giving a brief on why teams like Jabari. He is considered a lock to score well in the NBA and quickly, to the point where Ford uses the word “obvious” multiple times. The conventional wisdom viewpoint of Jabari is while players like Andrew Wiggins have a higher upside, with Parker you know what you are getting. A high volume, go-to scorer thanks to his size and polish on the perimeter.

There is of course, no meat in this analysis as to why he’s so NBA ready and low risk. I don’t mean to bag on Chad Ford because he deserves his paycheque. He is a talented writer and entertainer on a website motivated to drive traffic to draft articles. Criticizing him for not rating prospects right, is like judging a charismatic news anchor for not understanding the economy.

This article from mid-April from the Bucks sbnation blog BrewHoop, gives a clearer idea for the “why” in the Jabari is safe analysis:

Jabari Parker

What does he bring? Polish and skill. An NBA-ready body and style of play. A great locker room presence and coachability. All things Milwaukee could definitely use. Parker might be the player most capable of instantly improving the fortunes of the club that drafts him, which may or may not hold some allure to Milwaukee’s new owners. But the most enticing thing Parker brings to the table is his shot creation. He’s got the sort of “something from nothing” skill that separates the elite players from the rabble.

How bad do the Bucks need him? So so so much. Milwaukee put up some strong offensive numbers in the second half of last season, but it was painfully obvious that the Bucks need more guys who can initiate sets and create decent shots for teammates. Parker is a guy who can do that. He’d take a ton of pressure off Milwaukee’s primary ball handlers, allowing everybody to better fill the roles they can excel in. Brandon Knight could become more of a shooter. Giannis could become more of a playmaker. And Ilyasova could be more of a trade chip.

This makes the conventional wisdom picture on Parker clearer. Part of the reason why Parker is considered a surefire good NBA scorer, because he can “create his own shot”. Based on doing just this in college, Parker’s fans envision giving him the ball in the mid-post area, allowing him to back down opponents for a turnaround jumper, or facing up to create space off the dribble to have an open shot over defenders. This is the advantage of size and polished skill. Although Jabari may not be the most efficient scorer, it’s expected he’ll get his 20 a game by this ability to create offense himself. Like Carmelo.

In the ESPN article again Pelton’s initial response to Ford helps back this “creating offense” perspective statistically:

Right now, Parker’s most elite skill is his ability to create shots. He used 32.7 percent of Duke’s possessions this year, putting him in the top 25 nationally and far ahead of other top freshmen like Wiggins (26.3 percent), Embiid (23.4 percent) and Julius Randle (25.4 percent). In my database, just five freshmen who have entered the draft have had a higher translated usage rate: Michael Beasley, Kevin Durant, Tyreke Evans, Kris Humphries and O.J. Mayo.

In the context of that large role, Parker’s efficiency was decent. He’s not yet a great 3-point shooter (35.8 percent) and was only decent inside the arc (50.4 percent), but among the group of high-usage one-and-done players, only Beasley was notably more efficient in college. In time, I think Parker will grow into a high-usage, high-efficiency player, not unlike his most similar statistical comparison: Carmelo Anthony.

Of course, “creating your own shot” in the NBA has a different meaning than it did for teams 10-15 years ago and beyond. Getting your shot off in any form has become less valued, getting good shots at the rim, free throw line or from 3 has become more valued. Creating mid-range shots is less valued, because many teams now leave the mid-range area open, baiting teams to take them.

That’s not to say isolation mid-range scoring, lacks value. The ability for a player to create his own offense from mid-range, can be a back breaker for a defense if they’d otherwise defended the play well. When shots from 3 and at the rim aren’t available, the post-fueled mid-range creating players like Joe Johnson and Carmelo can provide, becomes a good bailout option. If they can create a shot going in 40% of the time, while the opponent in the same situation has to throw up a shot going in 25% of the time, it can be a game breaking advantage – especially in the tighter defended playoffs.

The question is whether this is enough to draft Jabari top 3. Part of the reason it’s arguably not is in the numbers. League average efficiency is around .54 true shooting % (TS), while even the great mid-range shooters, are typically around 40-45% (Carmelo: .447 eFG from 16-23 feet). True shooting % under .50 tends to get frowned upon as a sign the player should shoot less. Carmelo’s true shooting percentage is .56. Paul George, another high volume mid-range shooter, hits .55 TS despite .397 eFG from 16-23 feet. The reason they are still above average efficiency players, is they still take 3s, get to the rim and get to the free throw line enough to make up for it. Teams aren’t just giving them the ball to take mid-range shots. Their responsibility is primarily creating the shots at the rim, from free throw line and from 3, then that responsibility extends to taking mid-range shots when the team is out of options. Take away the driving and outside shooting and it’s not just that they become less efficient, but they wouldn’t remain high volume players either. Their teams would take the ball out of their hands and give it to better drivers and outside shooters. Taking way their driving and outside shooting doesn’t make them high volume inefficient players, it just makes them lower volume players.

Melo and George’s ability to create mid-range shots is valued, but it’s one piece of a larger puzzle. They wouldn’t be offensive stars without the tools to drive and shoot 3s first and foremost.

My larger point is this. For Jabari to be a “safe” NBA scorer, it’s not just about the tools to put up a lot of shots, particularly from mid-range. It depends on a combination of his 3 point jumpshot, his midrange scoring ability and his tools driving to the rim translating. The moment one takes away 3 point shooting or driving to the rim, he becomes a less “safe” prospect offensively, if not altogether risky. Without the driving and shooting tools in his repertoire, he wouldn’t get the trust from his team or touches to be one of the league’s high volume scorers. He would just get buried and become another guy.

The question after this is, how well will Jabari shoot and drive to the rim? His upside in the latter appears to be limited by lack of strong athleticism. Although Parker handles well in transition, when looking at his games/clips, I didn’t see separation on the perimeter off the dribble.

How about his outside shooting? Parker hit 35.8% from the shorter NCAA 3pt line, which is solid for a freshman. His 3 point volume of 3.0 3PA a game and his free throw percentage of 74.8% FT are both respectable. Jabari did enough to prove he could be a good shooter. But he didn’t separate himself from NCAA peers in shooting stroke like other prospects such as Nik Stauskas or Shabazz Napier did. Here’s something worrying for Jabari: In his first 3 games of the season, he went 11 for 16 from 3. As he went 38 for 106 from 3 for the season, it means his last 32 games of the year he shot 27 for 90 from 3, just 30% on 2.8 attempts a game. That so much of how we feel about a prospect’s shooting ability can be affected by 3 games, is a sign of why trusting 3P% alone can be scary and why I favor also looking at volume and FT%. Parker did not have a better 3 point shooting or free throw shooting season than Andrew Wiggins, who’s future as a perimeter scorer is considered a more risky proposition.

Carmelo Anthony is not just a great mid-range creator. He’s a great 3 point shooter and he has a dynamic first step to drive to the rim and draw fouls. The size and feel for the game that Jabari shares with Carmelo, may be less than half of what makes Carmelo such a talented player. If in the other half including areas like athleticism and outside shooting they are incomparable players, the comparison does not hold too valid.

The “disappointment to bust” version of Jabari would likely begin with in inability to drive to the rim or shoot 3s, which in combination with defensive inabilities, could be devastating for the team who takes him top 3. That’s not to say he’ll be a bust. The better a 3 point shooter he becomes, the closer to stardom he’ll get. But he also has a low floor. That should not be ignored.

Written by jr.

May 13, 2014 at 3:39 pm

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.

Written by jr.

March 10, 2014 at 10:18 pm

Is Nik Stauskas a better NBA prospect than Andrew Wiggins?

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Andrew Wiggins has had a fine freshman season at Kansas, however Michigan’s Nik Stauskas has been the more dominant Canadian wing.

Yet this does not differ many from calling Wiggins the best long term prospect. Of course, there has been a long list of dominant college players who couldn’t repeat it in the pros. While on the other end, more enigmatic college players who went on to be stars. The lessons learned of Thomas Robinson getting picked ahead of Andre Drummond won’t be forgotten soon. My position is talent is the great determiner of who translates to the NBA.

But I am not convinced Wiggins is more talented than Stauskas. In fact I more strongly feel the opposite is true.

I have discussed numerous times on this blog the overlap between ballhandling and athleticism on the offensive end. Athleticism helps a player gain freedom of movement on the court. Usually most importantly, driving past defenders into the paint to gain efficient shots, draw fouls and collapse the defense. Ballhandling also helps this freedom of movement and driving game. There are other values to athleticism like finishing in the paint or defending and other values to ballhandling like taking care of the ball, however the connection is strong enough for me to place athleticism and ballhandling in the same category in my talent grading system. When a player such as Harrison Barnes or Ben McLemore struggles to handle the ball, on the offensive end they take the features of less athletic players. That is, becoming jumpshot orientated instead of driving to the basket. The flipside is players like James Harden and Kyrie Irving having elite talent driving to the basket that exceeds their very good athleticism. Their ballhandling helps them play like they are elite athletes for their position.

Because of this, I am not convinced Wiggins is a better NBA slasher than Stauskas. Wiggins is an elite athlete, but appears to be a flawed ballhandler which can cause him to struggle to get by opponents in the halfcourt. Stauskas is a good if unspectacular athlete, showing the first step and speed to get to the basket. However he adds to this very strong ballhandling skills. Because of this he succeeds driving to the basket. This is why despite Andrew Wiggins greater athleticism, Wiggins’ average of 7.7 free throw attempts per 40 minutes is marginally ahead of Stauskas’ 7.2.

Wiggins’ physical gifts however do make him a higher upside defender. Wiggins has the lateral mobility, length and feel for the game to be one of the best wing defenders in the league. Stauskas is not known for his play on that end, but many young players struggle defensively for reasons beyond lacking the tools for it. He has years to learn to be respectable or even above average defensively.

Both Wiggins and Stauskas are among the more fluid and natural wing players in the NCAA. Both play under control and smoothly. I personally rate Stauskas feel for the game as slightly higher, having an advanced sense of craftiness and ability to change pace and adjust off the dribble.

Stauskas is the more reliable shooting prospect of the two. Hitting 46.2% from 3 on an excellent 6.7 3 point attempts per 40 minutes, he is one of the NCAA’s signature shooters. He shows ability to shoot off the dribble in addition to spotting up. Stauskas also has a free throw percentage of 80.0% after 84.3% last year, which I consider as strong an indicator as NCAA 3 point shooting for perimeter mechanics translating to the pros. Finally with 4.4 assists per 40 minutes Stauskas has strong passing skills for a 2/3.

Wiggins is not a slouch as a shooter. At 36.6% from 3 on 4.5 3pt attempts per 40 minutes and 77.9% from the FT line, it is enough to have a high upside as a shooter. However, there is a sense of unpredictability with a shooter with Wiggins’ numbers. He could turn into a great shooter or he could turn into a mediocre one. The odds of Wiggins turning into a great shooter could be the same as Stauskas turning into an elite shooter. In addition to the passing I see reason to rate Stauskas talent as higher in this category, but Wiggins has shown enough to be promising from the outside.

Therefore here are my talent grades for Andrew Wiggins and Nik Stauskas with these grades

11: Transcendent, 10: Incredible 9: Elite, 8: Great, 7: Very good, 6: Decent, 5: Average, 4: Lacking, 3: Weak, 2: Very poor, 1: Awful

What the overall grades mean:

25+: Perennial all-star talent, 23-24: Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent, 19-22: Blue Chip starter talent, 17-18: Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent, 14-16: Rotation player talent, 12-13: Deep bench to rotation player talent, 11 or lower: Deep bench player talent

Andrew Wiggins

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent grade – 7 / Very good

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade – 6 / Decent

Feel for the Game (Fluidity, change of pace, adjustment) talent grade – 8 / Great

Total talent grade: 21 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Nik Stauskas

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, size) talent grade – 7 / Very good

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade – 8 / Great

Feel for the Game (Fluidity, change of pace, adjustment) talent grade – 9 / Elite

Total talent grade: 24 (Blue Chip starter to perennial all-star talent grade)

Andrew Wiggins is a very good wing prospect. I expect him to be a great defender in the pros, but I am not positive about his offensive game. The way players like Luol Deng and Andre Iguodala has helped teams win is what I would predict for Wiggins unless he becomes a dominant outside shooter.

Stauskas rates higher in my system. His ability to drive when added to perimeter shooting and feel, could make him a deadly all around force on the wing. I believe Stauskas can be the next James Harden or Manu Ginobili and I am leaning towards rating him 1st overall on my draft board.

Written by jr.

January 31, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Why I prefer Julius Randle to Andrew Wiggins as the best 2014 NBA draft prospect

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Andrew Wiggins is considered a near unbeatable frontrunner for the #1 pick in the 2014 draft. Some even rate him as a generational prospect and the best since Kevin Durant and Greg Oden.

I prefer Julius Randle, widely considered his most serious challenger for the spot.

Wiggins’ reputation is built athletic prowess. While Wiggins is a very good to great athlete at worst, I’m not as over the moon about his athleticism as most, as I’ve written here and here. Where Wiggins is impressing people most, is his ability to leap incredibly high when dunking, off 2 feet when having time to prepare himself. I presume some use dunking explosiveness as a barometer of athleticism.

It may be for raw, human athleticism in a vacuum. But the NBA requires specific athletic skills more than others. In the NBA it’s crucial for a perimeter player to have an explosive first step, allowing him to penetrate the defense and create offense at the rim. When it comes to leaping, it may help one finish at the rim – but other features like strength, touch, instincts play a role in how well a player finishes. Furthermore, it’s arguably more important to leap quickly and to be explosive off 1 foot, to catch the defense off balance, than it is to jump higher than everyone with time to prepare. That maximum leap may find value in aiding rebounding and shotblocking for Wiggins, but to be a superstar, he’ll need dominant offense.

The player Wiggins reminds me most of athletically based on games available filmed for television, is Paul George. George is a very good athlete, but his speed isn’t blazing fast, unlike some transcendent athletes like Lebron James and Dwyane Wade. When adding to just average ballhandling, George is not a dynamic slasher. Another reason I favor the George comparison is his feel for the game and fluidity may be one of the league’s best, which also appears to be Wiggins’ most unique strength. George however has proven to be a good shooter in the NBA to key his offense, while Wiggins is unproven in the area – scarily only hitting 61% of his FTs his senior season. George is also bigger and longer than Wiggins, helping him defensively. If my reading of Wiggins’ slashing talent and feel for the game are correct, I’d need to see him become one of the best shooters at the SF position, to indeed be a perennial all-star. Otherwise what I’m confident in his defense. He has the athleticism, length and feel for the game, to be a standout defender, like George is. Due to questions about his slashing and shooting, I’m wary of predicting more than average offense for Wiggins – For now.

Julius Randle has an advantage in a few ways to me. For one, of the two he is the player I see as having that dynamic, rare first step for his position. Combined with impressive ballhandling for a PF, Randle looks to be a nightmare attacking the basket off the dribble. His great strength, should also help him finish at the rim. Randle in fact, arguably resembles Lebron James in his combination of speed and strength for his height, though clearly less talented in non-physical elements of the game and more likely to be a pure PF.
In addition to this, Randle’s skill for his position currently projects more encouragingly for me. At SG or SF where Wiggins will play, anything less than 3 pt range, which is in play for Wiggins, is below average shooting skill and is a cause of both inefficiency and spacing issues for offenses. But at PF, having shooting range that goes to 20 feet out, but not three, is above average shooting and spacing for the position. For example Andre Iguodala’s shooting is a liability for a SF, while Chris Bosh’s shooting at PF is an advantage, despite Iguodala having equal if not better shooting range in a vacuum than Bosh. Randle is known as a player who can hit midrange jumpshots and a FT% over 70% in high school, is encouraging for his age. In addition to potentially shooting it well for a PF, Randle’s brute strength gives him potential as a skilled post player. Wiggins may also develop a post game, but arguably needs to develop his frame more than Randle does – plus it’s generally less common for wing players to go to the post as a regular weapon. In addition to shooting and slashing, Randle’s feel for the game, fluidity and craftiness also appears to be well above average for a power forward, if not competitive with Wiggins’.

When combined, Randle’s offensive tools stand out more to me right now than Wiggins’. I see more from Randle as a slasher for his position than Wiggins and his skill level compared to his position, looks more encouraging. At best he could be both unstoppable attacking the basket for a PF, but also with shooting range and a crafty feel. The best comparison for Randle lately for me is Blake Griffin, another ultra athletic power forward of about the same size, with a great feel for the game. However what holds Blake back is developing that great mid-range shooting game that Bosh and Kevin Garnett had. While it’s no guarantee, with his much better FT shooting, it’s certainly in play for Randle to end up with that range Blake lacks. If he tops out, his brute strength could also give him more of a true post game Blake doesn’t have. I would  rate Randle’s offensive upside as higher than Blake’s.

Like Griffin, Randle is a bigger question mark on the defensive end than Wiggins, as he’s not as big for his position and is unlikely to be a shotblocker, though with his athleticism, strength and feel, respectability seems plausible on that end.

For Wiggins to surpass Randle for me by draft day, I’d need to either be proven wrong about his slashing, or I’d need to see him become a more skilled shooter and skill weapon for a SF than Randle is for a PF. That’s conceivable enough, as certainly it’s early enough in the process that the book on these prospects could change rapidly. But at least with the information I have and trust right now, I prefer Randle as the most talented 2014 draft prospect and the prospect with the best chance at being a superstar.

Written by jr.

August 16, 2013 at 9:55 pm

On Kelly Olynyk’s summer league and upside, gauging athleticism

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Kelly Olynyk was the star of Orlando Summer league. His averages of 19.5 points, 8.0 rebounds. 2.8 assists and 2.3 steals per game in 26.5 minutes is dominant production per minute. More impressive to people was how he did it. Easily. Consistent. With a variety of skill moves. On a different level than his peers.

Naturally summer league statistics are close to meaningless. Just check out the history of players like Jerryd Bayless and Anthony Randolph during it. However, since he’s a hot product at the moment, I thought I’d dive into why I was so high on Olynyk before his draft – ranking him as my 2nd most talented prospect behind Anthony Bennett.

What’s obvious about Kelly is his feel for the game is one of the best in the class and potentially will be one of the best at his position in the NBA. Everything he does is smooth, under control and with layers of craftiness if he needs it. These instincts and superior sense of space were clear in summer league, as they were at Gonzaga.

His shooting skill may actually be a little overstated. Olynyk has been rated by some as a future Mehmet Okur, Ryan Anderson type 3 point shooting big, but he only hit 9 of 30 from the shorter NCAA 3 point line his entire senior season as Gonzaga and 25 for 75 his entire college career. Anthony Bennett took and hit more 3s as a freshman at UNLV than Olynyk did in his three seasons at Gonzaga. In summer league Olynyk went a fairly meek 3 for 13 from 3 point range. With that said, hitting 77.6% of his FTs his final year in college is impressive touch for a big man and it’s clear that Olynyk’s midrange shooting tough is great. Furthermore even hitting any 3s at this stage in summer league is fine, considering many prospects need time and struggle early extending their range from NCAA to NBA. For example, Trey Burke went 1 for 19 from 3, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope went 7 for 31, in both cases far below their shooting aptitude in college. With that said if I had to venture a guess, it’d be that Olynyk’s shooting career based on his numbers now is more likely to resemble Chris Bosh and Kevin Garnett’s. Both players had an exceptional midrange stroke but didn’t lean on their 3 point shot as a consistent weapon, albeit both did occasionally take them. Bosh attempted 1 3 pointer a game last year for the first time, his career high before that 0.6. Garnett attempted over a 3 a game on two occasions in Minnesota, peaking at 1.4 3PA – but 13 of his 18 seasons he had 0.5 3PA or less.

The most interesting area of debate for Olynyk is his athleticism and general physical talents. The reason Kelly slipped in the draft is that despite gaining obvious attention for his skill and feel, he had been labeled too underwhelming an athlete to be more than a 3rd big. Some said his footspeed was too poor to guard PFs, forcing him to be a stretch center who would potentially be abused in the post defensively.

First of all even in a vacuum, the idea that Olynyk is any sort of weak athlete, just seems false to me. This play alone dispels the myth of Olynyk being a plodding spot up shooting C who can’t move, such as what Ryan Kelly is:

That one play covers a lot of athletic skills. He shows elite transition speed for a 7 footer and even acceleration late. Then of course, he shows impressive leaping and finishing ability for the poster. While one play is one play, a Kelly-like slouch athletically can’t make that play, ever.

However what really impresses me is shown in this video

The whole video serves to show some of Olynyk’s athletic traits, such as his transition speed and leap finishing. However, the section that really stands out to me starts at 1:26, in “Off the Dribble”. On a few plays Olynyk creates plays by facing a defender off the dribble, then driving into the paint, going right by them to score. He does this with what appears to be a very good, long first step for a PF, which is the most important thing for just about any prospect. In the NBA not all athletic traits are created equal. One of the reasons that Kyrie Irving and James Harden were underrated coming out of college – they were labeled as not having perennial all-star upside – is that they were called average athletes despite their skills. One of the reasons for this is that you didn’t see Irving and Harden showcasing their vertical leap and putting down highlight reel dunks. However, both Irving and Harden do have an exceptional first step, allowing them to attack the basket off the dribble. In reality, this first step meant more than standout leaping ability. More leaping ability presumably helps finishing skills at the basket, however Irving and Harden have the size, enough vertical athleticism and skill to finish there not only passably, but an elite level for their position. In reality, their athletic strength of a first step has unlimited value to their games, while their weakness of lacking a high max vertical, doesn’t seem to affect their game at all. My lukewarm position on Andrew Wiggins is built on a similar idea. Where Wiggins is wowing people athletically is that he jumps higher off two feet than just about any NBA player we’ve seen has. However personally I see a decent, but not great first step and ability to attack the basket off the dribble. This has made me presume that Wiggins from an NBA/value perspective, is a good but overrated athlete. It may be true that he’s one of the most athletic HUMANS of his size that has played basketball, in a vacuum – but if it’s not the right combination of athleticism to translate to equally elite NBA value, it won’t matter. Wiggins is an excellent prospect and potential all-star for other reasons (I see Paul George’s feel and athleticism, but in a 6’7 body with a raw jumpshot) but I do not see a generational athlete, for the inverse reasons of why Irving and Harden’s athleticism is so valuable. The opposite of Wiggins is Julius Randle, who may have one of the most explosive first steps and ability to penetrate that the power forward position has seen. I would call Randle the most physically gifted player of his highly ranked 2014 peers and the most likely superstar, although he needs to prove himself on a skill level to cement that.

Like Harden and Irving, Olynyk’s outstanding ballhandling for a 7 footer, helps mask some of that athletic “weakness”, if he has it. That ballhandling is one of the reasons why he looks to have the potential to attack the basket off the dribble. From a slashing perspective, his good athleticism with elite ballhandling, may be as good for as having more clearly explosive athleticism, but average to subpar ballhandling. As for his finishing at the basket, Olynyk has both showed the ability to leap vertically, plus at 7 feet tall he may not need to leap once he gets there. I’m not positive that Olynyk’s ability to slash off the dribble will stand out, but it has the chance to. In addition to his skill and feel, it could make him a tremendous prospect.

Olynyk really has many similarities to Chris Bosh. Bosh has an elite feel for the game and is a strong midrange shooter. Bosh is also skinny like Olynyk and is one of the best ballhandlers for a PF, which along with his elite first step, allows him to attack the basket off the dribble to compliment his shooting game and feel. The main difference between them is I feel Bosh has the superior first step. Where Olynyk could actually make up that difference, is if his 3 point shot developed into a more consistent weapon than it has for Bosh. In that case Kelly could showcase similar talent. Either way, the comparison is favorable to Kelly and it wouldn’t surprise me if we see him in an all-star game, if not multiple ones.

Written by jr.

July 13, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Andrew Wiggins overrated athleticism watch: McDonald’s All-American game

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Last week I took the opportunity to watch the McDonald’s All-American prospects game. For reasons I listed here, I consider games like this and the Nike Hoop Summit to be valuable because they are filmed on NBA and NCAA-like cameras and thus have a similar frame of reference.

Once again Andrew Wiggins, who’s considered a transcendent physical force enough for some to call him the best high school prospect since Lebron despite a raw skill game, did not impress me athletically. Here’s a clip of his plays:

Only one play has Wiggins blowing by a defender to the rim at 2:40, but he does it after an offensive rebound when the defense is out of position and moreso has to pull down and set himself before leaping to finish the play. A fine athletic play but nothing special. Against set halfcourt defenses he does not get by them as a slasher. On many occasions such as :43, 1:22, 2:03 and 4:18 he impressively draws contact, but I consider these plays to show special instincts moreso than athleticism. His transition speed shown most by :23, is not blazing. The standout play is at 3:24, an impressive spinning hook shot. Once again this shows feel for the game and fluidity more than explosiveness.

There is little evidence in this or other games with reliable frames of reference, that Wiggins has special foot-speed or explosiveness. I would argue peers in his class such as Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon and Wayne Selden are more explosive and dynamic athletes. Wiggins has high potential because his feel for the game is off the charts. Athletically, the hype is just bizarre.

Written by jr.

April 13, 2013 at 1:16 pm