Andrew Wiggins: the next Paul George, Luol Deng, or Joe Johnson?


A few days ago, Kevin Pelton and Chad Ford posted a collaborative piece on ESPN (Insider) that acted as a way-too-early look at whether or not Andrew Wiggins was worth the number-one overall pick in last summer’s draft.

It’s a fairly useless exercise, really, as Wiggins had played in just 33 games at the time — not even a full NBA season’s worth of games. But it brought up an interesting discussion, including potential best-case player comparisons for Wiggins.

The duo referenced an article that they had posted in tandem back in March (also an Insider piece) in which Ford used “traditional” scouting methods to compare Wiggins to Paul George while Pelton used his statistical model, in part, to draw parallels between Wiggins and Luol Deng. As Pelton asserted, Wiggins’ college stats didn’t necessarily project out to a superstar-level in the NBA.

Luol Deng is a fantastic, borderline-star player in his own right, but the comp was a bit surprising to many fans, no doubt.

To nobody’s surprise, Wiggins’ performance thus far caused Ford and Pelton to settle somewhere in-between the previous projections. While the Wolves’ rookie was far worse than expected early, Wiggins’ play over the past three-plus weeks has been even better than most could have hoped.

Pelton concedes as much and draws a comparison to Joe Johnson — a strong shooting guard that can physically dominate his match-up on most evenings. Ford sticks with the George comp, but doesn’t really give much of a reason other than it’s “premature” to really know what he will turn into. Perfect…I’m glad they spent a whole column on this debate.

At any rate, Pelton cites Wiggins’ improvement in the turnover department and from a field goal percentage standpoint and state that if it’s real, he’s easily the best rookie in the class. Obviously, Wiggins should only get better by virtue of getting on-time, on-target passes and more opportunities to shoot open jumpers once Ricky Rubio returns.

Interestingly, Pelton attributes much of Wiggins’ recent success to Shabazz Muhammad entering the starting lineup and asserting himself as a threat in the low post. Because of Muhammad’s presence, the thought process is that opponents put their larger wing defender on Shabazz which allows Wiggins to have a clear physical advantage on a smaller player.

Before Muhammad entered the starting lineup, the smaller, sharpshooting Kevin Martin was the other wing, allowing teams to keep their small forward on Wiggins at all times. In other words, at this stage of Wiggins’ career, he’s more effective playing purely the shooting guard position.

I think that Pelton is right in his assertion, although Wiggins isn’t playing better of late just because he’s dominating in the low post. He’s also being more decisive on offense, shooting without hesitation and showing a willingness to drive into the lane from the perimeter. Some of the fears regarding his alleged lack of ball-handling skills seem to be assuaged, as his handles haven’t been a major problem to this point.

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  • Wiggins’ six-game streak of scoring 20 or more points was snapped on Saturday night against the Spurs (he scored 18 points on 5 of 11 shooting including 8 of 8 from the line and four turnovers in 37 minutes), but continued to be consistent in his effort and aggressiveness. The willingness to keep his foot on the gas was allegedly Wiggins’ biggest issue at the University of Kansas, and Flip Saunders’ main concern early on in the season, and if that’s fixed, who knows where his rookie year could be headed.

    We’re obviously keeping an eye on Wiggins’ development, and we’ll revisit potential comps once we have a full season of data and game film to draw from, although even a single (age-19!) season doesn’t give us much, either. The fact that Wiggins has played as well as he has lately is even more impressive when considering that not only is he a rookie, but he isn’t even 20-years old yet.

    The Wolves get a couple of nights off before facing the Pacers in Indiana on Tuesday night. We’ll have more content in the next couple of days leading up to the tilt, but in the meantime, enjoy your Sunday.

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