The Lakers are well into the lottery pick, and even if the team was healthy, the team would have to go with an incredible record over the next 40 games just to make the 8th speed. Phoenix is at the 8th speed with a 23-17 record, a .575 win rate. Essentially, the Lakers would need to go 32-8 just to match the winning percentage. If the team was fully healthy, I wouldn’t count Kobe Bryant out.
This just isn’t the season to make the playoffs.
With that said, Laker fans have turned their attention to the lottery picks in the draft. Familiar names are there, with Joel Embiid skyrocketing up the draft boards lately, Aaron Gordon residing at the University of Arizona, Jabari Parker dominating at Duke, and beloved Andrew Wiggins, the freshman who plays along Embiid at Kansas.
But, have you watched him play?
As a freshman, statistically, he’s doing very well. He’s averaging 15.2 points per game, 6.1 rebounds per game, and 1.4 assists per game. He’s shooting 44% from the field and 32.8% behind the arc. What has scouts intrigued are his great games. He had a 26-point, 11-rebound performance against the University of Florida in a loss, and a 17-point, 19-rebound game against Iowa State in a 7-point win.
Watching him play is an exercise in futility. Watching Randle, Parker, or Embiid is easy to do. They’ll demonstrate their varied skill levels in various positions throughout the floor, but the talent seems obvious when they’re in isolation situations to exploit their offensive skill. Wiggins, on the other hand, seems to get half of his points in transition. When the opponent dictates tempo and slows the game down, Wiggins is affected. Within a halfcourt set, Wiggins shows only two moves in isolation without a great rate of effectiveness. He’ll utilize a one-bounce dribble right for a pull-up jumpshot from 19′ that doesn’t drop often. It’s more impressive when he uses a two-dribble right, reverse pivot to a 5′ floater. That was his pet shot in high school. Even then, he doesn’t use it on a game to game basis.
In transition, he looks stellar. He has soft hands, a 7′ wingspan, and protects the ball on the way to the hoop. No one else can catch him on the fly. There’s something James Worthy-like about seeing Wiggins in transition, with his ability to side-step defenders, and finish the play. There, the physical tools stand out and it’s easy to see his potential.
Defensively, he’s an underrated player. Despite not being overtly aggressive on offense, his motor on defense is tremendous. He stays motivated, and uses his lateral quickness and wingspan to deter the best offensive options from receiving the basketball. Embiid gets all the credit for swatting in the paint, but no one is giving Wiggins credit for outstanding perimeter position defense as a freshman.
Last year, he dominated high school opponents. There are stories of him exploding when the opposing crowd chanted, “Overrated.”
Still, it’s fair to be concerned. It took a young crowd to wake a sleeping giant. When that sleeping giant came out, he destroyed everything.
Our star, Kobe Bryant, was a total gym rat from the get-go, demonstrating more polished ball-handling skills and full-throttle aggression as a 17-year old. The Laker fans are craving for the next star, but when Wiggins doesn’t look to push himself on the offensive end, Laker fans may look elsewhere.
They’re not going to chant, “…Overrated…” every game. They’re looking someone who has the fire within.