Draft coverage has been a part of the Laker season this year. Mitch Kupchak and other staff members have been watching games to see who can be the next “it.” Even ESPN 710 (Los Angeles) keeps talking about analytics and its role within the basketball world.
Today, Kansas lost to West Virginia, 92 to 86. A 25-point deficit was too much to overcome. Top-three lottery pick Joel Embiid didn’t dress due to injury. It was on Andrew Wiggins to carry the team, and for the first time this season, he did.
Today, he finished with 41 points on a barrage of athletic forays to the basket and multiple 3-point shots. His moves were exactly the same; dribble, step-back, pull-up, spot up jumpshots behind the arc, 3-point shots off the dribble, two-dribble right hand spin move off the left pivot, and points in transition. The difference? He was able to do more of it. Embiid and NCAA defenses block the painted area where Wiggins is most effective. How hot was he? He finished 12 of 18 from the field, hitting 15 of 19 shots at the free throw line, with 8 rebounds, 5 steals, and 4 blocks. That is a stat-line of the elite athletes of the NBA. It is possible that Vince Carter, Dominique Wilkens, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, and other elite wings have put up similar lines with more minutes.
If there’s a reason why Wiggins hasn’t been covered on this Laker site in regards to the draft, it is because some of us were waiting for his breakout party. There was an article written earlier about his tentativeness about the game written here. He always felt out of reach considering the lottery status of the Lakers. As much as some Laker fans may want to tank for a better draft pick, there is a reason they tried to avoid doing so. Anyone else still bitter from the loss to the Clippers? Would you really keep your pride for a team if the Lakers tanked like that every night?
Dante Exum may have all the hype from Laker fans. He’s the one who hired Kobe’s agent. He’s the one who hired Kobe’s trainer. He’s the one seen at a recent Laker game just to make an appearance. Those who follow me on twitter (@Canyondriver, understand why he’s been #2 on my draft list. He’s the one that shows the most skills, great size, athletic ability as a combination, and a work ethic to match. His desire to become a Laker legend is very real. The difference is, today, he may be closer to becoming a Laker. Wiggins just shot up to everyone’s draft chart to #1.
If the Lakers were to draft either player, the franchise wins. Fans need to be patient in terms of their development, but there’s an understanding that the lottery pick, assuming it’s a high pick, is a franchise player in development. LeBron made it obvious when he entered the league out of high school. Bryant, Garnett, and McGrady needed some seasoning before they came into their own. But, for a city that is prided on star power in Los Angeles, Wiggins, on talent alone, could turn the city around.