Is Andrew Wiggins Really Good?

  • Many people here have congratulated Andrew Wiggins on becoming the NBA ROY. Others, such as myself, didn’t post because what we would have written was already posted. However if you are a believer in advanced analytics someone else should probably have gotten the award.

    According to link he could be considered a bust. Using the “Value Over Replacement Player (VORP)” analytic Wiggins had one of the worst seasons by a Rookie of the Year winner since 1973-74, which is as far back as the statistic can be calculated.

    So what do people think? Is he is or is he ain’t? Has Jesse Newell expressed any opinion on this? I generally don’t put much credence in the concepts behind the article but many people do.

  • I think Andrew Wiggins plays like Andrew Wiggins. Every other comparison isn’t fair. People have been dropping their load of expectations on him since middle school. Once a basketball fan experiences a taste of Wigs athleticism they become addicted to the “what ifs” and everyone sets the bar high without any realistic approach of what can be expected from young Wigs.

    When he was at Kansas… fans expected him to leap from tall buildings with a cape and bring us a title with ease. Coach Self seem to just think give him the ball and everyone stand back and we’ll be okay… while he told Andrew to “drive it.”

    Now in the league, he is receiving a new set of instructions… on a pretty lousy team.

    Wiggins never promised anyone anything. All he has done is gone out and played to his ability and listened to coaches, following their instructions. Beyond that, all he can do is shield his personal life away from all the naysayers. He is always going to have them. And every time he steps to a higher platform, critics will be around to let him know there has been a player higher.

    I’m just glad young Andrew comes from a family that is used to sports exposure and has helped him stay well-grounded.

    I can take statistics and prove that Wilt Chamberlain was a real dud player. Numbers will always be massaged and the essence behind them will not be adequately explained. So Wigs has a poor VORP. So what. As far as relating it to him personally, you have to open up a monster can of worms that include the performance of his entire team and how the coaches are using him. None of that can be totally explained in a number. Eventually it involves interpretation and biases set in.

    In the very least, young Andrew brings exciting moments to a league full of repetitious overplay. That has to be worth something. It definitely impresses fans and advertisers. Winning is only part of the game, just ask Kentucky. Their brand of basketball this year was shear boredom to watch.

  • @sfbahawk Interesting concept. I don’t follow the NBA closely enough, but I wonder how many first year out of college players won ROY? He’s still extremely young and if comparing him to rookies all the way back to 1973 I think they have to realize that rookies back then were 3-4 years older than Wigs. To do what he did as a 19-20 year old is remarkable I believe.

  • @drgnslayr I obviously didn’t make myself very clear. This does not have as much to do with people’s expectations of Wigs as it does the argument between those who believe in the “eye” test as opposed to the “analytics” test. His scoring and athleticism easily pass the eye test. That’s good enough for me but not for the analytics people. That is why I asked if Jesse Newell has written anything on the subject.

    The topic has been discussed a lot on this site. This is something that is closer to home than most examples of the argument.

    @wissoxfan83 The article did give him somewhat of a break because of his age. I would think that the analytics gurus may now come up with “age adjusted” versions of the various terms (VORP). How about multiplying by .6382 (or maybe .6385). By the way, there are college versions of some of these terms. Different values are used in the equations.

  • Eye test! He’s guarded the best all stars in the nba, and they have guarded him! There’s a video from nba players and Steve Kerr telling what they think of wiggins, he’s got total respect from the best!

  • @sfbahawk

    Wiggins is the real thing IMHO.

    Forget everything about his season at KU. It meant little. It was significantly about merchandize protection.

    What happened this season in the NBA was the first real season of basketball he has ever played IMHO. As such, it was not bad. You really can’t compare Wigs to any of the previous ROYs, because it has taken a long time for the players and their managers to figure out just how little top OADs should give in their token D1 seasons in order to preserve their pop and hold down wear and tear.

    In my memory, Carl Henry was really the first one to truly understand this process and he doesn’t get credit for it, because viewed through the internet and pro journalist filtering, Carl appears to come off like a jerk. I am not saying he is, or isn’t a jerk. I am saying he was the first that I recall to have really played this game the right way, and any pioneer bucking traditions and fan expectations always gets portrayed as a jerk whether they are or not. Curt Flood was reviled for challenging free agency during and after. But now we take it for granted that he was right to have done so. Carl Henry might be a jerk. I just don’t know. But it doesn’t matter, because the way he appeared to play the game was how it increasingly appears to be being played. There were no OADs at UK, or Duke this past season, that appeared to be playing 100% most of the season to me.

    But think a little more on this. Everything Andrew and his dad appeared to do appeared built on the model Carl and Xavier developed. Carl had played the game at KU and apparently understood how much wear and tear there was on a college player’s body, when that player was getting paid in room, board and tuition, i.e., only a small amount of what he would be earning in the NBA. Carl just put two and two together and apparently reasoned, “Nope, this is a business for the universities, and a business for the NBA, so its a business for my son. He is a professional, whether they make him play a season in D1, or not.” (Note: the quote is poetic license at dramatizing the concept of the situation. Carl did not say these things to my knowledge. I do not call him Carl out of either disrespect, or personal familiarity with him. I use his first name because it became kind of a convention of referring to him during that year. I do not know Mr. Henry well enough to say for sure that I respect him, but I can say with some 20/20 hind sight that I think he was a smart man who analyzed the situation correctly, did right for his son, and pioneered a path that others have begun to follow; that seems pretty high praise.)

    Carl Henry apparently rightly reasoned the university was paying his son a modest amount, so as professionals in all professions do–they give you whatever you pay for–so Carl apparently rightly reasoned again: my son is going to give you an amount equivalent to what you pay. If you pay a little, then you get the professional minimum. So: Xavier apparently took few physical risks playing the game, and was willing to play good defense, work on his rebounding, and take the open look outside shot, which he made 40% of for KU. But mostly driving the iron and diving for 50/50 balls was not part of the deal. The point of a year in D1 was reduced to hard logic. Show well in a few nationally televised contests. Have a stat builder game against an easy match up. Be a good teammate. Play tough defense. Show off your J. BUT DO NOT GET INJURED BY TAKING UNNECESSARY RISKS. And it worked out good for KU and for Xavier, even though he did not appear to play very close to what it appeared he was capable of doing. KU got a solid defender, a gifted shooter, and a guy who learned to rebound against the blue meanies without taking a lot of nasty shots. He left KU in great shape to be drafted. That he got injured in the NBA is just one of those things that can happen. The same thing could have happened at KU. Nothings for certain among professionals. You manage risk as well as you can. But professionals know there will be bumps in the road.

    Fast forward to Andrew Wiggins. Father Wiggins had played in the NBA and apparently learned the same thing Carl had learned at KU. The body is the merchandise and the body has to be protected at all costs. The OAD season is a season, where you play inside your envelope to make as probable as possible that you get to draft day intact. No risks. A few stat builder days against easy matchups and stay on cruise control. If you’re a great one, you can do this and still be better than your backup and most of your opponents most days.

    But most OADs, as late as super center Anthony Davis at UK, were still playing balls to the walls their first seasons.

    But then Nerlen Noels came a long and the next consensus Number 1 draft choice blew a knee.

    That was the end of OADs playing hard, IMHO, for as long as there is an OAD rule. Everyone started looking to the Wiggins model. Time passes so fast they all probably don’t even recall that Carl Henry and Xavier pioneered this path.


    It is a tough thing to ask players to do. Players like to play hard. They do it instinctively, unless they are trained extensively not to. And there are not surprisingly some OADs that turn out not good enough to actually attract the interest of NBA GMs playing only 3/4 speed. The OAD has to be a total athletic freak to really play 3/4 speed and show that he can help a team and be able to hang in at D1 speeds and levels of violence. Remember, even Andrew Wiggins went through a stretch where the blue meanies of B12 ball were just punching him in the face for kicks, because they knew he was protecting the merchandize, and only occasionally looking to air it out and dunk on them. Fortunately, Andrew was well trained.

    In fact, again IMHO, I think Andrew is sooooo good that I don’t think you will really see Andrew show his full game, until after he signs his second pro contract.

    Father Wiggins apparently understands that the NBA is just as big of a racket in some ways as the NCAA is in its own way. The first three year contract in the NBA a guy like Andrew Wiggins–a reputed once in a decade player–is being massively underpaid. He is laboring in an minor media market. No matter how great he plays in Minneapolis, it will not be the same as if he were doing it in Chicago, NY, or LA. Father Wiggins had to have studied Lebron and learned how much wear and tear they put on top rookies like Lebron in minor markets those first three seasons. Father Wiggins had to have understood that the real money starts the fourth season, both in NBA salary but also in endorsement deals. Thus, as a basketball man, who knows what it takes to play in the NBA, and understands exactly what his son can and cannot do, Father Wiggins is in a pretty darned good position to know just how far Andrew can play 3/4 speed and protect the merchandize. He probably understands that if Andrew can 3/4 speed it to year four, then the Brinks trucks will start coming on a steady basis, and after that, its up to his uber talented son how much he wants put himself at risk the rest of his career. If he wants to be arthritic at 50 its up to him, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Father Wiggins, whose joints are probably starting to get a little achy may say something like, well, Andrew, its up to you how much you want to sacrifice your body, but with the kind of money you are making and are going to have to spend when you are my age, well, it would feel pretty good to feel pretty good, when you are spending it, instead, of taking a lot of anti inflams and taking 2-3 hours of loosening up to feel good, as I have to do.

    There is a basic professional calculus that is not being stated most of the time in talk about NCAA and NBA basketball. It was most eloquently stated in a western movie called El Dorado by Howard Hawks and starring John Wayne playing the fastest hired gun in the business. Early in the movie, John has been hired as a gun by a villain, who wants Wayne to go up against a sheriff played by Robert Mitchum. Mitchum is both a friend and maybe close to as fast of a gun as Wayne. Wayne tells the villain played by Ed Asner, he has decided not to take the job. Asner playing Bart Jason and Wayne playing Cole Thornton get into a short, terse exchange that distills professionalism almost entirely to its essence.

    Bart Jason: Since when did hired guns get choosy? You’re paid to take… Cole: I’m paid to risk my neck. I’ll decide where and when I’ll do it. This isn’t it. Bart Jason: Ya know, Thornton, I got an idea you just don’t want to go up against Sheriff J.P. Harrah. Cole: You know, you’re just about right? Bart Jason: You think he’s that good? Cole: I tell ya he’s that good.

    This exchange is more subtle and complex than it seems. Unsaid is that Jason isn’t paying him enough, and maybe couldn’t pay him enough to take the risk against a gunman he knows and likes. At the same time, Thornton (Wayne) isn’t really being honest about his own estimation of his capabilities. Thornton knows he is the best there is and that he could probably take the Mitchum character in a gun fight. But being a professional, his choices are not made based solely on what he is capable of. They are based on the pay off and what the client can be counted on for doing in the face of the unexpected, and on the level of risk the job involves. In gunfighting, it doesn’t matter if you kill the Mitchum character 7 out of ten times, because three out of ten times you are dead even though you are the better professional.

    Andrew Wiggins is a professional basketball player, same as Cole Thornton was a professional gunman.

    It doesn’t matter if playing balls to the walls would make him come out better on the VORP statistic. Andrew is a professional playing the game for money, and in Andrew’s case, just about the highest stakes possible. There was no reason in the world for him to play hard at KU, because he had so much talent that he was going to be selected first playing 75% capacity no matter what. Only an injury could jeopardize it.

    Similarly, there is no reason in the world for Andrew to play all out and take big risks in the NBA, if he can get by playing 80-85% percent for the next three seasons, before he signs his second contract. All he needs to do, as a professional, is turn it on down the stretch of the third season and give the NBA GMs a taste of what he could do when they really open up the purse strings for him.

    This is business among professionals. All professionals are selling their time. They sell it as profitably and as risk-managed as they can. Most professionals are not so superior that they can do anything but go all out. But even they never give more than what the pay justifies.

    The NBA and NCAA have created this situation with the OADs.

    They deserve to be exploited as much as possible.

    In the final analysis, only massive exploitation by the OADs of the NCAA and NBA will get the NBA and NCAA to change the rule.

    So: in final answer to your question “is Andrew Wiggins really good?” I would say, so far, we have strong reason to believe so. But if he isn’t, he is still doing the right thing for his business career given the crazy economic ineffiencies built into the OAD rule."

    Its the NBA’s and NCAA’s own damn faults.

    Its just a business now.

    (Note: let me make as clear as possible that I am only speculating and opining about appearances about how the Henrys and the Wiggins approached their KU and NBA careers. They might all say that Xavier and Andrew played at 10/10s of their envelopes and I would be happy to believe them. All I can say is that it appeared to this fan watching on TV, and without insider knowledge that something less than 10/10s appeared to have been being given. And though I am old fashioned enough to miss the old days, when even the best players appeared to give it their all, I am perfectly happy to change with the times [until the rules can be changed] and with what KU received and in retrospect find no fault with either player’s contributions to The Legacy given the circumstances. We are privileged to have had the and The Legacy is better for having had them. And I hope they feel they are better for having been with KU, even though it seems fair to say they might have made more money without the OAD rule. Rock Chalk Xavier and Andrew.)

  • @jaybate-1.0 I love watching wigs play, he’s so graceful, deceptive, moves effortlessly. Someone wrote that they would love to see how long he could run, like an 800 or mile. He’s the product of an nba dad and an Olympian sprinter, he’s a perfect specimen. It amazes me that he started and played in every game, 19 years old! I’m anxious to see how he matures and gets physically stronger. Yes, I wish he stayed here forever too, but I’m glad he picked KU and Self for a year. He always speaks well of his time here, and speaks highly of Coach Self.

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