Recently I’ve been reading a lot of comments (mostly on NBA draft articles or videos) about how Josh Jackson is Andrew Wiggins 2.0. It’s easy for people who don’t follow KU basketball as closely as we do to assume they are the same player because they are similar in a lot of ways. Both Jackson and Wiggins are athletic 6’8 SF/SG who went to Kansas and who were at the top of their recruiting classes coming out of high school. Wiggins was the 1st pick in the draft, and Jackson has a good chance to be the 1st pick in the draft. I, however, (and I’m sure many of you as well) have noticed a lot of differences in their games and what they are able to do on the court. So let’s break it down:
Scoring – I give a slight edge to Wiggins here. Wiggins averaged 17.1 ppg during his freshman season at Kansas. JJ is currently averaging 16.0. Jackson has been more efficient than Wiggins, though. Jackson shoots the 3-ball at 35.5% (he’s really improved in this area since the season started), and Wiggins shot 34.1% when he was at Kansas. Jackson also shoots 50% from the field (which is pretty spectacular for a freshman guard/small forward), and Wiggins shot 44.1% from the field. Jackson has had the luxury of playing with better guards (Senior Frank Mason, Junior Devonte Graham) than the guards who played with Wiggins (Freshman Frank Mason, Freshman Wayne Selden, Junior Naadir Tharpe).
Free Throw Shooting – Wiggins. Wiggins shot 77.5% from the line at KU. Wiggins is also very good at getting to the line (6.4 FTA per game on the Wolves). Josh Jackson shoots 54.3% from the line. This is, without a doubt, the one area in which Jackson can and needs to improve.
Defense – Jackson. Jackson plays good individual defense and good team defense. He has good defensive instincts and is really good at playing passing lanes. Wiggins has the tools to be special defensively, but he lacks the kind of mind set that Josh Jackson has. This was the biggest knock on Wiggins at Kansas and continues to be the biggest knock on Wiggins in the NBA: that he’s passive and isn’t always engaged.
Rebounding – Jackson. Jackson averages 6.8 boards per game. Wiggins averaged 5.8 boards. Again, Jackson’s advantage here likely lends itself to the fact that he plays with more assertiveness and aggression than does Wiggins.
Athleticism – Wiggins. Not a lot needs to be said here. Josh Jackson is really athletic. Wiggins is a freak. This isn’t really a slight to Jackson.
Passing – Jackson. Jackson’s way ahead of Wiggins here. We’ve seen several examples this season of Jackson being able to create for his teammates (think 2nd half against Kentucky getting dunks for Lucas). He’s also good at finding his teammates in transition (Lucas against KState, Mason against Kentucky, etc.). He’s averaging more assists per game than Wiggins did at Kansas.
Ball-Handling – Jackson. Both are actually pretty decent ball-handlers for being 6’8 and hyper athletic, but Jackson’s ball-handling has really impressed me this season. Watching him bring the ball up against West Virginia’s press in Morgantown took me by surprise. And we’ve seen several instances of JJ handling the ball well in transition.
Mindset – Jackson. Jackson is an alpha. Wiggins is passive a lot of the time. If Wiggins had JJ’s mindset I think he could be the best player in the NBA.
Overall, Wiggins is a freak athlete and a pretty good scorer, but I feel like he’s still has kind of an AAU mentality. He’s never been a great fundamental basketball player and has relied on being taller and more athletic than everyone else. And that has to some extent continued into the NBA where he’s still more athletic than most of the other players. To Wiggins’ credit, he has developed a nice post game which I think was under-utilized by Self in his time at Kansas.
Jackson is a better all-around player than Wiggins. He’s more skilled, more versatile, and a better defender and rebounder. He’s not as athletic and not as good a shooter. He plays with more fire than Wiggins. Because of his skill and personality I think he’ll end up being a better NBA player than Wiggins.