How good is Andrew Wiggins?

People have been talking all season about how good Andrew Wiggins has been in his rookie year. The kid as essentially run away with the NBA Rookie of the Year award. Wiggins has been the bright spot in a dismal season for the Minnesota Timberwolves. The real question is, is Wiggins really a dominant force, or is he just the favorite by default.

This has been a very weak rookie class so far. Only five players are averaging more than ten points per contest this season. Wiggins is the only one average more than 12 with his 16.7 points per game. (Jabari Parker was over 12 a night prior to being injured this season). Wiggins also ranks fifth among qualified rookies in rebounds per game this season. He also sits fifth in terms of steals per contest and sixth in rejections. Wiggins is shaping himself into a very capable all-around player.

One major knock against Wiggins despite all of his talent is his underwhelming assist-to-turnover ratio. He may only be a small forward, but with the amount of time Wiggins spends on the ball, (22.1% usage rating) it would be nice to see Wiggins as a distributor. He is one of only a few players that owns a ratio under 1 sitting at 0.91 assists for every turnover. In fact, he is the only small forward to play 30 minutes or more per game yet still post a ratio under one.

The kid out of Kansas is still young though and has a long time to develop that side of his game. It really should not be much of a concern. The overall athleticism he exudes though is tantalizing for anyone with interest in the Wolves. It might seem harsh to judge the kid on what he has done through just one season but I am curious to see how he stacks up with some of the other top picks in the past several years.

Already, Wiggins is in elite company. Of the top picks since 2008, five out of six have been named All-stars. Those players include Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin, John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis. The only one yet to live up his billing as the top pick is Wiggins’ teammate, Anthony Bennett. It is not really fair to compare Wiggins to the last small forward drafted first overall either, seeing as that was LeBron James. However, there are a couple of other star small forwards we can compare this budding superstar.

Carmelo Anthony was taken in the same draft as James. His numbers put up against Wiggins’ are superior although not by much. Anthony averaged 21 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 0.5 blocks per outing as a rookie playing for the Denver Nuggets. However, he also posted an assist-to-turnover ratio that was under one. Wiggins actually trumps Melo in shooting percentage though with 43.6 compared to 42.3.

Wiggins also stacks up pretty comparably with Kevin Durant’s rookie season. Obviously, the huge discrepancy in height makes this comparison a little tough but Durant averaged 20 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1 steal and 1 block per game. Durant has the edge in the scoring department but once again, Wiggins is shooting at a higher percentage, especially from behind the arc. Durant posted a 28.8 percent success rate from three his rookie year; meanwhile, Wiggins has drained 32.5 percent of his takes. Once again, Durant had an assist-to-turnover ratio below one.

The best comparison for Wiggins though might be to a former Boston legend. Not many others have played better than Paul Pierce over the course of his career. Pierce is also the same style player as Wiggins, switching between a two-guard and a winger. Pierce had a very similar stat line to Wiggins when he first began playing for the Celtics back in 1999. Pierce tallied 16.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.75 steals and 1 block a night, however only in 48 games. Those are not too far off from Wiggins is doing now and Pierce posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of almost exactly one. If this means that Wiggins is destined to average 21, 6 and 4, I think fans in Minnesota will be more than content with that.

While it looks like he is running away with this years’ award, keep in mind that Wiggins still has a lot of growing to do before he can be considered an elite player. However, with him only at 19 and oozing with potential I don’t think the growth will be that hard to come by. Wiggins has the potential to be a perennial All-star in this league and maybe even make Minnesota competitive in a couple of years. With Wiggins at the center of a young core, it seems like the Wolves are off to a good start. His presence certainly makes it easier to forget the absence of certain Love Minnesota used to have.


NBA All Star snubs

The NBA All Star rosters took another step towards being finalized yesterday. The coaches decided on who the reserve players for each team should be. The East roster now features Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Pau Gasol, John Wall, Kyle Lowry, Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Chris Bosh, Jimmy Butler, Paul Millsap, Kyrie Irving and Dwayne Wade. The West includes Blake Griffin, Marc Gasol, Anthony Davis, Kobe Bryant, Stephen Curry, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan, James Harden, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Klay Thompson. At least two players, Wade and Bryant, will likely not be participating due to injury. There are some notable names missing from this list and I am going to break down who among them should have made it.

The first name to jump out at me absolutely has to be Derrick Rose. The Bulls’ point guard has had an injury-ridden season but when he has played, he has looked like one of the best players in the league. He has struggled though, especially shooting the ball. However, he is still scoring at a great rate and he is tied for 16th in points per 48 minutes played. He is also scoring more than Teague or Wall, who made the team over him. Rose is averaging fewer assists and shooting at a much worse rate per game though so I can understand why he was not picked. That being said, I think he is the next logical add if it turns out that Wade cannot go.

The other thing that bothers me in the East is leaving out the Pistons’ frontcourt. Both Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe are in the top ten for rebounding this season with Drummond ranking second and Monroe tying for ninth. Drummond is averaging almost thirteen points per game as well with Monroe accounting for more than 15 per night. Drummond also has the most board per 48 minutes played and is an excellent shot blocker ranking ninth in the league. The issue for these two guys is that it is hard to argue whose spot they should take. I think Millsap and Horford were deserving of their selections. Both of these Pistons’ big men have played well though this season and certainly should have been considered.

Flipping to the West now, there is no bigger omission than DeMarcus Cousins. The man they call “Boogie” has been a force in Sacramento this season. Cousins has missed some time due to injury this year but he has put on a show out in California. He cleans up the board with 12.3 rebounds a game, good for third in the NBA. That is also two more rebounds per game than Duncan, who did make the team. The Kings’ big man has also made his presence felt defensively, with roughly 1.5 blocks and steals each per matchup. Duncan is logging about 2 blocks but only 1 steal per game. The biggest difference though is the gap in scoring. Duncan is scoring a solid 14.7 points per game. Meanwhile, Cousins is tallying 23.8 per night, which ranks fifth best in the NBA. I understand that Duncan is a great veteran player but I would definitely have selected Cousins over him.

Damian Lillard was another man forgotten in the All Star selection process. He has been a much better scorer than Chris Paul has this season but Paul has registered a lot more assists. The Blazers’ floor general shot much more effectively than Bryant did this season but Kobe, even despite his age, has been the better defender. The reality is that Lillard has played extremely well but it hasn’t been enough to push his name into being an All Star. There is a good chance that had Lillard been playing the East he would have been selected this season. He has outperformed the majority of the guards in the East but that does not matter with voting being conducted by conference.

It is hard to argue with the lineups being assembled to play in New York this season (well, outside of Kobe of course). There were some guys who were probably qualified to make these teams but unfortunately come up short based on how tough it is to make the 12-man roster. Only 24 players are named All Stars meaning that there are plenty of others who are left out. Let me know if you think there were some other players who should have made it.

NBA All Star voting flaws

The NBA announced whom the fans selected to participate in the 2015 All Star Game. The Eastern Conference squad features John Wall, Kyle Lowry, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Pau Gasol. The Western Conference side consists of Stephan Curry, Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis and Marc Gasol. As always, there were some noticeable omissions from the lineup. On top of that, a couple of names made the list who were very debatable. Now, as everyone will want to know, who were the biggest names left off the list and who should have been left off the team entirely? I am not sold on how well the fans did at selecting these teams. Let’s take a look at the shortcomings.

For some context, this is just the preliminary roster with Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer set to name the reserves early next week. That means that some of the notable snubs will be added in that round of selections. Kerr is likely to add Thunder stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in addition to Clippers guard Chris Paul. For Budenholzer, he will likely name Heat forward Chris Bosh, Bulls guard Derrick Rose and Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving.

Another name that should crop up is James Harden, who more than likely should have been a starter over Bryant for the West team. This is a huge oversight by the fans. On his own merits, Bryant should never have been added to this roster, and definitely not as a starter. I have spouted off previously about Kobe and his steadily declining play. Meanwhile, Harden is in the midst of an MVP-caliber season piloting Houston to a tie with the Clippers for fifth in the Western Conference. The Rockets guard has averaged an NBA-leading 27.2 points per game along with 6.7 assists and 5.5 rebounds while converting the sixth most three pointers. Defensively, Harden has stepped up his game too with career highs in blocks and steals. Harden also ranks first in Win Shares and fifth in Player Efficiency Rating among starters. It makes no sense to me that he is not on this list and Bryant is instead, despite him having a disappointing year. Bryant will not be playing for the team anymore due to a torn rotator cuff and Harden should be his replacement.

The other glaring issue with the rosters is the makeup of the West’s starting five. You have Curry and for arguments sake, let’s say Harden. Then you have Griffin, Davis and Marc Gasol. Those last three are big men who play best as either a power forward or center. None of them could really make it as a small forward. So somewhere in this starting five, Kerr has to find a small forward for game day; there is not one there though. Griffin is the closest thing he has to a small forward and he would have his hands full playing against either Melo or LeBron, whomever he covers. The system of voting has left the Western team in a bind not really creating a true All Star lineup. I have always felt that the team should have a player from each position rather than general labels like guard and forward. That might be my opinion but it definitely would make for a cleaner lineup.

I do not have an issue with the selection that many people, most notably Charles Barkley, have openly disputed. Carmelo Anthony should absolutely be starting in the Eastern Conference. If this were similar to the NFL Pro Bowl, where the teams are not sorted by conference, then Melo likely would not make the cut. Under this current format, he is the best option available, and it is not even close. Anthony is second for forwards in scoring in the East with 24 points per game. The next highest scorer is Tobais Harris only averaging 18 points a contest. Melo is also tied for third with Paul Millsap for most assists per game behind only James and Joe Johnson. There is not a player in the East who has better qualifications as a starter.

The All Star game is still almost a month away and the rosters will be much more scrutinized once the reserves are announced. The All Star game does not stand for much but being named All Star is validation of your accomplishments as a player. Based on the immense split of talent between the East and West maybe it is time for the Association to adoptteams that are not conference specific allowing for truly the best players to compete in the game. Keep an eye for a list of the biggest snubs next week when the rest of the rosters are announced.