Expectations come with the territory of being insanely special. Andrew Wiggins didn't ask for the hype. And whether you believe in it or not, it's there.
Wiggins has played the right card so far. It doesn't seem like he plans on letting the media affect his mindset or performance.
But that won't stop fans and writers from debating whether he's met the bar that's been set for him. And it shouldn't. Otherwise, what would we do all day?
On a scale from one to 10, the hype surrounding Wiggins sits around a 9.0, relatively speaking. Guys like Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant and Greg Oden fell in that 9.5 range, while LeBron James rests atop the pyramid as that once-in-a-lifetime 10.
For Wiggins to finish his freshman season with a 9.0 evaluation, he'll have to be consistent. Consistency is really what drives a player's draft stock at the college level (young big men are the exception, as they typically take more time) and value in the pros.
Durant scored at least 20 points in 30 of 35 games at Texas. He lived up to the hype by performing every night.
Harrison Barnes, who entered his freshman year as a highly touted recruit and the potential top pick in the draft, struggled to produce in college on a regular basis. And then came the questions—is he mentally tough enough? Does he have NBA range? Can he get to the basket?
It ultimately forced him to return to North Carolina as a sophomore and led to six teams passing him up in the draft.
At this point in Wiggins' development, I'm not sure he's polished enough to produce consistent results. That shouldn't reflect negatively about his long-term outlook—he's still the top prospect in the country. But Wiggins' strengths don't center around his offensive skill set—at least not yet. They center around a jaw-dropping athleticism that allows him to make plays on the floor that no one else is capable of making.
At the high-school level, where open space is abundant, Wiggins' didn't exactly need to take many shots away from the rim.
Right now, Wiggins is incredibly explosive and extremely dangerous attacking north and south.
But he's got plenty of work to do scoring east and west, which could hurt his ability to consistently put up points.
For most, consistency, or lack thereof, can be directly linked to a player's jump shot. Wiggins' perimeter game is not as refined as that as some past highly touted recruits, including both Durant and Barnes.
While he can make some shots, creating balanced, open looks isn't one of his strong points. He shines in the open floor where he can use his lightning quick first step, but his handle and shooting mechanics can sometimes slow his fluidity as a perimeter scorer.
If Wiggins wants to glide over this tidal wave of hype in his one year at Kansas, he'll have to convert from the outside. There just aren't many open lanes in the slower, more methodical college game.
Wiggins is also likely to get judged based on his performance late in games. He projects as a scorer at the NBA level, and scorers make their money in second halves and fourth quarters.
One of the knocks on Wiggins is that he lacks the cold-blooded mentality that greats like Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce share. He's a humble, unselfish kid who's just as happy passing as he is shooting. And mentalities are tough to change. You've either got that killer instinct or you don't.
Wiggins wouldn't want the possibility that he falls on the wrong side of the line clouding any general manager's mind.
At the end of the day, almost everything has to go right for Wiggins to live up to the hype. Unfortunately for him, NBA fans are anxious for the next big thing after witnessing a draft in which none of the prospects separated himself from the pack.
In terms of fundamentals, Wiggins will have to really work hard on his perimeter game. Mentally, he'll need to balance poise with aggression. A shaky jumper or being overly passive could lead to mixed results, and with everyone expecting greatness, mixed results won't cut it.
Of course, what cuts it for us, the hype builders, and for him are completely different.
The best way for Wiggins to meet this hype is by ignoring it completely and focus on developing a work ethic.
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