Sixers targeting Wiggins?

Posted: June 13, 2014

THIS MUCH we know: There is no possible way Andrew Wiggins can live up to the expectations that surrounded him when he came out of Huntington Prep in West Virginia and was getting ready to play for Bill Self at the University of Kansas.

Everyone inside the game knows that, but few care. The future of his game is so bright you get the feeling scouts, coaches and general managers have to wear sunglasses while watching his film.

So will the 76ers and general manager Sam Hinkie get lucky and have the 6-8, 200-pound swingman fall to them at the third overall pick on draft night 2 weeks from today, or will they feel the necessity to trade up to secure Wiggins, if indeed he is the player they are targeting? You just know Hinkie is drooling over all the possibilities before him, as the team also holds the 10th overall pick and five selections in the second round.

Reports have come out that the Sixers have approached the Cleveland Cavaliers about moving up to the top slot in what is considered one of the deepest drafts in a long time. Hinkie, always guarded with his thoughts, would not comment on the report, nor has he ever said publicly if there is a preference as to whom the team covets among the top three picks, widely regarded as Joel Embiid, Jabari Paker and Wiggins.

Would Hinkie prefer to land the 7-foot Embiid, considered to have the potential to be a star center in the league for years to come, or Parker, the 6-8 beast who could possibly come into the league and be a force for this team almost immediately?

Or is Wiggins, the Thornhill, Ontario, native who has unfairly been compared to LeBron James and called a can't-miss franchise player, the player they envision as being the foundation of this franchise as it tries to rise from the rubble after a 19-win season?

The hype surrounding Wiggins comes from his mind-boggling athleticism, which appears to make him an ideal wing player in the NBA. Also intriguing is the fact that he will not turn 20 until midway through the upcoming season and his best basketball appears to be ahead of him as his body fills out and the streaky parts of his game become more consistent.

"There are obviously some things that he needs to work on as far as being an NBA player, but those are the physical things," said Self, the coach at Kansas, where Wiggins averaged 17.1 points and 5.9 rebounds. "Where he is completely ready for the league is from the mental standpoint. Andrew couldn't be more prepared. The way he handled all the hype that surrounded him before he even got to us was amazing. This dude has already gone through [media-wise] what very few guys have been through with the exception of the great, great ones, and probably none of them had the scrutiny placed on them that he did. I think that will make him a perfect leader for a team like the Sixers. Being a leader is something that he won't shy away from."

There are so many positives already in Wiggins' game, particularly his upside. Right now he possesses a nice step-back jump shot, great lateral movement that could translate into him being a shut-down defender and an NBA-ready transition game where he can get to the basket well with or without the ball.

Like many his age, he needs to work on his strength, his shooting consistency and being comfortable going to the basket with his off-hand (left). But the biggest concern is whether he has that "it" factor that so many talk about when discussing Wiggins. The abundance of talent is there, but does he have the killer instinct of stars like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant? When the legs are heavier than they've ever been midway through his first NBA season and the team needs him in the final moments of a game, will he consistently be able to find that extra gear that the great ones do? Many point to his final collegiate game when he scored just four points on six shots in 34 minutes in a second-round NCAA Tournament loss to Stanford.

"That is the biggest thing I worry about with him," said a scout. "There were just too many times on film that he became a bystander when the team needed him to be the best player on the floor. Granted he was a freshman, but he was the team's best player. You want to see the best player rise to the challenge and put the team on his back. He didn't do that enough for me. And then I heard that after the season he decided to take some time off to rest. I would hope that he would have been in the gym almost immediately, working to improve his game and get ready for the next level."

On the other hand, many don't think it will take all that much for Wiggins to be a star.

"Quite simply, he is freakishly athletic," said another scout. "He's had a spin move that you don't see from players his size and age. His length [a 7-foot wing span] is just an added dimension he has that he uses so well to his advantage at both ends of the floor. He can grab a rebound and be close to the other rim in just four dribbles. He can draw fouls in the lane and is a good foul shooter. And when he gets stronger - and he will - he may be the leader in the league in going to the line for three-point plays. Watch him when he misses a shot in the lane. His second jump is higher than most players' first jump.

"No one is a can't-miss as far as draft picks. We all know that. But I'm confident that he is pretty close to being a sure-thing, multiple All-Star in our league."

High expectations. Andrew Wiggins is certainly used to those.


On Twitter: @BobCooney76

Blog: ph.ly/Sixerville

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