Saturday, January 18, 2014


Column: Top foes bring out Andrew Wiggins’ best


In projecting an athlete’s worthiness for a promotion to the next level — be it for a college scholarship, an advancement from the minors to the majors in baseball, a jump to the NFL or NBA — statistics are best used as a tool, not as gospel or as a crutch.

Some stats mean a great deal more than others. Baseball scouts long have paid far greater attention to a prospect’s performance against other top prospects than versus journeyman minor-leaguers. How a prospect hits against a career minor-leaguer who doesn’t throw particularly hard and doesn’t have sharpness to his breaking ball doesn’t tell a scout much about how the hitter will do in the big leagues.

That’s why, in this age of Moneyball turning anyone who can read a stat sheet into a great judge of “talent,” I loved Kansas basketball coach Bill Self’s response to a question. It involved Andrew Wiggins posting better numbers against better competition than when facing lesser teams.

In five games against teams ranked at the time KU played them, Wiggins is averaging 20.2 points and 9.6 rebounds, shooting .446 overall and .348 from three-point range. In the other 11 games, his numbers drop to 13.8 points and 4.7 boards, .433 overall, .313 from three.

“So many times, people get hung up on overall stats and things like that, but I think if you’re going to ask NBA people, they’d want to see how he played when he played against the best competition and the best teams,” Self said. “With the exception maybe of one game, he’s had really big games in our hardest games.”

The disparity in numbers could lead one to suspect Wiggins tries harder against better teams and isn’t interested in the others. Not so fast. The way I see it, three factors play in his improved play against better competition.

  1. His size and athleticism translate better to stronger competition, so he’s not going to be taken out of his game, even when facing defenders accustomed to slowing down lesser or shorter athletes.

  2. The adrenaline factor: It can’t be manufactured. The circumstances kick it into gear. The greater the athlete, the more he benefits from an adrenaline boost. Look at it this way: If Wiggins is a 10 athlete and, say, Kansas State’s Marcus Foster is a 7, and they both had a 10 percent adrenaline boost, Wiggins became an 11, Foster a 7.7. So Wiggins went from being three points better to 3.3 points better. (Plus, Wiggins’ size advantage was one that neutralized Foster.)

  3. Scoring hunger: Wiggins has more of it when facing a strong team because he knows the team needs him carrying a heavier load against strong competition. If KU is blowing out a pushover, Wiggins, being an unselfish athlete, is fine with getting the victory and letting others shoot.

“Saturday will be one of our hardest games without question, so we’re going to need him to be big there too,” Self said. “I do think he’s learning how to impact games in more ways.”

Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, another terrific athlete, will be guarded by Wayne Selden most of the time, Wiggins here and there. Smart also tends to perform better in big games for similar reasons as Wiggins. In three games vs. ranked teams, Smart is averaging 23 points, 16.8 in the other 14 games.

Big talents sharing a famous court in a big game. Can’t beat it.


Robert Brock 6 years, 12 months ago

It may be a rough day for Mr. Wayne Selden. Good luck to that kid.

Kent Richardson 6 years, 12 months ago

Wayne-o may be hitting 3's again and then hard to the rim and create some fouls and opportunities for others.

Eliott Reeder 6 years, 12 months ago

I've actually been pondering this notion since I read Self's quote about Wiggins performing best in big games. And while obviously I'm not an NBA GM or scout, I would think the fact that a player only puts in full effort against top teams would be a blemish on his draft status. Think about it this way: the college season is at most about 30 games. The NBA season is what, 80 games or so? If a kid can't get up for every game in a college season, how is he going to perform over the long and arduous course of an NBA season? He may be great in the playoffs, but where will you be seeded in those playoffs if your star tends to coast through half the season? I think a GM would rather have the kind of guy who is a competitive freak, who can't stand to get beat, who tries like a madman in every game just because he is wired that way.

Dirk Medema 6 years, 12 months ago

Andrew is a competitive freak. He just is not a selfish freak who thinks the team can only win by him scoring points. He is interested in his teammates performing well while winning games. A lack of scoring from Wiggins has not been the reason we have lost this year.

Maybe a difference between you and an NBA scout is the understanding that "full effort" is not necessarily measured in ppg.

Kent Richardson 6 years, 12 months ago

A little deeper analysis from The Editor. I think/hope you are much closer to right, not needed right now - share the wealth, than the thinking that he is taking time off because of character issues. A 20 and 10 freshman is pretty salty in big games.

Yonatan Negash 6 years, 12 months ago

Can I get a .....

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Hidey Hidey Hidey Ho

Dirk Medema 6 years, 12 months ago

There was a similar article on rockchalktalk earlier this week, that mostly referenced an espn article I think, but then maybe that all started from a Self quote. There's a bunch out there on this topic. The consistent concept/quote is that Wiggins is still learning how to impact the game. Self, NBA scouts, and other knowledgable followers of the game recognize this, tho it's much easier to follow and hype ppg.

Dyrk Dugan 6 years, 12 months ago

We better see a crow eating column tomorrow...Wiggins totally wilted today.

Larry Smith 6 years, 12 months ago

Because the kid had one bad game against a ranked opponent, the rest don't matter?

Adam Miller 6 years, 12 months ago

I imagine he's commenting about ol' double chin's prediction, not Wiggin's non-action on the court.

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