After a 10-day wait that was magnified into feeling like 10 years because of the 24-hour news cycle, we found out Friday that LeBron James is headed back to Cleveland after four years, four trips to the Finals and two titles in Miami.
After the inevitable reactions of 'Wow, he really did it,' from basketball fans around the world, the first thing that likely came to the minds of KU basketball fans was this: What does that mean for Andrew Wiggins?
The short answer? Wiggins probably should not get too comfortable in those Cleveland duds. He may be on the move via the trade winds and it may be happening very quickly.
Not only does LeBron hold down the majority of the minutes and stats at the small forward position, but there's strong speculation that veteran shooting guard Ray Allen will follow James to Cleveland, which would crowd up things at the 2-guard spot, too. The shooting guard spot is the place Cleveland management seems to think Wiggins will ultimately succeed and bringing on Ray Allen doesn't kill that idea but it adds quality depth and allows them to explore the idea of adding big man help.
There's been some talk in the past week about the Cavs possibly moving Wiggins, last month's No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, to Minnesota in exchange for all-star big man Kevin Love.
If Love will go (and why wouldn't he?) and the Timberwolves are OK with getting Wiggins in return for a guy they'd probably lose anyway (and why wouldn't they be?), then this is something that could happen in a hurry.
The first reports from NBA insiders were that the Cavs have already offered Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett and a first-round pick to Minnesota for Love, but the general belief there is that such a package won't be enough and the T'Wolves will demand that Wiggins is included in any deal they do.
Perhaps the biggest sign that it might be in the works comes from James himself, who, in an essay penned at SI.com, talked about the Cavs' roster and did not mention Wiggins. It's possible the former Jayhawks' omission was simply out of respect for the process since Wiggins has not yet signed with Cleveland, but there's also a better than good chance that James knows something about Cleveland's willingness to explore moving Wiggins to bolster the roster.
I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head. But I get a thrill out of bringing a group together and helping them reach a place they didn’t know they could go. I see myself as a mentor now and I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys. I think I can help Kyrie Irving become one of the best point guards in our league. I think I can help elevate Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. And I can’t wait to reunite with Anderson Varejao, one of my favorite teammates.
"LeBronWatch" might be over but "WigginsWatch" is just beginning.
Welcome to the NBA, Andrew.
Read LeBron's full essay about heading home to Cleveland here.
3:15 P.M. UPDATE:
Here are the photo highlights from Wiggins' trip to a local school for an NBA Cares event.
As high as Wiggins flies on the basketball court, jumping rope didn't seem to be part of his regimen — at least not with a rope that short.
2:05 P.M. UPDATE:
About to hey started here at PS III in Manhattan and I was just told that the mayor of NYC will be here to give a speech to the kids and athletes before we get started with the hoops stuff. That explains the extra police presence.
More to come soon.
1:55 P.M. UPDATE
We've arrived at PS 111 in Manattan, where Wiggins and other likely lottery picks will meet with some local kids for an NBA Cares event that includes handing out food from a food truck, a Q & A session and, of course, basketball.
This is always one of the best parts of the draft experience for these guys, many of whom are a little surprised by how much they enjoy the interaction with the kids.
Seems to me like this kind of thing is tailor-made for Wiggins, a big kid himself, and we'll have plenty of photos and videos from his time with the kids. It's a hot day in NYC, and we're on some old school blacktop.
Event should begin shortly...
1:40 P.M. UPDATE:
Jabari Parker and Wiggins were in the same media session, so it was tough to get to them both. I did hear some things from those who spent some time with Parker that seemed to indicate he believes he's going no. 2.
Wiggins was asked about that and didn't have much to say. As of this afternoon, he still said he had no idea what would happen and went out of his way to emphasize that he understands that anything's possible.
That said, he also made no secret of the fact that he wants to go no. 1 — badly. That's just what being a competitor has done to him, he said. "I don't want anyone to be picked ahead of me."
1:25 P.M. UPDATE:
Something that caught me off guard that shouldn't have was the amount of Canadian media here today and number of Canada questions Wiggins was asked.
The young man is proud of his country and really seems to understand that his place in this draft is about much more than one kid. It's about an entire country trying to make more of a name for itself in the NBA world, and Wiggins seems like a fantastic ambassador.
He was as relaxed and comfortable today as I've seen him all year and really seems to be enjoying the moment and soaking up the whole experience.
1:00 P.M. UPDATE
Wiggins, wearing a light blue, form-fitting shirt, navy slacks and a huge smile, just fielded 30 minutes worth of questions from the media here in NYC.
The most asked questions of Wiggins during the session were:
1. Does it mean anything to you to be the no. 1 pick?
2. Why do you feel you're ready for the NBA?
3. Specifics inquiries about individual workouts. Curiously, there was not a single mention of Milwaukee, which picks second. Plenty of inquiries about Cleveland at No. 1 and Philly at No. 3, and even one about Toronto at 20 (go figure), but not a peep about the Bucks.
Sounds to me like Wiggins really liked Cleveland and wants to go there for more than just the prestige of being the top pick...
I also snagged Wiggins before he began the Q & A so he could give a message to the KU fans out there.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUoW0rM6Zag 11:10 A.M. UPDATE
Just arrived at The Westin Times Square and it's about go time for Andrew Wiggins. He'll be talking in the first group at 11:30 and will be buried in the back right corner of the ballroom. Gonna have to elbow my way in for a good spot.
Dozens of autograph seekers are on the corner of 43rd Street & 8th Avenue and you can bet Wiggins will be a much sought after signature.
He signed for an hour last night at Champs in Times Square and it will be interesting to see where his energy is today.
Stay right here for photos, sound bites and anything else Andrew Wiggins from NYC today. As you surely know, Joel Embiid is not here today.
— ORIGINAL POST —
Several months worth of speculation, waiting and wondering have brought us to the final day of anticipation.
By this time tomorrow, former Kansas University freshmen Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins will have done all they can do to convince their potential future NBA destinations that they are the right guys to pick in this year's NBA Draft, which is set for 6 p.m. Thursday night at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn.
Heading into today, what will happen at the top of the draft seems very much up in the air still. Wiggins is still alive to become the No. 1 pick and, thanks to a foot injury late in the draft preparation process, Embiid appears to be out of the equation.
Then again, it is the NBA Draft, where rumors, wheeling and dealing and all kinds of craziness can take place right up until the last minute.
Some, like our own Tom Keegan, believe that all of the talk about Embiid being out of the mix for the top pick is just talk and that there might be a team or two still willing to take him there. Others believe that No. 1 position will come down to a choice by Cleveland between Wiggins and Duke's Jabari Parker.
All three players have been part of the so-called “Big Three” throughout the months leading up to the draft, and, on Tuesday, Parker seemed to be the guy who many experts thought was going to be this year's top dog. But by late Tuesday night, the tide had begun to swing Wiggins' way again and, as it stands now, I think that's where the Cavs will go. I know I would.
It's too bad, too. Because if Embiid had not injured his foot, he likely would have been the clear-cut top pick and there likely would be a lot more order in this whole thing than we currently have. Then again, it's the draft and chaos is part of the fun.
As has been the case for the past four years, I'm out here in New York City ready to track Wiggins' throughout his final day as an amateur athlete. There's media availability at the Westin Times Square scheduled for 11:30-12:30 and I'll do whatever I can to track the guy for a couple of stops after that.
So stay logged on to KUsports.com and this blog throughout the day for videos, photos, quotes, updates, Tweets and all kinds of color from the Big Apple. Embiid's not here, but I'm sure his name will come up a couple of times somewhere along the way.
In case you've missed our draft coverage leading up to today, here are a few links to get you going while you wait for the action to get started out this way.
Tom Keegan examines the chances of Tarik Black getting drafted on Thursday
Matt Tait's KU draft memories from the last 4 years in New York
Tom Keegan's column: NBA mock drafts a mockery
Gary Bedore's notebook
The curse of the NBA big man always affects drafts
NBA's one-and-done rule draws mixed reviews
Gary Bedore's update on Tarik Black's chances in the draft
Gary Bedore's report about this year's draft having plenty of Kansas flavor despite Embiid's absence
Gary Bedore's update on Bill Self's optimism about Joel Embiid's pro future
Blog Central.... Finally, blogs galore that have tried to track all of the rumors and jockeying for position leading up to the draft
Tale of the Tait — Foot injury sends Embiid falling in most NBA mock drafts
Double Chin Music — Embiid worth the risk for Cavs
Hawks in the NBA — Stock Watch 6/23
All Eyes on KU — Cavs torn between Wiggins and Parker; more on Embiid's health comes out
Andrew Wiggins workout highlights making social media rounds http://www2.kusports.com/weblogs/all_eyes_ku/2014/jun/25/andrew-wiggins-workout-highlights-show-u/
So 2 p.m. central time Monday (or today, depending upon when you're reading this) is the official time for the announcement we've all known was coming since last May.
All signs point to Kansas University freshman Andrew Wiggins being headed to the NBA.
Almost everyone I know, along with many of you I don't, accepted this fact a long time ago and most people did not have much issue with the fact that Wiggins' time in Lawrence was going to last one season, win, lose or draw.
So here we are at the end of the road. All that's left to do now is make it official, which Wiggins will do at Allen Fieldhouse on Monday next to head coach Bill Self, who likely will be sitting there with one heck of a smile on his face.
For all of the things Self does well, this is one of his more underrated areas of strength. Never does he make a young man's decision to stay or go pro about him or the program or winning. It's always about the kid. And even if Self really is sad to see a guy go, you'd never know it on announcement day.
Today's press conference is as much for Self and KU as it is for Wiggins. Sure, Wiggins has to make his intent to enter the draft official, but he could do that in a statement or even a phone interview. Having him sit in the Allen Fieldhouse media room one more time, in front of the Jayhawk backdrop, with all of the local media there is nothing but good news for Kansas and its future recruiting.
It'll probably last about 10-15 minutes and Wiggins will gush about KU, all he learned while he was here and why Kansas was absolutely the right school for him to choose. The best part about it is it will all be very genuine. Everything about Wiggins has been since the moment he first stepped on campus and I can't see him going out any other way.
Future one-and-dones will be listening and watching, and even if they're not, they'll surely read or hear his comments at some point in the near future. Whether they realize it or not, Wiggins' words will stick with them in some manner.
There was a time when these things felt a little strange at KU. People still held out hope that the announcements would favor KU and shock the world. These days, they're old hat, as common as listening to Self stress how tough winning the Big 12 yet again is going to be at the beginning of a new season.
Monday's announcement will favor KU, but not because a superstar is sticking around. It will favor KU because that superstar will say everything Self and the program need him to say on his way out the door — and he'll mean every word.
When the press conference was announced late Sunday night, I posted on Twitter the details and told my followers I'd let them fill in the rest... Here's a quick look at some of the best and most laugh-inducing responses:
• He's obviously a four year player Matt
• Mission trip then back another year....
• Skipping the NBA draft to go barnstorming with Niko, Tarik and Justin obviously.
• Redshirt is obvious
• 2? 2 = second year of college obviously
• Maybe he will say he's no where near ready for the NBA... Lol and his teammates as well
• Self is going pro and Wiggins will coach through graduation?
• He should announce it early so we don't start believing he is coming back
• Come back!
• The Decision Part II. Why isn't ESPN televising this?
By now, it seems as if most Kansas University basketball fans have given up the stance — if they ever took it — that KU freshman Andrew Wiggins has been underwhelming.
At this point, Wiggins has produced enough, both offensively and defensively, and on a consistent enough basis to be classified as this team's best player.
The 6-foot-8, 200-pound phenom leads the team with a 16.3 points-per-game average, is first in minutes played (904) by more than two full games, ranks third with 5.8 rebounds per game, third in assists (45), second in blocks (25), first in steals (29) and has attempted the most shots (145-of-324), most free throws (132-of-174) and second most three-pointers (35-of-98) while also owning the unofficial title of the team's best defensive player.
So forget whether he's disappeared for 10-minute spurts here and there or that he doesn't dunk it enough or finish consistently when he attacks the basket. None of that matters. What Wiggins has delivered has been nothing short of amazing, especially when taking into account the insane expectations that followed him to Lawrence and how well he has done at both handling those and inserting himself into the locker room as just another one of the guys.
It's genuine, too, by the way. There is no ego here. Wiggins is not all about Wiggins. In fact, he seems most comfortable during interviews when he's being asked about teammates or something other than himself.
All of this got me thinking.... What if Wiggins never came to Kansas? What if he picked Florida State or Kentucky or North Carolina last May and left the Jayhawks to fend for themselves with the roster they already had? First of all, KU would have been just fine, even without the steady dose of highlight-reel dunks, long arms on defense and lightning fast strides in transition.
But would Bill Self's bottom line have remained the same? Would the players who absorbed Wiggins' minutes — and it likely would have been several of them — have been able to produce the same results?
It's not likely. But here's a look.
(Note: I realize it's fully possible that Self might have scrambled to add another rotation guy had Wiggins chosen to go to school somewhere else, but, for the sake of this blog, we're going to say that Self would've had to move on with the roster he had.)
For this exercise, I've divvied up Wiggins' minutes to the five most likely Jayhawks who would have seen an uptick in playing time if the Canadian never came to town.
Here's how the numbers translated.
• G BRANNEN GREENE •
Increase in minutes: 40% or 362 minutes
Current points per minute average: 0.38
Projected additional points: 138
• PG FRANK MASON •
Increase in minutes: 30% or 272 minutes
Current points per minute average: 0.36
Projected additional points: 98
• G CONNER FRANKAMP •
Increase in minutes: 10% or 90 minutes
Current points per minute average: 0.29
Projected additional points: 26
• PF JAMARI TRAYLOR •
Increase in minutes: 10% or 90 minutes
Current points per minute average: 0.29
Projected additional points: 26
• G ANDREW WHITE III •
Increase in minutes: 10% or 90 minutes
Current points per minute average: 0.43
Projected additional points: 38
As you can see, the difference between the total points produced by these five players in Wiggins' absence (326) and the number of points Wiggins has tallied in those same minutes (457) would have dropped KU's overall total by 131 points and lowered its per-game average from 79.8 points per game (with Wiggins) to 75.1 points per game (without Wiggins).
Given that KU has won three games by fewer than five points this season — 67-63 over UTEP in the Bahamas; 80-78 over Oklahoma State at Allen Fieldhouse; and 64-63 over Texas Tech in Lubbock — you could make a case that Wiggins picking another school would have cost the Jayhawks at least three victories.
If that were true, not only would a 10th straight Big 12 regular season title still be up in the air, the Jayhawks, at 19-9 instead of 22-6, would be staring more at a seed in the 3-5 range in the upcoming NCAA Tournament instead of sitting in their current position where they appear to be close to a lock as a 2 and still alive for a 1.
All of this is purely speculative, of course, and there's no telling how things would have played out had Wiggins not worn crimson and blue this season. Maybe Brannen Greene would've been an instant star. Maybe another prospect would have taken the spot and filled the role admirably. Of course, this does not take into account all of the ways Wiggins' defense has impacted KU's win-loss record or the fact that, when playing more minutes, the points-per-minute number of the five guys mentioned above might actually have gone down or up.
Either way, it's a pretty compelling case for something I'm guessing we all know anyway — Wiggins has had a fantastic season and he is, without question, the MVP of the Big 12 this season.
In a recent blog ranking the 25 best players in college basketball today, ESPN.com's John Gasaway placed two Jayhawks on his list but perhaps not as high as many of you might expect.
Because the blog falls under the ESPN Insider pay wall, I can't link to it here because I don't want to send those of you who aren't "Insiders" to a link you cannot access.
But we can still discuss Gasaway's rankings.
First thing's first: He put freshman center Joel Embiid at No. 9 and freshman wing Andrew Wiggins at No. 21.
The top five looked like this: 1. Doug McDermott (Creighton), 2. Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State), 3. Lamar Patterson (Pitt), 4. Tyler Ennis (Syracuse) and 5. Julius Randle (Kentucky).
I have to admit I was a little surprised not to see Embiid and/or Wiggins higher on the list and also surprised that Duke's Jabari Parker did not crack the Top 5. For what it's worth, Gasaway ranks Parker sixth, so that's not a huge slight. And, really, if you read his explanation for the rankings, putting Embiid and Wiggins where he did is not a knock either.
Those of you who can check out the full blog should go take a look. In it, Gasaway explains that the entire exercise was done to give a better indication of the top college players who impact the college game better than anyone else. He acknowledges that often — perhaps too often — college players are judged and ranked based on their potential impact in the NBA and using that as a filter for current collegiate players often skews the process of identifying the top college players.
No one better backs up that theory than McDermott, who is as good as it gets at the college level but may not project to be quite the pro of Parker or Embiid or Wiggins.
It's an interesting concept and, for those of you out there who may consider yourselves college basketball purists, probably one that's rather refreshing.
Even if it's not, I don't think you should take it as a slight toward Embiid or Wiggins. Landing in the Top 25 is solid no matter where you are and Gasaway's explanations for both players point out that he is very aware they're likely to be among the top picks in the June draft. Again, though, for this blog, he's looking purely at how they impact the college game.
Here's a look at what he said about the two Jayhawks in his Top 25:
9 - Joel Embiid, Kansas Jayhawks
Embiid may well be the first player taken in the 2014 NBA draft, so what's he doing way "down" here at No. 9? I see no contradiction here. The NBA is correctly registering that players of Embiid's height and ability are exceptionally rare. This list is attempting to correctly measure Embiid's impact as a college player over his first 409 minutes.
Clearly, that impact has been huge. Embiid makes 70 percent of his 2s as a supporting player in a Jayhawks offense centered on Wiggins and Perry Ellis. He also blocks shots and cleans the glass at both ends. On the other hand, Embiid is still averaging more than six fouls per 40 minutes, and he has recorded four or more fouls in four of his past six outings. His minutes are limited (and that lowers the benefit KU draws from his shot-blocking), but when he's on the floor Embiid changes the game dramatically. I don't blame the NBA one bit for being keenly interested in the young man.
21 - Andrew Wiggins, Kansas Jayhawks
Wiggins will be one of the first two or three players selected in the 2014 NBA draft based on an expectation of what an 18-year-old (he'll turn 19 next month) this skilled might become in the very near future.
Meantime, he also happens to be one of the best college players in the country, one who carries a larger workload than any teammate on the offense of a national title contender. Wiggins' shooting percentages from the field are, as yet, just fair, but he takes care of the ball, draws fouls and shoots 76 percent at the line. Don't be surprised if his ranking improves on future versions of this list.
The sports memorabilia business is no joke and each year millions of dollars are spent by fans and collectors who seek autographs, equipment and other memorabilia from their favorite athletes.
This certainly is nothing new to Kansas University sports fans, many of whom spend hours after basketball games waiting for their favorite players to come out and sign autographs, but what went down Wednesday may be a first.
Tuesday night I came across a post on craigslist.com that advertised “100% authentic” Andrew Wiggins practice gear for sale.
The post included five photographs of practice shorts, a practice shirt and a pair of adidas high-top shoes that the seller claimed were autographed by Wiggins, the No. 1 hoops recruit in the Class of 2013 whom KU landed back in May.
The entry said the price for the gear was negotiable and also referenced that a friend of the seller’s was one of the head managers for the KU basketball team.
When I placed a phone call to the number listed to see how the seller got the gear or if it was, in fact, legit, I talked to a young man who claimed that his buddy had posted the items for sale. Understandably, he did not give out any more information than that and said he had to go because he was at work. Within five minutes the post had been deleted and in its place was an empty screen that simply read, “This posting has been deleted by its author.”
Although this specific post was taken down, there remained another post right next to it with similar wording that offered Andrew Wiggins and Mario Chalmers’ autographed shoes. However, that post included a different phone number. I’ve been told that these types of advertisements have appeared on the site throughout the summer and began showing up shortly after Wiggins arrived in town. Big surprise.
KU associate athletic director for public affairs Jim Marchiony said KU’s team managers in all sports are told specifically not to distribute team gear to anyone other than coaches and players.
“No question about it,” Marchiony said. “They know what’s right and what’s wrong. And I have a hard time believing that one of our managers would do something like this.”
Marchiony’s main concern was finding out where the gear came from and if it was legitimate. Regardless, he said its existence as an item for sale on craigslist did not reflect poorly on Wiggins in any way. That, from where Kansas fans sit, is welcome news considering the hot water that Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel finds himself in for allegedly autographing and profiting from signed helmets and a stack of photographs featuring the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner.
By day’s end, Marchiony said KU officials had collected the gear from the would-be seller. Marchiony said he was confident that the signatures on the memorabilia were not penned by Wiggins in the first place.
Add the entire fiasco to the list of things that get put on a university athletic department’s plate when the projected No. 1 pick in next year’s NBA Draft comes to town.
One of these days soon, Wiggins is going to be allowed to simply play basketball and that should make everything else around him irrelevant.
The Andrew-Wiggins-to-Kansas news that overjoyed Jayhawk Nation at 11:09 a.m. today and continues to send waves of happiness throughout Lawrence brings to town the latest can't-miss, one-and-done college hoops prospect.
Regardless of your opinion on OADs, the addition of Wiggins, a 6-foot-7, 190-pound wing from Huntington, W.V., who can do a little bit of everything, not only makes the Bill-Self-led Jayhawks the favorite to win a 10th straight Big 12 title but also puts Kansas firmly into the preseason Top 10, perhaps even the Top 5. Not bad for one of last year's No. 1 seeds that lost all five starters, many of whom played key roles on the Jayhawks' run to the national title game in 2012, as well.
More important than any fact about where KU will be ranked or what KU can accomplish during the 2013-14 season is the fact that adding Wiggins to the incoming class and the returning roster gives Self an incredible amount of flexibility and a seemingly endless list of options.
As Self likes it, the competition for playing time will be stiff this coming season, which not only means the Jayhawks are loaded, but also means they're going to get better. Picture this: a deep and talented crop of Jayhawks new and old battling against one another for minutes every day during practice. There will be no fear about going too hard, only fear about not going hard enough.
Wiggins, who is projected by many to be the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, will certainly be pencilled in as a starter from Day 1.
The rest of the starting lineup remains to be seen, but, again, there are a bunch of different options for Self.
Here's an early stab at what the opening night starting lineup could look like, followed by a look at KU's reserves:
PG: Naadir Tharpe, jr.
SG: Wayne Selden, fr.
SF: Andrew Wiggins, fr.
PF: Perry Ellis, soph.
C: Joel Embiid, fr.
PG: Frank Mason, fr.
SG: Conner Frankamp, fr.
SF: Brannen Greene, fr.
SF: Andrew White III, soph.
PF: Jamari Traylor, soph.
PF: Landen Lucas, RS-fr.
PF: Justin Wesley, sr.
Don't forget that Memphis forward Tarik Black is visiting KU today and, should he choose the Jayhawks, he would offer Self yet another option in the starting lineup. Perhaps something like this:
PG: Naadir Tharpe, jr.
SG: Wayne Selden, fr.
SF: Andrew Wiggins, fr.
PF: Perry Ellis, soph.
C: Tarik Black, sr.
What all of this tells me is (a) KU will not have to worry about a lack of athleticism next season; and (b) Naadir Tharpe better be ready to take on a leadership role because he'll be playing with a bunch of youngins.
As many of you may know, I've loved Tharpe's leadership traits since his freshman season and I think he took a real step forward in that department last season. Give him another summer to go to work and adjust to the feeling that this is his team to lead and I think he'll be primed for a fantastic junior year.
Remember, Tharpe was at his best last season when he served as a facilitator, and with these lineups and the offensive weapons KU will have coming off the bench, it will be pretty clear that getting the ball to the right guys will be Tharpe's No. 1 job next season.