Culture of Hoops

Can Andrew Wiggins be the next LeBron James?

 Image courtesy of Basketball Elite/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Basketball Elite/Flickr.

The comparisons were made when Andrew Wiggins was in high school in Canada. His length, his skills, his speed; he was to be the next LeBron James. Coming up on the All-Star break, let’s see how the young Canuck is faring.

28.2 ppg, 6.5 reb, 5.9 ast: Michael Jordan, Rookie Year

20.9 ppg, 5.5 reb, 5.9 ast: LeBron James, Rookie Year

20.3 ppg, 4.4 reb, 2.4 ast: Kevin Durant, Rookie Year

15.4 ppg, 4.3 reb, 1.9 ast : Andrew Wiggins, Rookie Year (ongoing)

7.6 ppg, 1.9 reb, 1.3 ast: Kobe Bryant, Rookie Year

Let’s take a step back for a moment here. No offense to Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, or any of the games other elite players, but to me LeBron James is the gold standard in the NBA today. He plays a complete game, is able to play virtually anywhere on the floor, can guard 1 through 5, and is solid at both ends of the floor—though in looking back it’s hard to not to believe that Michael Jordon is the best player to ever lace up a pair of high-tops based on his rookie numbers.

Wiggins clearly is not in the class of the elite currently, but he can get there. Jordan played three years in North Carolina before coming to the NBA. He was 21. LeBron and Kobe came straight into the league from high school, and Durant and Wiggins both played one year at college. The clear difference to me for Wiggins is the class of players he had to face in high school.

Basketball in Canada is not nearly at the level it is in the United States at the high school or university level. The sheer volume of players that are available in the U.S. means the cream of the crop is beating out more competition than there is total north of the border. It also hurts that basketball takes a backseat to hockey. But to me these facts are the greatest testament to how much better Wiggins can get.

Kobe is the best example of how much better practice can make a player. During his rookie season, Kobe played in 70 games, only starting in six. It’s tough to put up amazing numbers in that situation. In his second year the stats nearly doubled, despite only starting one game. It wasn’t until Kobe’s fourth year in the league that he broke the 20 PPG plateau. He’s averaged 25.4 so far for his career. If Kobe can achieve these numbers why can’t Wiggins? I see nothing to stop Wiggins from being able to improve on very solid numbers from his rookie year over the next three years as he adjusts and improves based on the level of competition around him.

Wiggins appears to be one of the better young talents the game has to offer, and perhaps being in Minnesota will give him time to develop away from intense media scrutiny. He still has a lot of growth left, this kid from Canada. He might even be good enough to supplant Steve Nash as the only foreign player to win back-to-back MVPs.

Featured image courtesy of Keith Allison/Flickr.

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