High School, NBA / Sep 19, 2012 / 4:00 pm

Could Andrew Wiggins Start In The NBA Right Now? We Debate

Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins (photo. Nike)

How young is too young? Well, we’ve had 43-year-old presidents. Justin Bieber was an annoying sensation at 15, and Freddy Adu signed a professional deal at 14. Just two years ago, a 15-year-old girl named Lexi Thompson quit school to play on the LPGA Tour and yet, no one seemed to give a shit. Only in basketball do the fake mothers and fathers come out of hiding to preach on how they’d raise their young sons. Only in basketball do kids turning pro get scolded for jumping at the money or chasing their dream. Dime challenged the ruling in the past, giving this fact: if you jump from high school to the NBA, you have over a 70 percent chance of making it as (at least) a solid rotational player. We’d take those odds.

Andrew Wiggins doesn’t worry about making the jump, because, as you know, he’s not allowed to. Sure, he’s probably the best perimeter prospect since some cat from Ohio back in the early 2000s, but regardless, jumping from his Huntington Prep lineup to the best league in the world isn’t going to happen.

Despite that, his coach there says college is a waste of time for the 6-7 (or 6-8, depending on who you talk to) Wiggins. Rob Fulford also told The Kentucky Kernel he thinks his swingman could “start for an NBA team tomorrow.”

Wiggins might reclassify to the class of 2013 and basically skip a year of high school to hit college basketball earlier, but the leap to the NBA (and remember, we’re speaking in imaginary terms since David Stern is no fun) requires a few things: phenomenal athleticism, a skill level that’s off the charts, and if you want to fit in, a minimum of five tattoos (we’ll let Wiggins slide on this one).

Starting a high school kid in the NBA, even if it’s just for one game, sounds asinine. But at least for the best high school player in Canada/America, it forces you to stop and think.

Could Wiggins start in the NBA right now? We argue. You decide.

*** *** ***

YES
I’ll admit I was kind of backed into this position by our other writers. I’m the guy who laughed off the Kentucky vs. NBA debate because it was incredibly stupid. The ‘Cats would get skinned by an NBA team.

But I saw Wiggins play this summer and I’ll be shocked if he isn’t an NBA All-Star in five years. Does that mean I think he could start in the NBA tomorrow? Technically – if you really want to be specific – no. He’d need at least a few practices, a chance to dap up his point guard and let him know, “Hey, I like my lobs soft. Make sure it hits me at the corner of the box.” Wiggins would need some time to get his head coach to trust him, and get him to believe that starting a 17-year-old in a NBA game wouldn’t get him fired on the spot.

Anyway, let me throw out a few names for you:

-DeShawn Stevenson
-Alonzo Gee
-Omri Casspi
-Wesley Johnson
-Chris Singleton
-John Salmons

All of those guys started at least 30 games last year at the swingmen spots. I mean… Stevenson scored 2.9 points a night and finished the year with a PER of 4.3. Teddy Dupay could put up better numbers than that. Right now.

I know Wiggins is the real deal. I believe. So do guys like Julius Randle, who got manhandled by Wiggins this summer.

Still, at the Nike Global Challenge during the World Basketball Festival 2012 this summer in Washington, D.C., I nearly missed Andrew Wiggins. I knew the teams who were playing, but weirdly, it’s always hard to envision Wiggins as a Canadian (believe me, I’ve screwed this up multiple times before despite meeting him this summer, and decided if I ever do it again, I’ll quit this job to go write for a hockey magazine). That’s no diss – it’s just that he plays high school ball in America and regularly gets compared to LeBron James. Wiggins is the current poster boy of high school basketball, and feels right at home as the next in line to players like James, Carmelo Anthony, O.J. Mayo and Kevin Durant.

Against some of the best talent in America, Wiggins was head and shoulders above the rest (as were Canada’s yellow camo jerseys). It wasn’t his production either that stood out, even as he averaged 19.7 points and 7.0 rebounds throughout the event (he didn’t play all that well in the final, finishing with “only” 23 points against the USA Midwest). It was just the way he looked. I’ve seen A LOT of great high school players, and Wiggins screamed “NBA STAR” more than any of them. More than Kyrie Irving. More than Carmelo Anthony. More than Eddie Griffin. More than DeMarcus Cousins or Derrick Favors or Kevin Durant or Michael Beasley. Wiggins exploded off the floor. His bounce is effortless and super quick, like a 22-year-old Shawn Marion on a sugar high. His game off the dribble is still limited, but his pull-up jumper already looks like something out of Rudy Gay‘s playbook.

Defensively, he was like a Condor, swallowing up the lane, contesting shots from five feet away and hitting the glass as hard as anyone.

In a few years, Wiggins will be in the NBA regardless. If you asked him to actually start for a NBA team tomorrow, I’m not sure he could do it. But if we gave him a little leeway – a couple of weeks or a month – then I think there’s a spot somewhere out there for him.

I’m not sold Wiggins could do it, just because we’re brought up to believe it’s impossible even though LeBron James looked like a freaking All-Star at 18 years old. But I wouldn’t put money up either way. Someone would give the young kid an opportunity. And at the end of the day, we still have the Charlotte Bobcats.
-SEAN SWEENEY

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