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College, NBA Draft / Mar 24, 2014 / 11:30 am

Dissecting Andrew Wiggins & What’s Wrong With The Internet Age

Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins (Scott Rovak/USA TODAY Sports)

Attention in the digital age is a fickle, funny thing. When Kevin Durant drops game-winning buckets in Toronto, Twitter lights up with praise for this season’s likely MVP. If LeBron James has a paltry fourth quarter, the dissenters come out of the woodwork. The Internet gives us instant access to a wider scope of opinions than any time in history, yet our attention has become so focused on moment-to-moment interaction that we have lost sight of the future.

Before he’d ever played a minute for Kansas, Andrew Wiggins was the toast of college basketball. For better or for worse, he was the face for a class that was heralded as the best in a decade, both literally and figuratively.

Magazine covers were just the start–draft sites called him “The Next Franchise Talent.” Scouts wondered if he was “the best prospect since LeBron,” perhaps forgetting the mythology surrounding Greg Oden‘s prep career. Regardless, the hype train was in motion before most basketball fans ever saw him play.

By any reasonable standards, Wiggins had a successful freshman season. Leading the Big 12 champion Jayhawks in scoring at 17.1, while averaging 5.9 rebounds, 1.0 blocks and 1.2 steals a game, he showed off a mix of otherworldly athleticism, defensive prowess and effective shooting. At his best, he’s been positively electric–the 41-point performance against West Virginia on March 8 was probably the best individual performance of the season, and a standout of the last 15 years statistically.

But it’s the lows, and there have been plenty of them, that many are focused on. Bowing out in the second round to 10th-seeded Stanford is one thing–Tim Duncan met the exact same fate during his senior year at Wake Forest. Doing it anonymously is another. Four points on six shots is inexplicable for a player with his talent, particularly in a do-or-die game.

Fans have been conditioned to seek out the alpha dogs, the go-to scorers, and from this perspective Wiggins leaves much to be desired. On his “off” days, he looks content to simply be a part of the team, drifting around the perimeter, waiting until his teammates see fit to get him the ball. He blends in, something you could never accuse most prep stars of.

Sports followers only have so much time in the day, so we rely on top 10 plays and slimmed-down summaries to build the stories we can’t manage to ourselves. That starts with fans, but extends to beat writers, insiders, even executives, who rely on incomplete data no matter how hard they work. Combined with the cynical nature of the Internet generation, always told something is “The Next Big Thing” (shout out to Samsung), and public failure has never been so potent.

When Michael Jordan repeatedly fell at the hands of the Bad Boys Pistons, there were questions about whether a pure scorer could ever lead a championship team, but they were isolated to newspapers, chats in barbershops, and discussions among diehards. They were mere whispers compared to the shouting that takes place today from anyone with WiFi.

Because of this dynamic, the ratio between having an opinion and being qualified to say it has never been more distorted. There’s a lower price of admission to be able to share what you think, and it has diluted the discourse immensely. Even people who live, breathe and think basketball are prone to falling into the trap, sharing their thoughts without a solid base of information to draw from.

Things like this rain down on a 19-year-old kid from Ontario so frequently that they have become white noise. It’s not as important to be right as it is to be among the quickest and loudest to offer an opinion–call it the Skip Bayless corollary. What we say gets swallowed up so quickly by the masses that there’s hardly time to remember it.

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  • north

    If you’d like to read a good article about this with some great quotes from Steve Nash. http://sports.nationalpost.com/2014/03/23/canadian-andrew-wiggins-hyped-season-ends-in-confounding-fashion/

  • robbybonfire23

    Kyle –

    Re Wiggins, you fail to mention his mediocre floor shooting percentage, in favor of the more glossy PPG number, which anyone, given enough shots can accomplish. You also overlooked Wiggins’ paltry, ball-hogging average of 1 1/2 assists per 40 minutes play in the conference.

    Now when you have Joel Embiid in the middle and cannot, or will not – which is probably closer to reality, get the ball to him, you can be trashed as a “Me first – team last” player.

    And with Embiid out of the NCAA tournament, Wiggins was never a bigger embarrassment, as he was in his team’s final game of the season vs. Stanford. He just disappeared off the map with his team’s season on the line.

    Great athletic skills are one thing, but translating them into polished and prolific basketball skills while meshing with your teammates is a daunting task for any young man with major holes in his game. The jury is definitely out on this man, who probably is making his NBA debut at least a year too soon. I hope he proves me wrong, but right now I am of the opinion that the Cavs aced the T-Wolves on that blockbuster deal.

  • robbybonfire23

    P.S., Kyle, Hoop 76 is looking for a column blogger. Wish, somehow, you could reconnect with them, I did enjoy your input so much, last season.