By Joe Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) —He’s 6-foot-8, 210 pounds and can do almost anything he wants on a basketball court. A twisting turn-around jumper is gold. His quickness, speed, ability to shut down an opposing player is phenomenal. He’s so good at 18 that NBA teams—including the 76ers—are trying to align themselves for the 2014 NBA Draft so they can get him.
Andrew Wiggins is that much of a franchise-changing player. The problem is, Wiggins will be a freshman at Kansas and the Sixers will have to lose wholesale to land him.
Wiggins is often favorably compared to LeBron James, which not exactly accurate. He’s not as physically developed as James was at the same age, though skill wise, he’s close. He has greater range on his jump shot than James did as a high school senior, and being the son of former NBA player Mitchell Wiggins and Canadian Olympic track star Marita Payne, Wiggins is faster. His athleticism is off the charts.
“I think Andrew is very good, but there is way too much hype about him. He has freakish athleticism; he’s an excellent defender,” said Alex Kline, a highly respected national high school basketball guru who runs The Recruit Scoop on Rivals.com.
“I think he’s an underrated defender. He already has NBA-ready skills. People question his heart in games that don’t matter as much. Don’t get me wrong, he has a great motor when he wants to. He’s pretty amazing skill wise. I think he’s going to be very good in college, but people are setting the bar way too high for him, if they’re comparing him to LeBron. He should have a long term NBA career, pending injury. But the bar is set way too high if you’re comparing him to LeBron.
“He does have greater range on his shot than LeBron did at the same age. We still haven’t seen Wiggins in that setting where he has to take the big shot to win a game. I’m sure we’ll see that in 40 college games. I do think what the Sixers are doing is smart. I think Wiggins is worth the risk to do what the Sixers are doing. He has the potential to be a superstar in the NBA. The Sixers have the pieces to be a pretty good team with Wiggins. It’s high-risk, high-reward.”
The Sixers are stuck in a tough spot though. They’re essentially saying they’re bagging the 2013-14 season, saddling first-round draft picks Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams with coping how to lose. The two probably never lost more than 15 games in a season. They will this coming year.
But who knows.
The Sixers, to their credit, took a great risk in getting Andrew Bynum. And even though we all know how that turned out, maybe the risk in losing 2013 can finally reap a major bonus this time around in securing the first pick and getting Wiggins.
The interesting thing about this coming NBA season is that Sixers fans may be paying far more attention to the Kansas Jayhawks than they will be filling the Wells Fargo Center.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.