Sunday, December 22, 2013

Prospect Watch: Kansas vs Georgetown

A lop-sided affair between a team packing two likely top-5 picks in the upcoming draft and one unlikely to have a player drafted this year, any game with Kansas is worth watching for draft fans regardless.

Andrew Wiggins - Kansas
Invisible for much of the game, Wiggins finished with a quiet 12 points on 3-10 shooting. He seemed half-hearted offensively, especially once the lead blew out to double digits. However, he was superb defensively, with a number of stellar defensive plays, including a blocked jumper after fighting around a screen, which gives you an idea of just how athletically gifted he is. He finished with 3 steals and one block, but as always, stats don't tell the full story on the defensive end. If freshman rival Jabari Parker's performance against UCLA was all O and no D, Wiggins' showing against the Hoyas was almost the exact opposite. 

However, there were some positives offensively. His shooting stroke looked good, and he managed 2-5 from beyond the arc. He gets up so quick into his shot that it's almost impossible to stop, he just needs to work on his consistency. He also managed 4 assists, usually off strong drives where he drew double-teams, and while he doesn't make spectacular passes, he often makes the simple - and correct - pass to the open man.

I've seen Wiggins play a few times now, and the trend that has emerged is that Wiggins plays a lot better when his team is down, his back against the wall. In games like this, where Kansas has the upper hand, Wiggins tries to fit in, doesn't seem to be in attack mode, and focuses on playing D. But in games where he's been down, he becomes much more aggressive and effective. After receiving a shove after the whistle on one play, Wiggins flashed his aggressive potential and buried a 3 in vengeance. If he played with that fire every minute, he'd be doing some special things.

That said, would you really want him to? Is it a bad thing that Wiggins tries to share the ball when the team is playing well and doesn't look for his own shot too much?

These are all questions Wiggins will have to answer if he wants to reclaim pole position for being taken first overall in the 2014 NBA draft.

Joel Embiid - Kansas
If you had to find another reason for Wiggins' quiet game, you would look no further than the sheer dominance of Joel Embiid in this contest.

The closest thing to Hakeem Olajuwon since the Dream himself, in both background and talent, Embiid earned that comparison and then some against Georgetown. I was intrigued to see how Embiid would handle the load on the block that is Joshua Smith. After struggling to keep him from establishing position early on, Embiid changed his strategy to front him more and did a superb job deflecting or bothering post-entry passes to the Georgetown giant.

Embiid finished with one block, but it was a doozy. Georgetown's Aaron Bowen was driving hard to the rim and elevated for the throwdown, but Embiid rose up before him and blocked it clean to stop the basket, and regain possession for Kansas.

However, players with Embiid's defensive potential are a dime a dozen these days. What really impressed me was his offensive arsenal. He showed excellent footwork against the bigger Smith, using a number of spin moves to lose him on the block. Finishing with 17 points on 4-4 shooting, Embiid also displayed both his toughness after finishing through contact a number of times, and his great FT shooting touch - the bane of many a great C (cough*Dwight Howard*cough). He also stepped out to the baseline to swish a mid-range J, which is a nice tool to have in his arsenal - although importantly, he didn't fall in love with it and went straight back to the low block.

While he could stand to gain some weight, the upside for Embiid is sky-high, and I'd have no problems taking him first overall for the same reason Houston drafted Olajuwon over Jordan.

- Josh Smith still needs to lose weight, but showed the soft hands and touch inside which draws the attention of optimistic basketball fans the world over. He has the size and skill, he just needs to little less of the former to show off the latter.
- Wayne Selden had a quiet game, but showed his shooting form is solid and had a nice dunk off the alley from Frank Mason. A likely lottery pick on upside alone, Selden could stand to return to Allen Fieldhouse for a second season to assert himself as the man and show scouts what he's capable of, instead of playing second-fiddle to Wiggins/Embiid.

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