So remember all that excitement about watching potential future Celtics Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins in the NCAA tournament? Yea that's all gone now.
Two days after Jabari Parker was beaten by Mercer (and went 4-14 in the process), Wiggins (not to mention the injured Joel Embiid) and Kansas were sent packing by 10-seed Stanford in what basically amounted to a home game for KU.
And this was not a case of Wiggins playing well while his teammates struggled. Instead, the former consensus #1 pick was confounded by the Cardinal zone, shooting 1-6 from the field on his way to a four point afternoon. Even worse than the poor shooting, he was completely unaggressive, content with deferring to his not-so-great supporting cast all game long as the Jayhawks faltered on the offensive end.
Much like with Parker, the internet was angry. "Jeff Green version 2.0", "not an alpha dog", "not worth a top three pick" they shouted.
And some of the criticism is valid. 1-6 for four points is a colossal disappointment by any stretch of the imagination. And his early season inconsistencies (which he had basically corrected recently) reared their ugly head. At times it looked like this was the first time he had ever seen a zone defense, and that the lack of space impacted his ability to use his speed and athleticism to beat his man.
But lets calm down a bit, and remember a few things:
- His defense was phenomenal. Yes, phenomenal. He was a major reason why Stanford went 0-9 from three, and he helped force several turnovers during the Jayhawks ill-fated comeback attempt. While Parker is undoubtedly a more consistent offensive player right now, he's also a below average defender (and that's being nice). Wiggins on the other hand has all of the tools to be an all-NBA defender.
- His Freshman year was still a success, even if he didn't live up to the hype. Sure, Wiggins proved he's no Kevin Durant or Carmelo Anthony (right now). 17 PPG isn't "lighting the world on fire", nor transcendent. And yes, he proved incapable, at age 18/19, of putting his team on his back game in and game out. But don't let the fact that he wasn't the best player in the country cloud your judgement. 17/6 with 45/35 shooting splits and great defense is one hell of a Freshman season from a kid playing in the best Conference in the country, and playing the role of #1 scorer for his team. I've dropped these names before, but if you're calling Wiggins a bust for his season, you also would have called Paul Pierce, Paul George and Dwyane Wade busts as they all had worse (or very similar) Freshman seasons. Do you think that would have been a smart move? Probably not.
- He was without Embiid, and lost to a team with a front line composed of all upper classmen. This has nothing to do with Wiggins poor performance, which was disappointing no matter how you slice it, but in terms of the loss itself, this wasn't a total shock. Kansas' frontline without Embiid is just ok, and they matched up with a really good group of Stanford bigs. KU still should have won, but this was not an upset on par with Mercer over Duke, or Dayton over Syracuse.
Before today my top three was Wiggins, Parker and Embiid, and after today it remains the same. It was a bad game (awful offensively, good defensively) from a talented player not quite able to bring his A-game every single game. Nothing more, nothing less. Disappointing, but far from a predictor of future play.
That said, I'm pretty bummed out. For the first time in years the Celtics are in position to get a great talent, and yet the four best college players (Wiggins, Parker, Embiid, Marcus Smart) are all heading home before the first weekend is through. A sad season gets a little sadder.
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For more of my articles, click here Michael Dyer 3/23/2014 03:11:00 PM Tweet