Long before the Orlando Magic acquired Vince Carter from the New Jersey Nets in the summer of 2009, he had already left his high-flying imprint on a generation of Canadians who watched him star for the Toronto Raptors.
One of those many admirers could end up being the first player chosen in the NBA draft on June 26.
Andrew Wiggins, who grew up in the Toronto suburb of Vaughan before spending a closely-scrutinized year in college at Kansas, has a style of play which has drawn comparisons to not only Carter in his prime, but also Kobe Bryant. While neither of those future superstars was taken with one of the top four choices in their respective drafts, there is little to no chance of Wiggins still being available when the Magic are scheduled to pick fourth overall.
The 6-foot-8, 200-pound Wiggins averaged 17.1 points and 5.9 rebounds on a team that included Joel Embiid, the center who is also considered a lock to go to Cleveland, Milwaukee or Philadelphia before the Magic’s turn. Despite having two potential top-three picks in their starting five, Kansas did not advance very far in the NCAA tournament. Embiid missed the final weeks of the season with a back injury while Wiggins had a miserable showing in the Jayhawks’ 60-57 loss to Stanford, scoring only four points on 1-for-6 shooting.
"Everything is a learning experience with young kids," Kansas coach Bill Self said afterward. "And, you know, this isn’t the worst thing that’s going to happen to him in his life. If it is, he’s had a charmed life, there’s no question about that. So you’ve got to learn to grow from it. When you get in these positions again, maybe do something a little differently — maybe to put yourself in the game or prepare or something. But hey, the kid’s had a remarkable season."
For the record, Carter reached the Final Four in his final year at North Carolina before joining the Raptors and had a game-high 21 points in a 65-59 loss to Utah. At 37, he’s still in the NBA but still looking for his first championship. He got to the Eastern Conference finals with the Magic in 2010 before they were beaten in six games by the Boston Celtics.
Wiggins’ athleticism has been regarded as even more one-of-a-kind than that of possible No. 1 pick Jabari Parker.
As accomplished as he already is, particularly his second jump and with the improvements he has made to his shooting mechanics, itâs his upside that makes him a more intriguing prospect than Parker. Wiggins should be able to add more weight without sacrificing any of the attributes which make him so special.
While he isn’t as charismatic as Victor Oladipo, the Magic’s first-round pick a year ago, Wiggins is by all accounts well-grounded and a good teammate.
His showing against Stanford heightened concerns about Wiggins’ jump shot. But the biggest knock on him so far is that, for all the comparisons to Bryant, his on-court personality appears to be the total opposite. Can he become a more vocal leader? That’s something no private workouts can measure.
His ball-handling and passing skills also need some work, although that’s not uncommon for any 19-year-old.
WHY THE MAGIC SHOULD DRAFT HIM
Arron Afflalo was their only consistent scoring threat for most of last season, and he wore down noticeably over the final two months. Teaming Wiggins with Afflalo and Oladipo would upgrade the Magic in transition as well as on defense. For a team which ranked in the bottom third of the NBA in scoring and field-goal percentage, there’s no downside to picking Wiggins.
WHY THE MAGIC SHOULD AVOID HIM
For as much time and effort as the Magic have invested in bringing along Maurice Harkless the past two years, it could be awkward to add a player with a similar build and skill set to his. But that could be a moot point in that while some mock drafts have Wiggins slipping, the chance of him being available at No. 4 is remote.
His father, Mitchell Wiggins, was a first-round draft pick in 1983 out of Florida State and was on the Houston Rockets team that reached the NBA Finals in 1986. His mother, Marita Payne, won two silver medals in track and field for Canada in the 1984 Olympics.