Previous “Jump Ball” articles:
9/26 – Kawhi Leonard v Jimmy Butler
10/2 – Blake Griffin v Serge Ibaka
TALE OF THE TAPE
|ANDREW WIGGINS||GORDON HAYWARD|
|Minnesota Timberwolves||Team||Utah Jazz|
|SG, SF||Position (Y! Eligibility)||SG, SF|
|T-87th||9-Cat Rank (Total Value)||T-29th|
|T-130th||9-Cat Rank (Per Game)||T-36th|
|36.2||Minutes Per Game||34.4|
|21.1 (T-101st)||Usage Rate (Rank)||25.4 (T-32nd)|
THE CASE FOR ANDREW WIGGINS
You might be wondering why two players who were separated by nearly 100 ranking positions (per game basis) in 2014 are going head-to-head just one season later. Well, it really is quite simple – JB is irrationally high on Wiggins this year and he forced me to write this.
Kidding aside, the Wolves young swingman is poised to make a big leap in his second year on an exciting team that will demand a lot from him on both ends of the floor. Wiggins saw the second most total minutes in the NBA during the 2014/2015 season (only James Harden played more), due in large part to his raw talent, but also attributable to the lack of healthy NBA-calibre players Minnesota had available for long stretches of last season. So even entering the 2015 with a deeper, healthier roster, Wiggins is poised to see a ton of floor time. Opportunity, of course, comes by way of minutes, but also via usage. In 2014 Andrew Wiggins was outside the top-100 players in terms of usage rate and I would look for that to rise this year as the young Canadian is reported to have spent the offseason working on his ball-handling as well as his long-distance shooting. These efforts already started to bear fruit as Wiggins connected on 15 of 29 (.517%) 3-point attempts during the FIBA Americas tournament and was the only player to average over 10 FGAs per game. He also showed some aggression, as evidenced by his team-leading 44 attempts from the charity stripe. Granted, it’s a small sample size against lesser opposition, but these numbers can be seen as an encouraging sign coming off a rookie NBA season where he shot just .310 from deep and would, at times, defer to teammates several notches lower on the offensive totem pole.
Beyond the development of Wiggins’ own skills, there is the benefit of a healthy Ricky Rubio returning to the fold. As one of the best pure passers in the league, Rubio will be a boon to AW’s value by generating easy transition buckets as well as delivering passes out of half court sets that will make shot selection simpler. As the game slows down and the pieces around him improve, Andrew Wiggins should enjoy a bump in his shooting percentage which will help his fantasy value tremendously. I also believe that Wiggins will improve on the defensive end of the floor with the confidence of having a potentially elite rim protector (rookie Wolves PF/C, Karl-Anthony Towns) behind him. The 20-year old Canuck was second on his national team this summer in both steals and blocks and having watched all 10 of those games, it appeared to my eyes as though he is starting to figure out how to better utilize his elite athletic gifts on the defensive end of the floor.
Ultimately what you’ll be getting by drafting Andrew Wiggins is an exciting young player who will see a lot of floor time on an equally exciting team. And during all those active minutes, you can expect Wiggins to enjoy the company of a talented – albeit very young – core of players who should help him improve his efficiency and ability to contribute meaningful statistics across more categories.
THE CASE FOR GORDON HAYWARD
Given my national bias as a Canadian, it somewhat pains me to have to juxtapose the talent and upside of Andrew Wiggins with a player in Gordon Hayward who I believe has a very good chance at posting top-20 fantasy value in 2015.
With the season-ending injury suffered by the Utah Jazz’s incumbent starting PG Dante Exum, there is a cascade effect that will wash over the rest of this team’s roster. When it comes to how it will impact Gordon Hayward, I believe fantasy owners will be treated to a rare year of a player posting 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists. Add to that 3.5 combined steals, blocks and three-pointers made, a nicely weighted FT% in the low-80s, and the comfort of owning a player who hasn’t played less than 72 games in any of the past three seasons, you have yourself a surefire fantasy stud.
As a team, the Utah Jazz are almost unanimously believed to be “on the rise,” and one of a handful of squads that should contend for a lower playoff seed in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. With no reliable true point guard, the offense could – and should – run through its best offensive player, Gordon Hayward. Now entering his sixth season with the Jazz, the former Butler standout is poised to see a career-high in both minutes and usage rate which should help propel him to new statistical high water marks nearly across the board. Consider also for a moment that Utah was dead last in the Association for team pace last year – so they have only one way to go in that regard.
Most avid basketball fans will have noticed a fairly drastic physical transformation over the last couple years when it comes to Hayward, and I believe the 26-year old is now better built to withstand the rigors of being the focal point of an offense over a competitive 82 game season. There really are very few negatives to Hayward’s game and situation for this coming season, and if he can continue to post a respectable FG% (.445 in 2014), there are only a handful of wing players who have a higher fantasy ceiling.
Let’s take a look at how these two players should stack up head-to-head for fantasy owners in 2015 looking to roster a high upside swingman with an early round pick (* denotes my projected category winner):
|ANDREW WIGGINS||GORDON HAYWARD|
I think I knew this before, during and after I made each player’s case – the American takes this jump ball over my brother from the North…but it’s closer than I thought it would be (with some hair-splitting in a number of categories).
The decision to pick Gordon Hayward over Andrew Wiggins has more to do with the former’s upside this year than any sort of deficiencies in the latter’s game. I strongly believe that Hayward can post numbers placing him in a similar class as fellow multi-cat studs, Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler – two players who are routinely being selected a full round earlier than Hayward. Wiggins has that potential, but just not as a sophomore; he’s still a year or two away from posting top-20 value in my opinion.
The Utah Jazz are an up-and-coming team who, with good health afforded to their core players (Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Rudy Gobert), will be able to make some noise in the Northwest division. Savvy owners will see to it that Gordon Hayward is a core part of their roster if they want to make that same kind of noise in their fantasy leagues.
Agree/disagree? Who is your choice when you’re on the clock? Feedback is always welcome, so please share your thoughts in the comments section below or come find me in the Twitterverse at @moneyballmatty. Cheers!