Andrew Wiggins vs Ben McLemore. The Kansas Jayhawks have been blessed with an outstanding swing man in back-to-back seasons. McLemore played one season for the Jayhawks, after sitting out an NCAA mandated year, and Wiggins in the midst of what will most certainly be his only season on campus.
Though Wiggins has just about half the games played (19) as McLemore a year ago (37), their numbers are remarkably similar. Wiggins is averaging 15.8 points a game in 31.7 minutes, to McLemore’s 15.9 points in 32.2 minutes.
Wiggins is the better rebounder statistically, 6.0 to 5.2, but if you take away the one game when Wiggins recorded 19 boards, McLemore is slightly ahead. McLemore averaged 2 assists per contest to 1.6 for Wiggins.
Some of the other stats are just fractions apart. Wiggins averages .9 steals, McLemore .8. Wiggins has .8 blocks per contest, McLemore had .7. Wiggins has 2.2 turnovers an outing, McLemore had 2.1.
It is incredible how close these numbers are across the board, but there is one part of the game where McLemore, the 7th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, clearly outshines the present Kansas freshman – shooting the ball.
McLemore was better shooting the basketball, regardless of the range than Wiggins has been thus far. McLemore shot 49.5% from the field compared to 45% for Wiggins. From three-point range, McLemore hit 42% of his attempts, and Wiggins is cashing in on only 33.8% from behind the arc. From the charity stripe, McLemore was superb, knocking down 87% of his free throws while Wiggins is hitting 77.6% of his free throws.
Even the shots taken per game is almost even as Wiggins shoots the ball 11 times a game compared to 10.8 times for McLemore.
Both players had trouble being aggressive consistently. McLemore probably didn’t shoot the ball enough for the team he was on. He was clearly the best offensive option but he often passed on his shot, deferring to his teammates on a senior laden ball club. Wiggins has been reluctant for whatever reasons, to be aggressive with the ball in his hands.
Kansas’ present player is a better ball handler than last year’s. Wiggins is better at getting to the rim on his own. There has been some indication of late that Wiggins is starting to realize that, as he has driven to the basket more often recently.
Over the past 2 games, he has been fouled a lot, and he has taken 22 free throws, making 19. For the season, Wiggins has only 16 less free throw attempts than McLemore had all season. There is a chance Wiggins could pass McLemore’s 138 charity attempts from a year ago over the next two ball games.
McLemore is having a decent rookie campaign in the NBA. He was named the NBA Western Conference Rookie of the Year for November, and he is averaging 23.7 minutes, 7.8 points, and 22.7 rebounds thus far for the Kings. His college shooting percentages are not translating as he has hit just 36.4% of his field goal attempts, 35.1% from behind the arc, and just 79.3% from the line.
Wiggins, in a worst case scenario, has at least 14 more games left for the Jayhawks – 12 more Big 12 games, at least one Big 12 tournament game, and at least one NCAA game. Best case scenario, Kansas will play in 21 more games.
There is a good chance that Wiggins will separate himself somewhat from McLemore over the next 2 months, at least statistically. Wiggins appears to be the smoother all around ball player, but McLemore shot the ball better. If Wiggins can continue this recent trend of getting to the foul line ten or more times a game, his point totals are going to rise.
From a talent standpoint, the players around Wiggins are better, so he will not have to carry his team very often, but he does have the ability to do so. Focus seems to be a key component to the freshman’s performances. If he is locked in and dedicated to the cause, he is going to be very hard to contain. If Wiggins and his teammates can continue to improve, this year’s team may get a few games more in than last year’s edition.
It will be interesting to revisit this comparison after this season, and see if Wiggins can in fact separate his statistical performances from that of his predecessor. Right now, they are pretty darn close!