UNC Basketball: What if Andrew Wiggins had come to UNC?

Freshman phenom Andrew Wiggins was one of the most hyped high school prospects since LeBron James. He chose Kansas as his college home and has averaged 15 points and 6 boards this season while shooting 45%. He scored a career high 27 points against TCU last Saturday, leading Kansas to their seventh straight win.

Back in May, before Wiggins had made his college choice, he had his list trimmed to four schools- Kentucky, Kansas, FSU, and UNC. Many experts believed that was the order that his list was in, but instead of joining up with Kentucky’s already number one recruiting class, Wiggins surprised everyone by choosing Kansas.

But what if Andrew Wiggins had shunned Kansas, Kentucky and FSU to come play for Carolina?

Lets set up some guidelines for this tricky what if. First of all, lets assume Reggie Bullock leaves for the NBA and James Michael McAdoo comes back for his junior season. Also, lets keep the PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald situations constant as well, with PJ gone and Leslie out the first nine games like what happened this season.

Lets start this off by taking a good look at Andrew Wiggins’s value on Kansas this season. Wiggins has averaged near 16 points on 45% shooting this season, but lets dig deeper into more advanced stats. Wiggins PER, or Player Efficiency Rating, is 20.1 for the season. While thats not as good as Wiggin’s Kansas teammate Joel Embiid’s 28.8 (!!!) rating, that is still a very good mark.

Wiggins is also shooting well percentage wise in more advanced shooting metrics, with a .568 TS% (True Shooting Percentage) and .502 eFG% (Effective Field Goal Percentage). Finally, Andrew Wiggins’s Offensive Win Shares and Win Shares stats all grade out on the top two of his team, with a 1.6 OWS and 2.6 WS. To sum it all up, while Wiggins hasn’t lived up to every expectation of NBA scouts, he still has had a very efficient, productive season for Kansas.

There is no reason to believe Wiggins numbers would have been any less good if he had picked UNC last May. Wiggins represents a huge value increase over North Carolina’s small forwards that took the court this season. Lets look at a chart comparing some stats from all of UNC’s SFs and Andrew Wiggin’s numbers. We are going to use a lot of “per 40 minutes” stats to account for the fact that McDonald has played about half the number of games that Tokoto and McDonald have.


Minutes Played

Points Per 40 Mins

Three Point Field Goals Per 40 Mins

True Shooting %

Win Shares Per 40 Mins

Andrew Wiggins






JP Tokoto






Leslie McDonald






That chart makes you scratch your head a little bit, doesn’t it? Wiggins is described by every casual college basketball fan as a “freshman phenom” or a “program changer.” But when you compare him to JP Tokoto and Leslie McDonald, he does not look as good. Yes, his TS% and Win Shares numbers are higher, and he has a couple more points per 40 mins, but take a look at that 4th column- three point field goals. Wiggins only has 1 more than Tokoto, not a very good shooter at all, and has 1.5 less than Leslie, a good shooter. That column makes me question how much help Wiggins would have given this year’s Carolina basketball team.

My point here is that North Carolina desperately needs shooting. Three point shooting has been really hard to come by this season for the Tar Heels, and having a guy like PJ Hairston or Reggie Bullock back would have helped a ton with that problem. Getting Andrew Wiggins quite frankly would not have helped very much with two of the Tar Heels biggest issues- Three Point shooting and effort.

Don’t get me wrong- Wiggins is still a transcendent and raw talent that would have helped out a lot. And I firmly believe UNC is still one body short on the perimeter, and having an extra true small forward would have helped a lot. Also, getting Wiggins would have opened the door for Coach Williams to play some potentially potent “small ball” lineups with Paige, McDonald, Tokoto, Wiggins, and Johnson, for example. But I think the impact Wiggins would have had on this team would have been overestimated.

After getting Wiggins, UNC would have jumped into the Top-10 in the country, even after PJ and Leslie were declared ineligible at the start of the season. That pressure of being a top ten team, as well as the added media attention and pressure that comes with Wiggins, would have really eaten at the core of this young Carolina team without any real leaders.

Also, the Carolina offense would have been adjusted to fit Wiggins, a high usage rate, high volume player, into the mix. Assuming Wiggins had gotten off to a slow start like he did at Kansas, I would bet all of those problems would have played out into a similar start to the season that Carolina had without Wiggins.

However, the Carolina team plus Wiggins would have really hit its stride against ACC competition. Andrew Wiggins would have been athletic enough to beat Syracuse’s zone and would have helped UNC in all their early ACC losses. It would have taken a while to get the lineups and systems to fit, but in the end, having Wiggins would have made UNC around 3-5 wins better, most of those wins coming in ACC play. Thats not exactly transforming North Carolina into a Final Four contender right now, as one might guess, but with time, Wiggins makes UNC much better in March.

All stats from sports-reference.com unless otherwise noted. 

Previously in the series: What If- Reggie Bullock and What If- James Michael McAdoo

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Tags: Andrew Wiggins Basketball North Carolina Tar Heels Recruiting

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