When Andrew Wiggins was brought in as the main part of the Kevin Love-trade, he served as the official face of the Timberwolves’ new re-re-rebuilding phase (a major influence to the name of the blog). The first phase started with Al Jefferson first in the Kevin Garnett departure. Then Kevin Love and to a lesser extent Ricky Rubio served as the poster boys for the next phase when Jefferson was traded. With minimal pressure to win now, Wiggins finally got away from a lot of the pressure that has chased him around in his pre-NBA career. Wiggins came in with one expectation: develop.
Last year, by definition was a success as there were no set expectations to compete or win games necessarily. Wiggins was 2nd in the league in minutes played with 2969 minutes, just behind James Harden. He started and played in every game, maybe not by choice, but he got the experience needed to satisfy fans. He showed flashes of greatness and won Rookie of the Year, mainly because he got the playing time due to opportunity and injuries. The Wolves ended up being the worst team in the NBA due to their reliance on rookies like Wiggins, but it seemed to be something that would be beneficial for the development of the team.
Compared to last season, Wiggins has emerged as the vocal point of the offense this year. Mitchell runs the offense through Wiggins in which last season the game had to come to him most times. Wiggins is scoring more and has a higher usage % (22.6 to 28.5 this season) all while averaging one minute less a game. Wiggins is averaging 21 points this season while he averaged 16.9 last season. His assists and rebounds have also increased slightly, but not to where you would like for a player that has a 28.5% usage on the court. One thing that Wiggins has truly improved though has been his free throw shooting. Wiggins is currently 10th in the NBA with 7.6 free throw attempts. Although he could definitely be a better free throw shooter, he is attacking the basket more which opens up his game.
That said, his advanced stats have suffered even though the team’s performance has improved. Andrew’s Win Share has dropped from 2.1 last season to 1.1 this season and box plus/minus from -2.3 last to this -2.5 this season. Wiggins is constantly finding himself in the negative in the Plus/ Minus categories and you have to begin to wonder, should he be on the floor as much? It’s hard to face this reality when it comes to a franchise cornerstone. But the motivation to produce on the floor is important from the guy who spends the most time on the court for your team. But as Wiggins goes, the Wolves go. In losses, Wiggins has a -12.6 and in wins he has a +10.6.
Wolves fans have pointed a lot of fingers for the blame of the poor play in recent games. The poorMany fingers have pointed to Sam Mitchell, a few to Ricky Rubio and his health, but not many to Andrew Wiggins. He is absolutely still developing and still has a lot of room for improvement. But the Wolves need more from Wiggins if they are going to continue to improve. He seems to be in a position where his has a long leash with the coaching staff. He is able to play through mistakes, a privilege most if not all the young players on the Wolves don’t have.
Should the leash get shorter? The way Sam Mitchell approaches this is crucial. But Wiggins seems to be playing without a fire lit under him, unless it’s a close game of course. He still vanishes for minutes during the game. He also doesn’t seem much more than a scorer at this point and if he isn’t scoring, he is a liability on the floor. So should Sam Mitchell be playing other players in Wiggins’ place to get Wiggins to ‘earn’ his minutes?
This may drive Wolves fans even more crazy. But Mitchell and the coaching staff need to find a way to get more out of Wiggins on the floor. They need to find a way to have Wiggins become more efficient on the floor. They can’t afford to have Wiggins to be a one-dimensional player who takes inefficient shots. It may be time to send Wiggins a message to motivate him. His inconsistent play could be due to the back injury which plagued him earlier this season so cutting back his minutes may benefit him health-wise as well. Sam Mitchell, who handled another number 1 pick in Andrea Bargnani terribly, will need to proceed with caution on how he deals with Wiggins’ development.
What needs immediate improvement? First and foremost, he needs to focus defensively. He needs to be a two-player at least. He has all the intangibles but still seems to not be the lock down defender he was advertised to be. His defensive rating is a 108, which has a lot to do with team defense as well, but is too high for what he is capable of doing. Wiggins will then need to improve his ball-handing in order to expand his offensive game. He finds himself taking a lot of long 2-point shots simply because he isn’t able to handle the ball and pass his defender.
Second-tier improvements needed for Wiggins is his shooting. Wiggins needs to improve his 3-point shooting and free-throw shooting. He is shooting a terrible 26.8% from beyond the arc. The only player worse on the T-Wolves with more than 10 attempts this season? Ricky Rubio. He is shooting 73% from the free throw line as well, not really that good for a guy who gets to the line as much as he does. After shooting, the Wolves need Wiggins to get involved in other aspects of the game. They need him to rebound and assist more. As a forward, his 5.9% Total Rebound% is laughable this season. Wiggins draws a lot of double teams, which means his 8.6% Assist % could definitely improve if he were making the right passes. You would imagine Wiggins would have more assists having big men like Towns and Dieng down low.
We don’t want this to be a ‘this is all Wiggins’ fault’ type of post. Wiggins has done a lot well this season. As mentioned before, he is getting to the line more often and has been really clutch in close games. He is the Wolves best scorer. He is also one of the most valuable pieces on this Wolves roster. He is crazy athletic and is scoring in a lot more ways this season. He should be commended for his performance.
But after having Wiggins having a -17 +/- against the Suns, it has ignited some questions from fans. Wiggins does seem a little too comfortable on the floor. Wiggins does need to provide more on the floor. Wiggins does have to take control of the team. At this given moment, the numbers Zach LaVine has produced haven’t been too far off from Andrew Wiggins’. This could be a testament to LaVine’s performance or showing that Wiggins’ isn’t meeting his development expectations. Sam Mitchell has the incredible responsibility to harness Andrew Wiggins’ potential and turn it into production. While super stars like Kobe Bryant praise Wiggins, the numbers haven’t shown that he is a win-producer. This will need to change as the Wolves continue to build around him.
The Timber Rebuilder.