Andrew Wiggins may have just played the best game of his career

It is games like these that don’t allow me to lose hope on Andrew Wiggins. He has had some memorable games in his career in Oklahoma City. The half-court game winner and earlier this season his 30 point performance with the game-deciding basket. All of those games, while were amazing, didn’t amount to last night’s win against Oklahoma City 119-117. Wiggins had 40 pts, 10 rebounds, 4 assists and shot 16/18 from the free throw line.

What we saw was a Wiggins that was motivated. He was motivated to win the game for Ryan Saunders’ first career game as head coach. And up until this point, the culprit to Wiggins reaching his potential was ultimately his motivation. He never seemed assertive enough to lead a team to victory. After the game, Wiggins mentioned that the win was important to get for Ryan Saunders because he was the only coach that was still around since his rookie year. And since after his rookie year, he has been coached by Sam Mitchell and Tom Thibodeau, who both ultimately struggled in connected with him on a personal level but also leveraging him correctly on the court.

Wiggins was motivated but he was also used in many ways that Flip Saunders used him in his rookie year. Ryan Saunders involved him in the offense early and often. Pre-game, Wiggins said he would look to get out in transition and attack more, and he did exactly that early on. Wiggins got to the line, and made his free throws, like he did early in his career as well. Wiggins made 16 of 18 free throws on the road, which is extremely impressive.

Saunders also let Wiggins handle the ball, something that helped him get his offense going in the second half, where he can often get lost after having a productive first half. He also set him up in post-up sets and in give and go’s with KAT late in the game. Once it seemed as if Wiggins was planning to score at any opportunity, he would dish it out to someone for an open shot. This came up huge in the final minute of the game where he created an open 3-pointer for the rookie Okogie.

While bringing back all of these things that made Wiggins successful in the past, Wiggins included things that he has worked on over the years as well. Wiggins added 2 threes and showcased him improved ball handling by getting to the basket against a difficult OKC defense. He hit some amazing moving jumpers late in the first half that he has also added recently to his repertoire.

The reason this game was so impressive though for Wiggins is that he did this while having to carry the offense without much support. Derrick Rose was out in this game, KAT was in foul trouble and Teague was ejected in the second half. This allowed the highly-ranked OKC defense to focus on Wiggins. He often had one of the league’s best defenders in Paul George guarding him and one of the better rim protectors in the league in Steven Adams protecting the paint.

He also had to carry a major defensive load in the game. Robert Covington was out so Wiggins was asked to guard Paul George (who shot 37.5% from the field) for most of the game. Josh Okogie was guarding Russell Westbrook so it didn’t allow for much rest on the defensive end.

Being that Wiggins had a double-double, he clearly was hustling for rebounds, as he is mostly criticized for not doing. He showed heart and energy in a game that needed every ounce of it. It was beautiful to see Wiggins be the first to congratulate Ryan Saunders on the win when he entered the locker room. It finally feels like Wiggins found a coach that he wants to play hard and win for.

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Post Jimmy Butler Trade Thoughts

On this day, November 10th of 2018, the Wolves traded disgruntled star Jimmy “General Soreness” Butler and Justin “We should’ve taken OG” Patton to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Robert “Lord” Covington, Dario Saric, Jared Bayless and a 2022 2nd round pick. The Wolves lose 5 straight games on the road to give them a 4-9 start to the season.

Wanted to get some immediate thoughts down for Wolves fans to digest.

  • Goodbye Jimmy!

Man, what a distraction. Glad that is over. Easily one of the worst experiences in Wolves history. The dark cloud can now move away. Jimmy Butler will return to Minneapolis to play the Wolves in March 30th, pending he chooses to sit due to general soreness. Looking forward to Boos, fights, and all that is in between. Not sure why Wolves fans were cheering for him in the first place.

  • Thank God Markelle Fultz wasn’t involved in the trade

Fultz has dealt with injuries and an ever-evolving shooting form. One of the weirdest stories that is outside of Minnesota. He could develop into a good player but I don’t think Minnesota is the place for him. Plus, with Derrick Rose playing the way that he is, no need to bring in a 4th point guard.

  • Not taking back a guard means belief in, or at least more minutes for Josh Okogie and a bigger role for Derrick Rose

Compared to other trade packages, the Wolves brought back two forwards instead of receiving a high-caliber guard to replace Jimmy Butler’s production. Whether that be Josh Richardson or Eric Gordon, this opens up minutes at the 2-guard dramatically. Once Jeff Teague is healthy, Derrick Rose could move to the bench again or as the starting shooting guard. Judging by defensive needs though, this could mean Josh Okogie is the long-term starter at shooting guard this season. This is great news for his development. Okogie will have to learn to be patient on the offensive end while bringing the same energy (‘same energy’ is the best thing that came out of the Butler feud btw) on the defensive end. If Wiggins and Teague have ongoing injury concerns though, the Wolves look really lite at guard now.

  • Teague, Gibson, Dieng and Jones should be made available

Specifically for Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson, they were Jimmy Butler guys. With him here no longer, the Wolves need to assess their value. Gibson is an interesting trade piece as a $14M expiring contract. Jeff Teague has a player option for $19M this summer that he would be dumb to decline. That said, a team looking to add depth and/ or veterans (hello Lakers) might find value in either guy. Dieng and Jones are more opportunistic thoughts. Dieng is in a terrible contract but provides decent minutes. Jones will be a free agent and will likely lose minutes to Rose at the PG long term.

  • Convington and Saric are solid additions

I actually really like Robert Covington and Dario Saric. I think Covington provides great defense, shooting and size. He will provide good looks as a stretch 4 alongside Towns for stretches. Expecting him to do more than provide 3s and Defense on the court will be a mistake. He is 27 and signed through 2022 to a reasonable contract.

Dario Saric is one of the most undervalued players in the league. He shoots the 3 ball well and can rebound. He provides a good option on offense. He is only 24 and is on his rookie contract through the end of the 2020 season. The Wolves will get a good look at him until they decide to extend him. It will be interesting to see is Saric starts over Gibson at some point this season or not. Saric’s offense could truly benefit the bench.

  • Sigh for Keita Bates-Diop

This trade is likely the worst thing that can happen for KBD. I think if he got minutes at PF over Anthony Tolliver at some point this season, he could provide some value. Unfortunately, Covington and Saric are going to be hard to take minutes from now or in the future. Not sure what this means for the long-term future for KBD here, but it can’t be that good.

  • Long jam at forward now, something else needs to happen

The above two points means that the Wolves have Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Taj Gibson, Anthony Tolliver, Keita Bates-Diop, and Luol Deng all capable of logging minutes at power forward. Tolliver is likely the one to fall out of the rotation immediately.

  • The season is unfortunately still lost. Don’t hope for the playoffs

We’ve seen this stuff before. The Wolves didn’t make this trade to improve their roster, they made this trade to salvage their locker room. That rarely means a roster improvement. At the end of the day Jimmy Butler on this roster gave the Wolves the best chance to win and now they will be forced to try to pick up the pieces and move forward. Being that the Wolves are in the competitive Western Conference, are young and don’t really have a true-defined leader in the locker room, this transition will likely be difficult. The team also has lost all trust in Tom Thibodeau and him still being employed seems to be Glen Taylor looking to simply save money. The Wolves would need to go 37-32 JUST to be .500. I don’t see this Wolves team doing that at all.