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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BREAKING: Tom Thibodeau To Be Hired. Now What?

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Time to learn to spell it folks. T-H-I-B-O-D-E-A-U. He will be the next Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The deal is said to be worth $10M per year for five years. Attached in the deal is Spurs Assistant GM Scott Layden who will become the Wolves General Manager. So that means, good bye Milt Newton. The Wolves were interested in Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson as alternatives. Rumors swirled around Scott Brooks and Dave Jourger as well.

After the immediate dismisal of Sam Mitchell, Glen Taylor and the search firm Korn Ferry interviewed and now have hired a head coach just a week after the final game. Tom Thibodeau, known for being the defensive guru with the Boston Celtics when Garnett and co. won the championship, comes over in full control after being fired by the Chicago Bulls a year ago. The Bulls made it to the playoffs every year under Thibs, while this season they didn’t under coach Fred Hoiberg.

Thibodeau’s name was thrown around quite a bit in the middle of the season when a potential minority ownership group was looking to make a deal with Glen Taylor. Nothing came from it and folks moved on. As the Wolves finished the season strong under coach Sam Mitchell by beating the Warriors and the Blazers on the road, ESPN and others began hyping the heck out of this Wolves job. Its been said to be the most sought after job in the league. Thibodeau has been one of the most sought after head coaches that doesn’t have a job. Thibs also helped Derrick Rose become an MVP and Jimmy Butler an All-Star. It will be interesting to see what Thobodeau can do with the likes of Towns, Wiggins, LaVine, and the rest of the young Wolves.

In his previous life, Thibodeau was a long time assistant coach. He started his career ironically with the Timberwolves in their inaugural season (see pic above). He then was an assistant with the Rockets and Knicks under Jeff Van Gundy.

The main concern around Thibs has been his nature of driving players into the ground and overworking them. I am sure it has been brought up in interviews and if the Wolves have decided this quickly on Thibodeau, then (I hope!) the topic has probably been cleared. Glen Taylor does not want to see Towns or Wiggins’ careers ended early because of this move.

Now that the process is over, we will likely look back on this move as the inflection point of the Wiggins/ Towns saga. The Franchise will now begin to concave up or down. The slope positive or negative. Calculus talk for anyone who gets it. If Sam Mitchell was tasked with remaining the head coach, the franchise would’ve likely continued floating in the realms of mediocrity. Bringing in Tom Thibodeau for the priced that has been finalized means one thing. Championships. Taylor, Thibodeau, and the players that are a part of the core will begin building and fighting for a championship one day. The first step will be making the playoffs and ending the longest active streak of not making the playoffs in the NBA.

The immediate next steps are a few things. First, the draft. The Wolves will need to see what players are of interest and what the value around the league will be for the position in which the Wolves pick. Then, a roster evaluation will likely  be done. On the chopping block will likely be the likes of Shabazz Muhammad, Ricky Rubio and Adriean Payne. How does Thibs feel about these guys? Thibodeau will also have to hire a staff. Listening to Sam Mitchell this morning, it sounded like he was open to returning. What about Ryan Saunders? Ernie Kander? Then will be development and free agency. How will these guys improve through next season? What will be done with the cap space?

All this says is, it is going to be an awesome offseason and 2016-17 season. Keep following for more Wolves t-logs!

The Timber Rebuilder.