The Kids Are Alright - Part Two - Not Far From Stardom, Maple Jordan


 

Source: friendlybounce.com

 

Author’s note: Welcome back to The Kids Are Alright series! After writing a painstakingly long article on current interim head coach, Sam Mitchell—I have decided to break up what was going to be probably a longer article on the three young cornerstones of Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, and Karl-Anthony Towns. So I lied, this two-parter has now officially become a four-parter, with the potential for a fifth part! I think this works well for everyone around, I don’t try to be overzealous by stuffing too much content into one article and you the reader are not burdened by having to take a vacation day to sit down and read it. Hooray, everybody wins! Thank you again for taking the time to read this, and enjoy!

With the nickname “Maple Jordan” coming out of high school, the Andrew Wiggins hype machine was running on full capacity while heading into college to play basketball for the Kansas Jayhawks. Not since LeBron James has a player been so highly touted, and deemed as the next generational talent. While obtaining elite level athleticism, a strong defensive presence, and the potential to be a great shooter—Wiggins had NBA scouts foaming at the mouth, imagining what this kid could eventually become.

Wiggins would eventually be drafted number one overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014. However, with the surprising return of GM LeBron James, Wiggins (among others), was flipped to the Minnesota Timberwolves for disgruntled star, Kevin Love. The Wolves could not have asked for a better trade. They traded their star that could not will them into the playoffs for a kid whose potential could reach top 10 in the NBA someday. The Wolves went from a team with potentially no identity and no future, to a team with optimism and a potential superstar in the making with Andrew Wiggins on the roster.

A Brief History

Wiggins ended up winning the Rookie of the Year award during the 2014-2015 season. While scoring 16.8 points a game, it was clear Wiggins had a future to be the go-to scorer on the young Wolves squad. He passed the eye test in games with smooth pull-up jumpers, pristine athletic ability, jaw-dropping dunks, and the ability to take over games at times.

He also grabbed 4.6 rebounds, dished out 2.1 assists, one steal, and got to the free throw line nearly six times a game. His rookie year was not the greatest ever, but he showed many flashes during the season why he was the number one overall pick, and why Wolves fans everywhere should be excited to watch him grow on this team.

A Promising Sophomore Season

With a historically great rookie season by teammate Karl-Anthony Towns, and the ascension of Zach LaVine (more on these two later), Wiggins is quietly turning into an NBA superstar.  His points-per-game has gone up this season from 16.8 to 21.1, and he has scored 30+ points in ten games this year.

Although his rebounding numbers have lowered and his assist rate has stayed the same since his rookie year, the 21-year-old phenom is still years away from his prime and those numbers are certainly ready to shoot up when he has another season under his belt.

One very noticeable addition to Wiggins’s game this year has been his deadly spin move. There have been countless games this season where Wiggins would drive to the rack and get his defender to overplay one side of him. Then with his nifty foot work, he would spin and put up a nice dunk or finish with finesse around the rim.

As you can see, Wiggins leads Justin Anderson to his left, he then plants his right foot hard and spins away from the direction Anderson is going. Anderson is then left on his tail for Wiggins to slam one down on a wide open lane.

Another example here is of Wiggins's beautiful spin and finish to send the game into overtime against the Golden State Warriors.

 

Although his assist numbers are about the same as last year, Wiggins has been better this season at finding his teammates when opposing teams double or even sometimes triple team him when he has the ball. Here we see a perfect example of him finding the open guy against the Sacramento Kings.

Towns initially sets the screen for Wiggins and then rolls. As you can see Kosta Koufos and Rajon Rondo try to trap Wiggins, while the rest of Kings players collapse on Towns. Wiggins recognizes the situation and swings the ball across the court to an open Zach LaVine who then makes the Kings pay with a sweet three-bomb.

Wiggins's most notable assist this season went to teammate Ricky Rubio against the OKC Thunder. The play was drawn up for Wiggins to get the ball at the top of the key, and for him to decide what to do with it while the seconds ticked down.

His first option will to always be the one to take the last shot, but he has gotten better at recognizing what is and what isn’t a good shot to take. Here he was stopped while attacking the rim, so he threw it out to a wide-open Rubio, who ended up hitting the game winner. If Wiggins could develop the court vision and passing savviness of LeBron James, he could potentially one day be in the same conversation topics of who is the greatest of all time (GOAT). Of course he would first have to get the Timberwolves into the playoffs and beyond for that to even be a legitimate a argument.

What Wiggins Should Work On

With noticeable improvement his sophomore year, Andrew Wiggins is on the rise and that should excite every fan of this young Wolves squad. However, for Wiggins to truly reach his potential, he needs to work on a few of these items.

Dribbling: How much more dangerous would Wiggins be if he were able to dribble like a point guard? He needs to take the summer and really improve his dribbling skills. If he does end up working out with Kobe Bryant this summer, I really hope they focus on this aspect of the game for him. He has the footwork, the athleticism, and the scoring ability—but if he wants to become one of the most dangerous players in the game, he needs to develop this skill.

Rebounding: There is no way a freak of nature such as Wiggins should be only averaging 3.6 rebounds a game.  He should be averaging five a game, minimum. He is too athletic not to go in for rebounds.

The Wolves as a team this season are 27th in the league in rebounding. Towns cannot do all the dirty work by himself. If Wiggins commits to rebounding, it will not only take the pressure off of Towns, but it will impact the game immensely in favor of the Wolves.

Showing up to every game: One knock on Wiggins is that he can be pretty passive and maybe too mellow for the game. There have been games this season where he has taken over and has been lights-out-dominant, and there have been other games where he has failed to even show up.

The most recent example is from March 28th, 2016. The Wolves played the Phoenix Suns and beat them 121-116. Wiggins had 32 points, three blocks, and five rebounds. The following game on March 30th, the Wolves were trounced by the Los Angeles Clippers. Wiggins had seven points, zero rebounds, and six turnovers.  There are other examples throughout the season of similar games like this, but to get to superstar level in this league —Wiggins will need to show up more consistently.

If Andrew Wiggins is able to build off his sophomore season and is able to add to his arsenal with the listed items above that he should work on, there is absolutely no reason to believe he can’t be a top 10 player in the NBA in the very near future. He has shown a vast improvement from his rookie year to now, it should be expected that he will make another leap in year three of his young career. Wolves fans everywhere should be very excited for the very prospect of the future of Wiggins and the future of this team.

 

 

Upset City, Wolves beat the Warriors in OT

This needs to be mentioned. The game against the Golden State Warriors on April 5th was an amazing win for this young squad. The young guys got after it and beat the Warriors on their home floor in overtime, 124-117. Shabazz Muhammad had a career game. Zach LaVine contributed very nicely, and Karl-Anthony Towns continued to impress the NBA world with his refreshingly refined game and historical rookie season in the making. And Andrew Wiggins showed the NBA why he has been compared to LeBron James and Kobe Bryant by taking over the game at pinnacle moments.

Please enjoy these highlights, for it will become the norm within a year or two for this squad to compete at a very high level every game.

 

*The quality is a little fuzzy the first two minutes, feel free to skip ahead.

 

*All statistics used within this article have been pulled from NBA.com/stats and Basketball-Reference.com

 

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