Andrew Wiggins has been accused of not living up to the hype. But in reality, he's right on track.
Maybe it’s because you’ve been hearing about him since he was 16. Maybe it’s because he had a relatively underwhelming year at the University of Kansas. Maybe it’s because he won rookie of the year in a draft class that was mired in injuries. Maybe it’s the nickname “Maple Jordan”. Maybe it’s because he is supposed to be the savior of the Canadian National team.
Whatever the reason, it seems as though the overall opinion on Andrew Wiggins is that he isn’t improving fast enough. First, it’s his shooting. If not his shooting, it’s his rebounding. If it’s not his rebounding, it’s his passing. If it’s not his passing, it’s his defense. Wherever you chose to nitpick Wiggins’ game, it’s time to shut up.
The ascension of Andrew Wiggins’ production has seemed to hit a new plateau in the early goings of the 2016-17 season. He’s averaging career high scoring numbers while shooting well above his previous two years. But before we begin taking a deeper look at his performance thus far, let’s go back to what Andrew Wiggins was touted to be when he came into the NBA.
Coming into the NBA, Wiggins was notched as a scoring machine, whose size and athleticism allowed him to get baskets in multiple ways. We all remember the above the rim highlights and cuts to the basket that he gave us at Kansas. And now everyone is wondering where those are every night. Well, the problem is that I could build a house in the paint with the spacing that zone defenses allow in college basketball. NBA defenses aren’t just going to let him cut to the lane like that.
Add in the fact that, despite Tracy McGrady-like footwork, he was never a player that could create shots, he was a proven inconsistent shooter and finisher, and his lack of handles made him just a little too turnover prone. It’s easy to see why people aren’t completely on the Wiggins Wagon (trademark pending).
Let’s also not gloss over the fact that he was drafted to Cleveland to help build around Kyrie. Then once they landed LeBron it was unsure if he was going to be traded or become LeBron’s protege. Finally, he was traded to Minnesota where he was thrust in to be the guy to build around. And in his 3 years in Minnesota, he’s had 3 different coaches. So, yeah, maybe go easy on him for being 21 and not being an all-star yet.
That said, despite what some impatient fans will try to tell you, Andrew Wiggins is improving at a fantastic rate and his first two seasons are nothing that should warrant him not being considered a franchise player in the future.
When looking at Andrew Wiggins’ game, I can only think of two players, Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady. For better or for worse, Wiggins’ is like a Venn diagram of those two players, in build and in skill.
In his first 3 seasons, Kobe Bryant averaged 2.4 assist, 3.2 rebounds, 1 steal, and 13.8 points on .476 eFG%. In McGrady’s first three seasons he averaged 2.5 assist, 5.5 rebounds, 1 steal, and 11.1 points on .459 eFG%.
Wiggins through his first three seasons (so far)? Oh, I’m so glad you asked: 2.0 assist, 4.1 rebounds, 1 steal, and 18.9 points on .471 on eFG%.
So, if it concerns you that Andrew Wiggins has a similar or better stat line than two future hall of famers through their first 3 seasons, then you should run for President of the United States because you’re insane.
Even in the areas where Kobe and Tracy are better than Wiggins, there’s a caveat. Tracy averaged more rebounds? Cool, Wiggins plays with Gorgui Dieng and Karl-Anthony Towns. They both averaged more assist, you say? I should hope so playing with prime Shaq and Vince Carter. Even though Wiggins’ has logged almost 10 more minutes per game than both Kobe and Tracy, it says something that he’s able to put these numbers up while playing on a non-contender.
I do want to disclaimer that I don’t mean any of this to say I think Andrew Wiggins will be as good as Kobe Bryant and Tracy McGrady. I mean, I do think that, but that’s not my point.
Although it is a small sample size, as we are just at the tip of the iceberg of this season -- Wiggins’ third -- it can’t be ignored that he’s improving even more and answering a lot of questions that people have had for him.
Through 6 games he has averaged 4.2 rebounds and a team high 23.2 points on .519 eFG%. Even going back to last season, Wiggins has shot 46.9% from three in his last 34 games. That is just a slap in the face to anyone that claims he is still inconsistent from three. Oh, and through the first 7 games of the season, he’s a league-best .667% from 3 this season.
Even though the numbers don’t show it yet, his rebounding is starting to become a point of emphasis as well. He stands at a career high 2.0 offensive rebounds for this season and just by watching him, he’s becoming a lot better at getting into position and following the misses; something he was advantageous in while at KU.
Now, if you think I’m a stat-manipulating, cherry picking homer who only shows the readers what I want them to believe, you’re wrong. I only do that for Ricky Rubio.
I have no problem telling you what Andrew Wiggins’ flaws are and where he needs to improve. Because quite frankly there’s a lot of them. And even more quite frankly, they’re sometimes the reason that you’ve seen the Timberwolves break down in the third quarter this season.
Through this season he leads the Timberwolves in turnovers at 2.7. A lot of this can be pinned on the fact that his usage rate is so high, but honestly, he just has trouble holding onto the ball when he drives into the lane. His handles are improved but his overall protection of the orange is sloppy. Which sort of segues into my next point.
Wiggins has actually done a commendable job at getting to the line this year and even last season. What was frustrating about his rookie campaign at times was that he was too passive and timid. Now he’s taking the contact on, full steam. But he’s shooting a dreadful .689% from the line. On more than a few occasions this season, when the Wolves just needed a basket to lift their spirits and get them to the next possession, Wiggins has failed to come through at the line.
Most notably was the very first game of the season against Memphis. Wiggins missed two free throws with the Wolves down 93-94 and under the two-minute mark. If he hits both or maybe even one to tie, maybe the momentum swings the other way and we’re looking at a W to start the season.
His defense is a perplexing one because he came into the league touted for his defensive grind. But has pretty much flatlined in that department and at times this season, has looked his worst. Luckily, it doesn’t appear to be a lack of effort but rather a lack of focus. His off ball defense is already poor, but then he gets caught standing straight up as a man blows past him. It’s expected that at some point this season, Thibodeau will get through to him and we’ll see a more dialed in Andrew Wiggins on defense. Or rip his head off and use it as a hood ornament -- you can never be too sure with Thibs.
It has been a shaky and sometimes disappointing season for the young Timberwolves, but Wiggins is one of the main catalyst for the future of this franchise and he’s doing just great. So shut up and watch a star be born.