2016-17 Roster Review: Andrew Wiggins
What do we make of Andrew Wiggins?
Statistically, he’s improved every year he’s been in the NBA. Every year he’s been in the league (he’s just finished his third), his points have gone up. So have his assist percentage. So has his three point percentage. So have his win shares.
But the stats haven’t always told the whole story with Wig, who has seen some stagnated numbers in terms of assists, PER, and rebounds/rebound percentage. He’s become much more polarizing than a guy who can put up 24 points a game, shoot 37 percent from deep, and do THIS than you’d expect.
To better understand Wiggins the player, especially within the confines of this season, it would be easiest to go piece by piece to figure out what makes Wiggins.
The scoring has gone up every year since Wiggins entered the league. For a former high school phenom and a virtual lock for the No.1 pick out of Kansas three years ago, this was to be somewhat expected. The biggest thing for Wiggins scoring the ball never had to do with the technical ability to put the ball in the hoop. It was always the rate at which he scored that was in question.
This year, he added a feature to his game that everyone has been dying to see in Wigs’ game: the three point shot. In the previous two years, his three point percentage barely hovered at 30 percent. This year, he shot 36 percent, and saw those numbers stay steady once December hit.
His shooting/scoring remains streaky to a degree, but only in the sense that when he streaks, he looks like a true bonafide superstar. There was a stretch between March 24 and April 9, just as an example, where he put up 28.9 points per game on 47.1 percent shooting and 43.9 from deep. He had 4 30+ point games in that span and one game where he dropped 41. There are more than one examples of this from this season.
The scoring for Wig will always be there, and the stats (and the eye test) suggest it’s only going to get better. With the development of Karl-Anthony Towns and Zach LaVine looking promising as well, Wigs’ role as a scoring fiend will remain vital. It’s great he’s good at it.
I’ll make this one quick: I’m not worried about Andrew Wiggins and rebounding. This year, he averaged 4 boards per game, about the same as his previous 2 years. This year, he only had 10+ rebounds once. Ten rebounds remains his For a guy with the athletic prowess of Wiggins, and the role he’s taken on this team, the argument could definitely be had that he should be grabbing more boards on a given night. Especially considering the Wolves were the second worst defensive rebounding team in the league last year.
I’m of the opinion that if Wiggins were asked to go out and grab 8-10 rebounds per game, he could do it. But that’s never been his job on the defensive end. His job has always been to guard the other team’s best perimeter player, and that job has historically been a low-rebound assignment. Offensively, the Wolves were one of the best rebounding teams in the league.
Sure, Wiggins could go out and grab more rebounds. Maybe he needs to improve on his boxing out and his drive on the glass. But I’m more worried about him guarding the other team’s best player, and more specifically, improving (significantly) at that particular job.
Like rebounding, Wiggins’ assist numbers have never been high up there. He isn’t putting up LeBron, T-Mac, Kobe assist numbers, despite having a perfectly high usage rate and the ball in his hands an awful lot. He technically put up a career high in assists, though going from 2.1 to 2.3 isn’t much of an improvement on paper.
But this is where the eye test beats out the numbers test, in my opinion. With an improved handle this year came an opened vision for Andrew Wiggins. He’s never looked more confident taking the ball to the basket, and not necessarily to score the ball. He learned how to drive and kick, and when it involved a quality shooter (which the Wolves often lacked, outside of LaVine), that often turned into points.
It wouldn’t shock me to see Wiggins approach 5 or 6 assists later in his career, if that’s what Thibs’ offense lends itself to. He has the capability to do it.
The Wolves’ big 3 of LaVine, KAT, and Wiggins have all the offensive prowess in the world, but their defense is not there yet. Collectively, and individually. Among eligible small forwards, Wiggins sat 79th out of 81 small forwards in defensive real plus minus, only above Doug McDermott and (gulp) Shabazz Muhammad.
Wiggins came into the league with many people, including DraftExpress (it was one of his “strengths” in the famous Mike Schmitz DX draft videos), lauding his defensive potential. Most of this stemmed around his athleticism. At this point, the athleticism is all there, but there is still a long way to go in every other sense. Part of it is the task at hand. Right out of the gate, he was forced to guard the other team’s best perimeter player, for no reason other than, who else is gonna do it?
But, in part for the same reason, he’s continued to do it. While he’s improved slightly via eye test, his ability to pick up offensive schemes, when/when not to switch, and a tendency to help at the wrong time continue to hurt him. It’s hard to envision a world where a guy of his ability and athleticism doesn’t eventually figure it out, but for right now, defense remains the glaring hole for his otherwise very fun start to the year.
I wanted to end this review with some of his best dunks of the year, because while Wiggins is great at keeping a stoic demeanor on the floor, his personality comes out in his posterizing slams. Man, they’re fun.
First, the one on the team that just got to the Finals.
Now, one on the Bucks a month later.
Lastly, one on the team the Warriors just eliminated.
Until next year, Andrew. There’s plenty to improve on, but it’s been a good three years. Thanks for the fun. Looking forward to more.