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.

Scoring

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.

Rebounding

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.

Passing

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.

https://gyazo.com/02dd4394c60f87c917989a55ddc0d396

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.

Defense

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.

Dunks

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.

Share this because Rubio would pass this along:

Leave a Reply

  1. I’m probably going to get kicked off of AWAW for saying this, but I would maintain that Wiggins’ ceiling is even higher than KAT’s and for what it’s worth, I know that there’s at least one person in the Wolves’ front office that agrees. Not saying he’s going to get there, just that his potential is even higher than KAT’s. All depends on how badly Andrew wants to be great.

  2. Wiggins counter notes… If a young, talented player 3 years in hadn’t improved somewhat statistically every year it would be pretty unusual. Mostly Wiggins’ improvement has been gradual and subtle, and it’s hardly a big thing to pat him on the back for. Scoring, his main focus, and something he’s always gotten the greenest light of anyone on the team to do, has gone from 17 to 20 to 23. Given his lack of efficiency, pampering, lack of help in other aspects of the game (D, passing, rebounding) this increase is hardly something to pat him on the back about too hard. It’s worth pointing out, Wig has shown little signs of being a finisher and having the competitive edge to be a go to scorer in the crunch. His numbers don’t tell just how inconsistent he is even in his best aspect. He’s often not there as that robust 23 a game scorer when we really need it, moping up on numbers when we don’t need it and the others are scoring. We had a ton of deadly scoring droughts this season. Perhaps the main culprit was Thibs’ coaching and there is plenty of blame to go around. But perhaps the main secondary cause is Wiggins’ inconsistency and our over reliance on him as a scorer (while having KAT on the roster). It’s helped create many of those droughts.

    It’s not that we could use more rebounding from Wiggins (we could) but that it is a sign of his lack of effort and poorly rounded approach to bball so far in his career. With his size and athletic ability one would expect more rebounds accidentally. This is also very inconsistent. It’s common for him to have no rebounds. 1-2 board games happen all the time. Then he’ll have one way above his average to ‘even things out.’ His D assignments put him out of position to rebound? This year he rebounded 4.0 per game while PG Rubio had 4.3 a game… He has done nothing to improve this– his averages for each season are 4.6, 3.6, 4.0. That’s not a sign of a guy figuring out how to be a well rounded player. In this, I see symptoms of effort/focus issues, but also an indication that his body type may never be superstar, man type stuff. He’s narrow, and it’s hard to play with the men when you keep being that narrow. It shows up in rebounding stats, but is an undercurrent in every aspect of his game. I’m not sure he’s going to fill out that much/that fast.

    Wiggins’ passing has been cartoonishly bad his whole career. He made occasional kick out passes this season as opposed to almost nil, but it is hardly a reason for huge optimism. His handle is still not that good. His ability to run seams and finish with a hard dunk is awful given his elite athletic ability and usage–it’s something he should be doing all the time. For a mid range, shoot over the top of the defender type player (one who has good length and elite athleticism) it is imperative that he takes it to the hole for consistent offense (ie when we need it). One of the great things about KAT is that his work in the post means we have a guy who can get a basket when we need it. Wiggins, not so much at this point. Hopefully it will improve, but signs have not been super encouraging at this point. So to say a guy was a little better at driving to score or pass this season who has his ability and game type isn’t saying enough. He has to do it all the time. He has to dunk on people consistently, he has to be a better passer for all the attention he gets from defenders. Bottom line, he’s behind the curve on this stuff, still.

    Tim makes a good point, that out of the draft Wiggins was projected to be a plug in plus defender and future elite defender. Maybe this was a bad call by the scouts. He’s not the most driven player… and D skills take a while to develop to the point of changing games, esp for a non-big. Still, Wiggins has not made good on any projections for him to be a good defender and he’s not new in the league anymore. Thibs (and all his coaches so far) treat him as if they still see him exactly how Draft Express did back then. Part of this is understandable. We need a stopper wing defender so bad, why not try (force) to make one? And Wiggins still has shiny tools to be a good defender, in theory. The degree to which this has not come together is alarming. I don’t see him stepping up and becoming K Leonard light. We’re going to have to find shutdown D somewhere else. LaVine is very unlikely to ever be it (though at least his effort level seems to burn hotter). For this reason it is conceivable that we may need to play LaVine from the bench or even consider flipping him or Wiggins for a more rounded talent. In many ways we are not in a good developmental position despite the talent we’ve acquired. It’s swiss cheese right now without a clear way to fill the holes to make a solid block of a team. As a player, Wiggins has proven a few things so far, and one of them is that he’s more swiss cheese than superstar.

    • You sound like a Wiggins hater to do what he’s done at his age going out every night basically 4 vs 5 because no guards Rubio or even Rush for that matter makes it more amazing what he’s been able to accomplish sure he can improve he’s 22 he should have to but when you say he hasn’t shown up in crunch time shows you’re hate that’s one thing you can say about Wiggins is not only has he shown the ability to not only make clutch shots but the willingness to take the shot. Rebounding will come but he does have a rebounding pg and a center that steals rebound every chance he gets you need to open your eyes buddy

      • Two sentences for that mess? The point of my criticism isn’t that Wiggins is a bad player or doesn’t have potential. But he has issues. And we might as a team if we keep treating him like our superstar. Right now (not speculating on how good he may become) he’s not even close to being worth max money. We can argue what his ceiling will be, but he’s been in the league 3 years to KAT’s 2 and KAT is currently a better player. That should suggest to open minded fans that Wiggins isn’t a shoo-in to be an elite NBA player. He very well could be, but I see some red flags that suggest giving him a default label of superstar (or all star, or best player on the team, or best defender on the team, or go to guy down the stretch) is premature. Hopefully he develops into an amazing player. But as of now he has quite a ways to go to do that and there are no guarantees it will happen.

        As for is personality, that’s not the issue. Two famous Spurs are examples of calm guys who don’t spew personality on the court but are top level competitive personalities and talents. Those are K Leonard and Tim Duncan (actually, off the court Duncan has a lot of personality and Leonard still drives a 97 Chevy Tahoe which is kinda cool). I don’t care if Andrew doesn’t have much to say to Marney Gellner. But he’s not as focused and effective as a player as he could be because of where his head is. In this respect, he’s lucky he’s so talented. It bleeds into his approach to the game and his focus. You see hints of it all the time. Long stretches where he finishes lazy when a poster dunk is available to someone with his leaping ability, mediocre defense (at best), lack of significant growth as a player (D, passing, rebounding) showing how intense he can be in only rare instances such as against Cleveland, being inconsistent, not understanding team offense and team defense well, a complete lack of leadership either vocally or by example. This is not his fault, but his light frame and skill set currently makes him a tweener. He’s gets pushed around as a 3, but he’s not really a 2 (as a for instance, K Leonard is 6’7″ 230, Wiggins is 6’8″ 199 and people speak about him being better at the 2 all the time…). As I noted before, Wiggins looks amazingly much like he did in college or even high school as far as his body goes (he is reported to have been only 9lbs lighter coming out of high school than he is now).

        As to Tom’s comment about Wiggins becoming the silent competitor that Leonard is, I just don’t see it happening. Leonard is totally different. He’s always been a focused, mature player. He didn’t come into the league as a guy focused on scoring (perhaps part of this is the luxury of coming into a great team). His scoring average has gone like this: 7.9, 11.9, 12.8, 16.9, 21.2, 25.5. Nothing like how Wiggins started and the trajectory of improvement is totally different. Leonard was a good defender right away and is currently a DPOY level defender. Wiggins entered the league as a horrible defender and is now a bad to mediocre one. Leonard has snagged 6.2 boards a game for his career and beat out all of Wiggins three years in his rookie year with 5.1. His career average for steals is 1.8 a game, to Wiggins’ 1.0. One year Leonard averaged 2.3 steals a game! Leonard averages .7 bpg, while Wiggins comes in at .5. Leonard’s career field goal % is .495 and 3% is .388. Wiggins comes in with .450 and .329. Even his career best 3 % this season of .356 is significantly lower than Leonard’s every year of his career. They aren’t very similar. We can wish Wiggins will be like Leonard, but even if he blossoms we will be his own type of player. The numbers suggest he’s not going to blossom like Leonard, that he’s never going to be that level of a 2 way player. But much stranger things have happened. To be fair, Leonard has been helped by being coached by one of the greatest NBA coaches of all time. I’m not so sure Thibs is even run of the mill at this point. That’s got to be a big developmental advantage.

        • Excuse me for not having proper grammar in a comment thread professor. Next it is not even fair to compare Leonard who has been surrounded by hall of fame coaches and players and championship pedigree so of course things will more then likely go in Leonards favor if roles switched Wiggins becomes just that much better put Kawhi in Wiggins role coming out after one year on the Wolves not sure if things pan out the same. Also Wiggins has one year on Kat who is a top 5 center in NBA and you act like it’s a terrible thing if Wiggins is not as good you make no sense. Not to mention it has been said that the coaches on the Wolves say Wiggins is the best player on the team I’ll take their opinion of you’re a any day also let’s not forget AW is on his 3rd coach in 3 yrs while still putting up solid numbers one other caveat it’s a lot easier to play D when you have Tim Duncan guarding the rim. Wiggins performed at high level many times this year vs more then just Cavs but like any other young player he also went through bad stretches we will see Wiggins full potential as well as Kats when the right pieces are around them then all of these silly hot takes will be put to rest like judging a guy because he lays it up instead of posterizing someone how many times have you posters an NBA player for you to tell when it should happen we don’t know what’s going on in the game at that point in time long as he scores that’s all that matters stop nit picking. Wiggins avg more points reb and steals then Klay Thompson this year I think he will be fine

          • Sorry to be an ass, but using sentences is pretty basic and might help people take you opinions more seriously. If it helps, this response has more sentences.

            So whats the hotter take here? ‘Wiggins is great and beyond criticism. If you criticize him, I will call you a hater,’ or ‘Wiggins has a lot of work to do to be a great player. There are some signs he might not get there even though he is very talented.’ I think neither is a cool take. I’m going out on a limb on in a pretty Wiggins-centric area to say that an impressive, young player who is treated as THE cornerstone of the franchise by the staff is surprisingly flawed and it may not all get fixed as he matures. My view may turn out to be too extreme or just flat our wrong. But it’s not some crazy, baseless hater talk. In fact, it’s not hater talk at all because I like our main players and cheer extremely hard for all our guys. I do also try to look at them as objectively as I can. Objectively, Wiggins has a lot of room to improve and he may or may not. There isn’t really a good Wiggins comp I can think of, but the Leonard thing is more to suggest that he’s not that caliber of player and we should not expect him to be going forward. What does that mean? It can be labels like ‘superstar’ or ‘best player on a good team’ but what it really comes down to is being an excellent player on both sides of the ball, which Wiggins is not at this point and Leonard developed rapidly into early in his career. The fact that it isn’t an apt comparison says as much as if it were a good comp, in some ways…

        • Once again who cares about grammar in a comment thread you take it way too serious if that’s case. If you can’t comp Wiggins to anyone I consider that a good thing because he will be Wiggins no one else you act like if someone doesn’t follow the same analytical footsteps of predorcessors he cannot reach their level or excel past them which is some of the dumbest reasoning I have heard but you know what they say men fear what they do not understand. Another thing stop bringing up Leondard once again how many wing players would’ve excelled being put in the position he was in surrounded by HoF pedigree. You say you give objective opinions but you loathed over Kat who has left way more to be desired on the defensive end and what about the reports of Rubio getting on him about stealing rebounds from teammates. Wiggins is 22 he should have a long way to go but 24ppg 4 reb 2.3 asst is pretty dam good considering your starting line up has Rubio and Rush in it this staff is an NBA staff for a reason I think they know what they are doing more then some twitter analyst who prob hasn’t even played college level basketball but think they can give good assessments of NBA talent putting up better numbers then half the league at age 22 this is the part of twitter I hate. Wiggins will be special and so will Kat the whole league can see that and if you can’t just because numbers say he should be doing this n that those numbers don’t factor in the surrounding talent or being 3 yrs in w/ 3 diff head coaches. Wiggins has done nothing but improve since he got in the league what makes you think that trend will stop any time soon?

  3. When you look solely at the numbers, Wiggins is an elite young prospect. His offensive numbers match the first years of Kahwi Leonard and like Leonard he has been defending the best offensive player in most games, since coming into the league. Not close to the level of Kahwi, but better than any other T-wolf would have done and Kahwi has had a much better supporting cast in San Antonio.

    When you look beyond the numbers, you start to wonder IF Andrew has plateaued, or if he has that next level to him. If he has a Kahwi Leonard or Paul George next level in him, then the wolves will be in great shape. If not, they have a difficult decision with him at the end of next year. Similar to the KLove situation, is that do you pay someone max money who isn’t going to be at least the Mr. Outside to KAT’s Mr. Inside on a championship team?

    Thibs certainly played Andrew as if he is going to be that elite type of player. He also rarely went after Andrew, when he screwed up. KAT got more flack from Thibs than Wiggins for screw-ups, so my guess is that Thibs thinks he is going to be special. This year, we have to see a team assembled which gives KAT and Wiggins no excuses. They either rise to the level of all-star, or we have issues with the core. Because Andrew is so relaxed out there, he seems to look like he doesn’t care. We can’t assume that that means he isn’t a fiery competitor, but it also means that if you aren’t looking like you care, you better play like you do. Wiggins has at times, looked like he is still playing AAU ball, another game, another loss, who cares. He gets extra motivated for some teams (Cleveland, Kobe Lakers, etc) but doesn’t seem to always have his lunch pail and “let’s go to work” attitude on the court.

    I hope that Andrew becomes the silent competitor that Kawhi is. Kawhi never looks like he is ahead or behind twenty in the game. He just does amazing things every night and not when he feels like it. Andrew needs to show his coach and fans that he can do that too.

  4. It’s easy to look at Andrew Wiggins and like him when you are a 28 win team. I agree he has done as well as any other Twolf guarding the difficult SF in the league, which is not an easy task. I would like Andrew to become a transformed player in the next year. Someone who at the very least, appreciates and recognizes the importance of defense. If he doesn’t than we have a younger Rudy Gay on our team. It would be interesting if the wolves draft Isaac (Who should see time at SF) and slide Wiggins to the 2, where I think he would be deadly at and may not have to rely on defense as much. I’d still like him to use his athleticism to at least trap guys and make scorers feel like he can wear you down.
    If the wolves somehow land Josh Jackson, although I don’t see the Suns or Magic letting him slide to us, he will provide at least a bit of the drive we would all like Wiggins to have.

  5. Prefacing this comment with the fact that I am playing devil’s advocate to some extent..

    The comparison between Wiggins and Leonard has come up a couple of times in this thread for obvious reasons. Equally obvious, Wiggins is lacking in the defensive comparison. However, let’s remember that Leonard was drafted by a team that was loaded with veterans, an all-world coach and an established defensive system where the coach had complete buy-in from the players. There could not have been a better circumstance for Kahwi to start his career in.

    Conversely, Andrew has played for three coaches in three years with the first two not being great defensive minds.

    I’ll throw in one more devil’s advocate statement: Thibs played the starters insane minutes this year. When you’re playing 37-39 minutes a night, you need to determine how you’re going to expend your energy. With most players, their defense, not offense is what will suffer in that circumstance.

    There’s been no greater disappointment with Wiggins’ game than with his defense. But this has not been the best of circumstances for a still very young player to become the shutdown wing that he has the potential to be. Hopefully some stability under a defensive minded coach will pay dividends in the coming years.