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The Offseason of Andrew Wiggins and Pivotal Season Ahead

photo: Hannah Foslien, Getty

With so much drama in the M-S-P
It’s kinda hard bein’ Drew W-I-G

Okay, fine. There isn’t that much actual drama going on with Andrew Wiggins and the Timberwolves, and there’s certainly no reason for such a cheesy Gin and Juice joke. I’m sorry about that.

But there is some stuff happening, some of it is important stuff, and that stuff involves Wig. Followers of the Timberwolves are bound to learn a lot more about him in the coming days, weeks, and months.

Let’s take an inventory, in chronological order:

  • April 12, 2017

Timberwolves lost their final game of the season, 123-118 to the Houston Rockets. Wiggins finished the year averaging a career-high 23.6 points per game.

  • June 22, 2017

The NBA Draft is held and Tom Thibodeau makes a splash by trading away Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn for Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls. LaVine was Wiggins’ buddy — they both joined the Wolves in 2014 after Flip Saunders drafted Zach and traded Kevin Love for Wig. Butler, a borderline superstar player, would join Wiggins on the wings and presumably take away some of his touches in the half court offense. He would also immediately make the Wolves a far better team than they were last season.

  • June 26, 2017

FiveThirtyEight, the analytics blog owned by ESPN and run by Nate Silver of elections-predictions fame, published a story called The NBA Haters’ Ball. The piece was designed to identify and describe “the NBA season’s most dubious achievements.” Wiggins’ mug was in the cover photo and his “Least Defensive Player” award was the primary takeaway. To be clear, the methodology used in the analysis was pretty shaky. Wiggins was faulted for contesting too many shots. (The basic idea was that he was in the vicinity of a ton of made shots. One might counter their conclusions by asking, “Would he then have been a better — or less bad — defender, had he never bothered to guard shooters?”) But like anything else on social media in 2017, the conclusion was what seared through Timberwolves Twitter after the piece was dropped. Andrew Wiggins was named “the single most catastrophic defender in the league.”

  • June 30, 2017

Ricky Rubio was traded away to the Utah Jazz for cap space and a draft pick. Rubio was a popular teammate with everyone. That he had a special alley-oop connection with Wiggins means he was likely no exception. Having now lost LaVine and Ricky in a week’s time, Wiggins was learning a lot about the business side of the NBA.

  • July 24, 2017

Brian Windhorst of ESPN reported that Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland and requested a trade. Windy reported further that Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns had been “recruiting” Irving to Minnesota and telling Wolves management that they want him on their team. It seemed reasonable to assume that this — whether spelled out specifically or not — meant that both players would have voted ‘yes’ on a Wiggins-for-Irving swap. (There just wasn’t any other realistic way they could’ve traded for a player of Kyrie’s caliber.) This was now public information. #awkward

  • August 7, 2017

Wolves owner Glen Taylor opened his mouth to the press on all things Andrew Wiggins. Most significantly, Taylor announced (maybe “confirmed” is the better word) that he was ready to offer a maximum contract extension to Wig; one that would be worth almost $150 Million. Under league rules, the Wolves and Wiggins have until before this season starts to reach an extension agreement, otherwise he becomes a restricted free agent in 2018. What generated more buzz than the substantive item, however, was Taylor’s stream of consciousness on Wiggins the person, and the last bits of housekeeping he needs before putting his own John Hancock on that max offer sheet. Taylor said that there were “some things that I need out of him, and that is the commitment to be a better player than you are today.” He wanted a sit-down, face-to-face meeting before any ink was spilled. Among other Taylor-esque remarks, he noted that Wiggins “seems like a very good person.” Wiggins is quiet by nature, usually keeping his thoughts and feelings to himself. Maybe this makes Glen nervous.

  • August 13, 2017

In a story about sneaker contracts, and primarily about Giannis Antetokounmpo, ESPN reporter Nick DePaula wrote that Adidas higher-ups have “strong hesitation” about whether Wiggins could carry a signature shoe line. If you want to know why this news is significant, spend five minutes Googling things like “james harden shoe contract” and “steph curry shoe contract” and especially “lebron james shoe contract.” That should help you understand why Wiggins’ having a signature shoe contract on his mind could be a (Joe Biden voice) big fucking deal.

  • August 22, 2017

Irving is traded to Boston; not Minnesota. While the Wolves’ potential involvement in any Kyrie deal had seemed dead for a while, this news was the final nail in that coffin.

  • August 22, 2017

On this same day, two days ago as of this writing, Wiggins fired his agent, Bill Duffy. He filed the necessary paperwork with the player’s association that ended his relationship with BDA Sports. Duffy is well known to Wolves fans because of his history with former front office bosses Kevin McHale and Flip Saunders that dates back to their time together at the University of Minnesota. Duffy represents LaVine too, among many other notable players. According to Duffy, who spoke to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Wiggins was being lured away by competing agencies that planned to take no commission off of contracts. Duffy made clear that he intends to be paid his commission off of the $148 Million deal that was offered during his representation. However player-agent disputes get resolved, it seems there might be a fight on the way between these two. Given Taylor’s remarks about Wiggins the Person just two weeks earlier, the news that he was maybe going to try to stiff Duffy on his commission might not be taken lightly.

Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press chimed in with some updates on the situation last night on Twitter:

So.

What does all of this mean?

More than anything, this offseason has teed up a pivotal moment in the career of Andrew Wiggins.

Since entering the league three years ago, his teams have been bad. Now, with Jimmy Butler on board, they are going to be good. “Being good” could mean entirely different dynamics for Wiggins. Maybe, cast in the right role and surrounded by the right teammates, his defense will improve. Maybe his shot selection will gravitate toward open looks from efficient places, rather than taking so many contested shots from the mid-range. Maybe an improved all-around game will get Wiggins that signature shoe deal, making him twice as rich and famous as he already is. Going down that road, maybe the Don Drapers at Adidas will mold his public personality into something more recognizable. Maybe that will make Glen Taylor more comfortable than he is right now, wondering what’s going on in Wig’s head when he just smiles and responds to dumb media questions with the 1 or 2 word answers that they often deserve.

Or, maybe more success and higher expectations will change nothing about Wiggins. Maybe he just keeps dropping 20 to 25 points in the ways he’s comfortable getting them, and that’s it. Maybe he is defiant, stubborn, or just doesn’t care what you or I think. And if he is some or all of those things, maybe that isn’t even a bad thing. Maybe, while Butler’s alpha dog mentality battles KAT’s inner teacher’s pet for the face of the franchise, the best thing for their third wheel is to just do his thing, to just “do his job.”

Can Wiggins reconcile his low profile, doing it his own way, while also becoming a superstar player on a great team?

Nobody knows right now, but we’re certainly going to find out soon enough.

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3 thoughts on “The Offseason of Andrew Wiggins and Pivotal Season Ahead

  1. The timing of the agent dropping thing is kind of a puzzler but I see it as much ado about nothing (if it’s even viewed as “much”). Wiggins doesn’t strike me as the type to pull off debauchery or to hold a passive aggressive grudge to unleash at the exact right time. You’d have to be pretty bored and petty to wait for that…considering it’s more than two weeks before the season starts.

  2. Having Jimmy Buckets gives Thibs a player he can put on the best opposing offensive player each night instead of Wiggins. That should make Wiggins a better player by default. Playing Klay instead of KD, or JR Smith instead of LeBron is a big help. Having three veterans playing with KAT and Andrew should make the team defense better and again Wiggins gets better by default. Where we need to see young Wigs get better is in how he rebounds against those smaller players and passes out of traffic when he drives. IF he can add that piece of the puzzle, Glen should be comfortable adding a max contract, not named Karl to the team. Andrew may need a year of playing with the vets to really get better at those areas, but we should at least see he can do it. KAT was able in half a year, become a much better passer out of double teams. Andrew needs to show that same kind of growth through this year.

  3. For those who worry about this situation, the Marbury and Love situations probably linger heavily in their minds. It was easy to get attached to the KG-Marbury pairing and assume that it mattered more to Marbury than it actually ended up mattering (and maybe it doesn’t end up hurting the franchise if they use the assets they got for Marbury in a different way), and the concerns connecting to Love are probably with the team’s lack of success and how much of the franchise’s dysfunction still exists. Essentially, though, no player has ever turned down a max offer coming off their rookie contract and then taken the qualifying offer in order to become an unrestricted free agent. If Wiggins doesn’t sign the max and takes the qualifying offer, he’ll probably be traded before he ever gets to free agency, which, judging by the wide disparity of opinions on his value, might be appealing to some who know quite a bit about basketball.

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