On the final game of the Timberwolves 2018/19 season, Andrew Wiggins put up 25 points on 55 percent shooting with five rebounds and four assists. He was the go-to scorer on a team without Karl-Anthony Towns in a losing effort.
Games like that are high watermarks now for a player previously called Maple Jordan and Air Canada.
Now days, the Timberwolves struggled to find a suitor for him around draft time as nobody wants to shoulder his $27.5 million annual salary. This is the same Wiggins that was essentially flipped for an in-prime Kevin Love to bolster a LeBron James Cleveland team.
But what happened to Wiggins?
After giving him the max available extension following his rookie contract, Minnesota now have the 21st highest paid player in the league with nowhere near 21st-best player value. In terms of PER, a somewhat catch-all statistic, he ranks 139th in the league.
At six-foot-eight with a seven-foot wingspan, the 24-year-old has all the tools to be a very useful wing defender. But he hasn’t lived up to expectations on that end of the court.
His career he averages of one steal and 0.6 blocks is pretty meh, and the advanced numbers aren’t any kinder.
A silver lining is that he guards the perimeter well, keeping opposing players away from the three point line and lowering their three point percentage by 1.6 percent per Cleaning the Glass, good for the 69th percentile in the league out of all eligible wing players.
He’s even somewhat elite at lowering opponents shots in the paint for his positional grouping.
However, as seen with his raw defensive numbers; he doesn’t disrupt the other team with his physical tools, he just kinda hangs about. He posted a 1.2 percent steal percentage which earned him the 37th percentile per CtG.
Even without his defence being as great as advertised, Wiggins still had the potential to be a go-to scorer in the NBA whether or not his jump shot translated from college. This IS Maple Jordan we’re talking about here after all.
But he has the shooting frequencies that would make any fan of efficient basketball tremble in their Jordan 1’s.
Wiggins shot only 26 percent of his total shots from three, bottom ninth percentile from all wing players and 40 percent of them from mid-range, a mark that puts him in the top-13th percentile. For reference, that’s a higher than Kobe-inspired mid-range-sweetheart Jayson Tatum and post-injury Gordon Hayward, per CtG.
For all his mid-range affection, he didn’t shoot higher than 34 percent on shots from that area and the only area in which he posted an above-average shooting percentage was from the corner three.
You might say “oh, that’s great, corner threes are really efficient,” but it was his least frequent shot to take, he took a lot of dribble-pull-ups inside the arc. In fact, as soon as he took a dribble his three-point frequency dropped steeply.
I’d love to send him a Google Drive folder full of players taking a side-step after a pump fake. Klay Thompson is a master at this, once the defender flies by, instead of driving in, he treats it as a wide open shot and stays behind the arc.
Final points on his efficiency: his effective field goal percentage was 46.3 percent, lower than Russell Westbrook, Collin Sexton and (old man) Dwyane Wade to name a few.
Now, I know I’ve just said a lot of numbers, but bear with me. There’s going to be a reason for it all.
Wiggins efficiency and raw numbers really took a hit when Jimmy Butler came to the Timberwolves. Surely he took a hit to his confidence, alongside his number of shots. By the time Jimmy had gotten annoyed at that situation and asked for a trade, KAT was the clear number one option and all-star on the team.
But just like Leia to Ben Kenobi in the original trilogy: there’s still hope (I apologise for that reference).
Wiggins in an inefficient shooter taking bad shots. Imagine if he had a coach that coaxed him out of his mid-range jumpers and either asked him to step it back or attack the rim?
This season was his first as an inefficient scorer inside the paint, something I believe is an aberration. He dropped from 67 percent to 58 on a similar number of shot attempts between the last two seasons.
He isn’t a complete sieve on defence. Yes, he can’t stop the offence at an elite level but he’s capable on that end of the floor and can guard either wing position.
If he was an archaic big-man that couldn’t keep up with the modern NBA, then I’d have a cause for concern. But wing players that can defend and hit threes are one of the most valuable assets in the league today, he still has a chance to be at least a glorified Trevor Ariza.
Maybe it will take a trade for him to realise the Maple Jordan potential or maybe he’ll never be as good as that poor nickname asks him to be. But at 24-years-old, he can get much better and teams with cap space aspirations and a good coach shouldn’t be too scared to touch him.