Minnesota Timberwolves: Andrew Wiggins finally breaks out

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK- DECEMBER 23: Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK- DECEMBER 23: Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Andrew Wiggins finally had a breakout performance for the Minnesota Timberwolves, and it came in an impressive road win against one of the best teams in the league in the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The start of the 2018-19 season has been underwhelming for Andrew Wiggins and the Minnesota Timberwolves, to say the least.

The former Rookie of the Year and the team’s cornerstone guard had been quiet for much of the season but broke-out on Sunday evening in Oklahoma City. Indeed, the Timberwolves need more dominant, all-around games from their young star.

Minnesota Timberwolves fans have been waiting all year for a game like this from Wiggins, and he came through in the clutch. Wiggins scored 30 points in the Timberwolves’ first road win in the Western Conference. He punctuated the breakout performance with a game-winning basket on a drive to the basket, eluding both Paul George and Steven Adams in the paint.

With the Timberwolves at 15-18 and sitting 2.5 games out of the eighth seed, Wiggins’ big game is exactly what the struggling team needs that could possibly save their season.

Since going scoreless on 0-for-12 shooting versus the lowly Chicago Bulls just after Christmas, Wiggins has played much better. His December averages are up across the board, to 19.6 points, 4.9 rebounds per game and 2.1 assists per game. He’s also shooting considerably better at 47 percent in December versus 35 percent during the previous month, including 38 percent from the 3-point line.

Somewhat surprisingly, it was Wiggins’ first 30-point game of the season. He also added six rebounds and five assists.

Wiggins has been a bit of a mystery since signing the his five-year, $148 million contract extension prior to the 2017-18 season. The trade of Jimmy Butler to the Philadelphia 76ers has opened up more shots but it did not seem much changed as Wiggins continued to struggle.

A lot has weighed on Wiggins’ shoulders since signing the lucrative deal as his expectations have grown, and he hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations.

His non-volume-scoring numbers have to improve as Wiggins must play a more all-around game for the Timberwolves to continue winning and have an impact in the tough Western Conference. He is a franchise player and the city is certainly aware of what he’s capable of. In 2016-17, Wiggins averaged 23.6 points per game with a 16.5 PER and a 29 percent usage rate, clearly showing that a majority of the offense ran through him.

This season, per 100 possessions, the Timberwolves are only 0.3 points better than the opponents with Wiggins on the floor. Much of that low number is because Wiggins has struggled early in the season but he has shown flashes of improvement over the past ten games. The Timberwolves are 12-5 at home but only 3-13 on the road.

Wiggins actually plays better on the road with averages of 18.1 points with a 43 percent field goal percentage versus 15.4 and 38 percent at home, but the Timberwolves need to play more team ball for that to translate to wins.

The area where Wiggins needs to develop most for the Timberwolves to be more effective is getting his teammates involved. For his career, Wiggins has never averaged more than 3 assists per game. If Wiggins wants to avoid a short-lived, high-scoring career like Carmelo Anthony, his game has to evolve as the NBA is moving away from isolation basketball.

The win against the Thunder is a good start. If Wiggins and Co. can string together a couple more impressive wins like that on the road, it will build confidence going into the new year.

dark. Next. 3 potential trades for T.J. Warren

The dust has settled from the Butler drama. Now, it’s time for Wiggins to simply go out and deliver on his franchise promise.