It’s no secret that Andrew Wiggins has had another poor season for the Minnesota Timberwolves, but let’s take a bit of a deeper dive.
If there’s ever a team looking for the season to end, it’s the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Wolves have been ravaged with poor team chemistry, locker room dysfunction, turnover, and ineptitude to win.
Ownership tried to correct the ship by trading pariah Jimmy Butler and ultimately firing head coach and front office boss Tom Thibodeau, but that did not change much of the team’s bad play. And like it or not, Andrew Wiggins is on the forefront of bearing much of the responsibility.
It was expected Wiggins’ numbers would decrease with the acquisition of Butler and that happened last year. But this season, with Butler out of the picture after playing in just 10 games for the Wolves, Wiggins has been downright awful.
The Twin Cities faithful have quietly — and at times, vocally — clamored for Wiggins’ ousting, but at 24 he’s too young and talented to simply give up on. Oh, and there’s the max contract thing, too.
In just his third year in the league, Wiggins averaged 23.6 points per game on 45.2 percentage while hitting on a decent 35.6 percent from beyond the arc. His player efficiency rating (PER) had gone up in three consecutive years as Wiggins was getting more comfortable in a leadership role with the Wolves.
This year, Wiggins is shooting a career-low 39.9 percent from the field while averaging just 17.6 points per game. His PER has slipped from a high of 16.5 to 11.8. He’s averaging a career-worst true shooting percentage (combined shooting efficiency of 2-pointers, 3-pointers and free throws) of 48.1 percent.
Wiggins has been so bad this year he’s actually put up negative offensive wins shares at -0.8.
The main problem is he’s back to settling for long, low-percentage jumpers. Often, they’re 2-point attempts, but he still isn’t a good enough 3-point shooter, either, where he is shooting 32.9 percent. These long shots are a result of settling instead of squaring up his defender and taking him to the basket.
This season, Wiggins has only attempted 26 percent of his shots near within three feet of the basket. By comparison, this number was at 32.1 percent just three seasons ago. Wiggins has been so inefficient on the offensive end that the Wolves have a -0.7 plus/minus with Wiggins on the floor.
Wiggins had a total number of dunks of 79, 84, and 77 in his first three seasons, respectively. During the last two seasons, those numbers are 58 and 34. That stat alone speaks volumes about Wiggins’ aggressiveness.
All that said, it’s still too early to trade Wiggins. He is a max player when he manages to give full effort. If he stops settling for weak outside jumpers and aggressively takes the ball to the hoop. , it would go a long way towards the Wolves winning games.
Next season, Wiggins will be entering the second year of his five-year maximum salary extension, which will average more than $27+ million per season over the life of the deal. Wiggins needs to quickly forget about this year, get in the gym and work on his game.
The talent is there, he’s had a successful season before so the work ethic is there, he just needs to rediscover his love for the game. No one in Minnesota wants Wiggins’ career to parallel that of De’Angelo Russell, who since being traded by the Lakers has blossomed into an All-Star. It’s still too early for a change of scenery for Wiggins. The T-Wolves sport a young, talented roster with Karl-Anthony Towns, Dario Saric, and Robert Covington. They snuck into the playoffs last year and when completely healthy, they should be able to climb in the standings next year.
But a lot of the Wolves’ success revolves around the engagement of Wiggins. Wiggins can’t continue to settle on outside jumpers and needs to be more aggressive and assertive on the offensive end. He needs to make open jumpers when given the opportunity, take more high-percentage shots, as well, find open teammates in transition and improve his assists output.
The Minnesota faithful will be back in Wiggins’ corner if he simply shows consistent effort, which will equate to better all-around play. And, most importantly, more Wolves wins.