Andrew Wiggins had a frustrating start to his career with the Minnesota Timberwolves but this season he has proven to be an effective scorer and has eliminated a lot of bad habits.
The sun is shining as I admire the waves lapping upon the sands on Wiggins Island.
My beach-side estate is flourishing and even though the local population hasn’t returned to its original numbers, the tourism industry is thriving.
The focus of the article was just if Wiggins could improve his shot selection and eliminate his slew of mid-range jumpers, he would immediately become a much more efficient player.
So far this season, Wiggins has been an important piece to the Minnesota Timberwolves early success.
Sure, it has only been eight games, but Wiggins is currently posting a career-best in points, field goal percentage, rebounds, assists, turnovers, blocks, assist-to-turnover ratio, effective field goal percentage, and PER.
That was a lot, and I could throw the numbers at you but neither of us feels like going through all of that. The important thing to focus on is how Wiggins has been able to make these improvements: shot selection.
The biggest frustration with Wiggins’s game has always been his infatuation with the mid-range jumper. Throughout Wiggins’s career, 26.2 percent of his shots have been long mid-range jumpers, per Cleaning the Glass. Last season, he ranked in the 86th percentile among wings with 22 percent of his shot attempts coming in this same range.
One of the biggest crusades for Ryan Saunders has been to improve the shot selection of Wiggins. He has made mid-range shots fewer points in practice and has even gone as far as benching Wiggins in-game as a result of his poor shot selection.
These efforts have paid off dramatically. This season Wiggins is taking 39 percent of his shots at the rim (75th percentile) which is up from 34 percent last season. He has also steered away from long mid-range jumpers as only 14 percent of his shots have come from that area which is down from 22 percent last season.
The frequency has been important, but Wiggins is also one of the most effective drivers in the league. Per NBA Stats, Wiggins ranks eighth in field goal percentage and first in points among forwards who drive at least seven times per game.
One of the biggest improvements Wiggins has made, skill-wise, has been his ball-handling. This has been evident in his improved isolation scoring and driving ability. This season, Wiggins has scored 1.125 points per possession in isolation situations (80th percentile) and 1.154 points per possession (78th percentile) when he drives out of isolation, per Synergy.
Below we can see an example of Wiggins’s improved isolation game. He starts the play with a few crossovers that don’t take him anywhere. Watching this live, my initial thought process was “great, here comes a contested deep two we’ve seen a thousand times”.
Instead, Wiggins recognizes that he has the opposing center switched onto him and the rim is uncontested because of the Timberwolves’ spacing. Wiggins gets Jarrett Allen slightly off balance and then bolts towards the lane. He then does a great job of securing the ball with both hands as he begins his gather to avoid the swipe of the help defender which allows him to beat Allen to the spot and finish with finesse at the rim.
Wiggins has also shown great improvement as the pick-and-roll ball-handler. Last season, Wiggins scored just .74 points per possession (31st percentile) as the pick-and-roll ball-handler, per Synergy. This season though, Wiggins is scoring .913 PPP (58th percentile) and he is scoring 1.233 PPP when he gets to the rim in the pick-and-roll.
Here we can see Wiggins improved comfort level and decision making when running the pick-and-roll. He takes full advantage of the screen that takes his defender completely out of the play. Wiggins is then left in a one-on-one situation with Brook Lopez who is playing drop coverage.
In the past, Wiggins would have been more than willing to pull up for a deep two after coming off the screen. Instead, Wiggins attacks Lopez. Wiggins begins his drive towards the middle of the lane which takes Lopez that way as well. This move by Wiggins forces Lopez to be out of position and creates a lane for him to cut back to the rim for an easy layup.
Wiggins likely will never reach the expectations placed on him when he entered the league. He also may never live up to the contract he was given. At this point, that’s ok because we’ve seen drastic changes to his play-style this season.
Wiggins has done a great job of changing his game this season by simply improving his shot selection. He is attacking the rim and knocking down threes (38.3 percent in his last six games).
As the season progresses, take note of the subtle changes Wiggins has made to his game. Eliminating entrenched bad habits is difficult and the execution needs to be appreciated.
Wiggins has made a huge jump in his game and is going to be an important piece to any success the Timberwolves have going forward.