By: Dan Slaubaugh
For a team projected to finish with a win total in the mid-to-low 30s entering the season, the Timberwolves, 4-3 overall, offered many storylines to follow from the get-go. To name a few: Will Karl-Anthony Towns take the next step into tier 1 of superstars category? What do the Wolves have in Jarrett Culver? Are the Wolves still an above-average team when Robert Covington is on the court?
All important storylines, but the trajectory of the upcoming season — much like the last few years — sat in the hands of the enigma that is Andrew Wiggins.
These were all important questions to consider of the player who’s held the key to Minnesota’s ceiling since he signed his John Hancock at the bottom of his max contract extension.
It’s a small sample size in seven games, but the early returns on Wiggins’ performance are promising.
Wiggins is launching from deep 6.7 times per game — up from 4.8 a season ago — at a competent 34 percent. More importantly, Wiggins has drastically cut down on the number of long twos taken.
More threes and shots at the rim, less long twos. That’s been the theme of the Wolves' new modern NBA offense and frankly, one they are far behind the league in implementing.
With an increased focus on optimal shots, Wiggins has started to transform his shot selection.
These numbers represent a drastic change in Wiggins' shot selection and are a significant indication that the coaching staff is getting through to him. He's cut way down on the number of long two attempts while increasing his number of shots from deep. This has spearheaded a bump in eFG% at .508 compared to last year's .461 (again, still extremely early).
Wiggins scoring average through the Wolves' first seven games is 22.4 points - an increase of over four points from last season. With a continued focus to develop his long-range shooting, there are sure to be more big nights from the new-look Wiggins.
After starting the season shooting 40 percent (16-40) from the field and 0-7 from three in the first two games, Wiggs has come into his own. Beginning with the Miami game where he went berserk in the fourth quarter, he's averaging 24 points and 4.2 rebounds on 46.7 percent (43-92) shooting from the field and 40 percent (16-40) shooting from deep and looking confident while doing it. Look at the skip in his step as he runs back to his end mid-shot before burying this three.
With Wiggins, we've been hoping for consistency and hopefully, this is the start. When he is efficient behind the arc, it opens up his game with opponents having to respect the jump shot.
In the play below, Ja Morant goes on top of the screen to prevent an open three. Wiggins, who has shown an improved IQ, sees the open lane and utilizes his best attribute -- his athleticism -- to get to the rim and finish for the layup. I mean, this is a play I'm 99 percent confident last year's Wiggs would stop at the free throw line and pull the trigger on a mid-range jumper.
Given the small sample size, Wiggins could see regression after a hot start. The important thing, this year, is that he's taking the right shots and playing the right way. So, it's fair to suggest that if regression were to happen, it wouldn't be as steep.
This "Max" Wiggins is a Wiggins we can get on board with.
Wiggins looks to continue building an efficient start to the season 7 p.m. Friday as the Wolves welcome the Golden State Warriors to Target Center.