Posted by: Dan Slaubaugh
With the NBA season officially a wrap, On The Prowl's Dan Slaubaugh and Zach More preview the Timberwolves offseason.
Dan: Well Zach, another season has come and gone. It was the most exciting season I’ve had, along with the rest of the On The Prowl team, covering the Timberwolves since our launch in 2014. The Warriors ended up sweeping the NBA Finals over a Cavs team left with misfit pieces of the Kyrie Irving trade. This season wasn’t predictable in the sense that New Orleans would sweep Portland in the first round or that the Boston Celtics would advance to the Eastern Conference Finals (Game 7!) after losing their two star offseason additions in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward to injury, but most all of us predicted Houston to be Golden State’s biggest threat and just barely come up short. That’s exactly what happened, and we’ll never know what could have happened if Chris Paul didn’t get hurt.
But now we’re onto the offseason. It’s an offseason that has the potential to blow our socks off. Kawhi Leonard’s status is uncertain in San Antonio. LeBron James could head to Hollywood, Houston, or The City of Brotherly Love. Washington, Toronto, and Portland all have reason to “blow it up” after “running it back” for consecutive years with little playoff success. The head coaching vacancies in Detroit and Toronto are yet to be filled. New Orleans needs to decide what to do with DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo. Will Paul George leave Oklahoma City? Will Chris Paul leave the Rockets?
All these questions will shape the offseason, and spur subsequent moves from the rest of the NBA. Pretty crazy, huh Zach?
Zach: Yes, this offseason is going to be can’t-miss action. The Wojbomb alerts will be turned on. Last year the Wolves had a lot of money to play with and that made it exciting from a Wolves standpoint, where this offseason it’s going to be crazy from an NBA standpoint.
Dan: Absolutely. That being said, let’s get right to it with the Wolves. They have the mid-level exception to work with, and that’s likely it as far as acquiring a player who can legitimately help this team. It’s quite clear they are in need of some wing depth, particularly a player who can shoot and defend (same needs as last offseason). Any names you have in mind?
Zach: The problem for the Wolves is that their need will be what basically every NBA team is looking for. A guard who can defend and shoot. The Wolves, however, will have less money than many of the other teams pursuing the same players. I haven’t gone over the free agent list too hard yet but a player like Wayne Ellington, Rodney Hood or heck even a Jeff Green/Wilson Chandler type could be names rumored for the Wolves. It’s hard to narrow it down without knowing what exactly the Wolves will have to spend. This will come down if they can trade Gorgui Dieng’s contract or somehow make a splash with an Andrew Wiggins trade. The Nemanja Bjelica situation (soon-to-be RFA) will also play a factor in how much the Wolves have to spend. I assume Thibs will extend the qualifying offer to Bjelica making him a restricted free agent.
Dan: So literally as I’m opening a Google doc to write a piece on why I believe the Wolves should pursue Avery Bradley with the MLE, I see Tim Faklis from A Wolf Among Wolves post an article on “The case for pursuing Avery Bradley with the mid-level exception”, so that’s fun (Tim if you’re reading this I’m not bitter at you just bitter at myself for not being quicker haha). Anyway, we have Butler and Wiggins to defend the larger wings on the perimeter but no one quick or fast enough to defend the Stephen Curry's and Kyrie Irving's of the world. Bradley would take that role, and remove a lot of pressure off everyone on defense. The offense is already in a good place. The defense, as everyone knows, needs improvement. Plugging Bradley in off the bench instead of Jamal Crawford would be a big boost for the Wolves.
Zach: Avery Bradley would be a good addition for the Wolves bench. I like that fit better than Jamal last season. Jamal could win games for you but too many times he would also contribute in a large part to the loss. Bradley’s cost will be down a bit because he is coming off an injury-shortened season and even when he did play he didn’t play great. He is still only one year removed from when he averaged 16.3 points per game on nearly 40 percent three-point shooting all while playing great defense. Other GM’s won’t forget about that and someone will offer him more than what the Wolves can pay. He is the type of player fit that the Wolves need to find this offseason. A guy that won’t get people screaming in excitement for but a guy who will play good defense on a nightly basis and help the Wolves win games in a lot of the small ways that don’t always show up on the stat sheet.
Dan: Yeah, unfortunately, I can see teams outbidding the Timberwolves for him, and like you said, the goal should be to find someone LIKE him. With just the MLE, and a coach who continually refuses to play his bench, the Wolves might just have to find a sleeper at the bottom of people’s free agent lists. Moving on to trade talk, here are two questions: 1. Who do you think is the most likely to get moved? 2. Do you think the Wolves should be shopping Andrew Wiggins hard?
Zach: The trade market will be what Wolves fans are talking about more this offseason than free agency. I think the player most likely to be moved is Gorgui Dieng. His contract is going to be tough to move as he showed last year he is not worth the 4 year, 62 million dollar contract he signed before the 2017 season. Due to the way the roster is constructed though he still probably has the best odds of being traded. The Wolves certainly will be trying hard to trade him, it will just come down to if they are willing to add in the pick or take on a bad contract in return. In regards to Andrew Wiggins being traded, I have gone back and forth multiple times already and the offseason just started.
I do believe Thibs needs to contact every team in the league and at least see what the offers would be for him. We can keep talking about “Wiggins still being young” and how “he will improve” but he has yet to prove he will live up to the hype and now that his max contract has kicked in the Wolves need him to produce more. I wouldn’t make a trade just to make a trade when it comes to Wiggins but if the Wolves can find the right fit of players to help this roster win then that is something they need to pursue. A factor that will play into it will be how confident they are that Butler wants to stay long term. If they are then Wiggins becomes more expandable. Wiggins and Butler are not a great fit together on the court and the Wolves could find better players with less “potential” but better fits that will help them win. If they think Butler won’t stay long-term than they have to make the decision to keep Wiggins and possibly look at moving Jimmy, but that’s a convo for a different time.
Dan: Absolutely. It will be extremely interesting to see what the Wolves do the next few months. That said, here’s my to-do list:
That’ll do it for this inbox. Thanks for reading. I may write up something on additional players the Wolves should pursue with the MLE in the next week if I have time. Keep an eye on Jake’s piece on the “Timberwolves Draft Big Board” tomorrow. Until then, have a wonderful Tuesday!
It's hard to believe that its almost been a whole year since Tom Thibodeau pulled the trade trigger and sent Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and what became Lauri Markkanen to Chicago for Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton's draft rights, yet here we are, closing in on another exciting NBA Draft.
Not having a lottery pick has been a strange feeling for Minnesota faithful, but with the 20th pick in hand, there is still plenty of prospects that can make an instant impact. While the enticing freshman names will be the first off the list come draft night, the older gems are the ones that could fall to the Timberwolves.
Let's project and profile the five names that will be at the top of the Minnesota Brass' Big Board when June 21 rolls around.
5. Keita Bates-Diop
Starting off the Wolves Big Board is Ohio State standout Keita Bates-Diop. The 22-year-old doesn't have the same kind of upside as some of the freshman and sophomore products that have declared for the draft, but that extra experience and maturity is exactly what the win-now Timberwolves need.
The versatile 6-foot-8 forward fractured his leg just nine games into his junior season, forcing into a medical redshirt season, but he came back last season with a bang. Bates-Diop averaged 19.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per night on route to the Big 10 Player of the Year honors, an explosive season which should see him firmly cement himself in Minnesota's draft discussions.
Forwards who can guard multiple positions effectively are a valuable commodity in today's NBA, and KBD fits that mold perfectly. He has above average athleticism for his size and his gangly 7-foot-3 wingspan creates nightmares for both perimeter and post players. The Wolves' bench was by far the worst defensive second unit in the league this past season, so adding a dynamic defender like Bates-Diop would be a pleasing pickup, especially for defense-mad Thibodeau.
The added bonus with taking the 22-year-old with the first round selection is his ability to contribute on the offensive end, too. Bates-Diop has a nice handle, a fast and aggressive first step to go along with a silky smooth mid-range jumper that yielded a 46 percent success rate in his final OSU season, per Synergy Sports.
If KBD shot the long ball at a better rate (36 percent in 17-18) he would shoot up the Big Board rankings. Nonetheless, fans should be very happy if he does land in the Twin Cities.
4. Jacob Evans
the Minnesota struggled mightily with effective wing depth this season, and with Jamal Crawford reportedly opting out of his player option, perimeter help is a striking need for the front office come draft night.
Enter Cincinnati junior Jacob Evans. At 6-foot-5 and 200lbs he isn't going to overwhelm opposition with his size and length (6-foot-9 wingspan), but he would be a snug fit in the J-Crossover role as a dynamic scorer off the often terrible Timberwolves bench. Unlike Crawford however, Evans can hold his own on the defensive end of the court.
Offensively, the 21-year-old has shown exactly what he can bring to the table over his last two seasons with the Bearcats putting up 13.5 and 13.0 points per game respectively, nailing 39.4 percent of his triples over the two campaigns.
The Timberwolves uncorked a winning recipe this season that fans have been craving for well over a decade, but the lack of 3-point takes and makes clearly left something to be desired in this pace and space NBA landscape. Plugging Evans into a 3-point stroking role is a small but important step toward Thibs and the Wolves finally joining the deep ball revolution.
Along with passing ability and athleticism that will translate to the big leagues, Evans has defensive potential oozing from his pores. The combo wing finished the NCAA year with a stellar 3.1 Defensive Win Shares, ranking him third in the nation. He may not have the elite tools that other prospects have, but the Bearcat has some pitbull-like intensity when hounding his matchup, the perfect trait for Tom Thibodeau.
Jacob Evans should be around at pick 20, if he is the Timberwolves should be taking a long, hard look at him.
3. Donte DiVincenzo
If you know anything about NCAA basketball or the upcoming NBA Draft, you will have heard of Donte DiVincenzo, the red-headed firecracker out of Villanova. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard made his name in the championship game by dropping 31 points and claiming the coveted Final Four Most Outstanding Player award and has been rising up draft boards ever since.
Dubbed the 'Big Ragu', the sharpshooting scorer will fit into Minnesota's wing rotation swimmingly.
According to Yahoo Insider Mike Schultz, an unnamed NBA Coach was blown away by the Wildcat's game at the recent Draft Combine in Chicago.
"I love him. He's going to shock the league and he's got the cajunas to do it. He's got NBA balls. He was the best player in Chicago and it wasn't even close." he said.
Big praise, but the 21-year-old has backed it up. He averaged 13.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists in just under 30 minutes per game in his third season at Villanova, draining a tasty 40.1 percent of his 5.3 3-point attempts a night, per Sports Reference. The Big Ragu is one of the most effective shot hunting prospects in the entire nation, with a solid handle and passing game to boot, a perfect option to deploy off the needy Timberwolves bench.
If it wasn't for his defense, or lack thereof, DiVincenzo would be a surefire lottery pick. Alas, defense is 50 percent of the game, and the Nova guard is not ideal on that end. He ranks as the worst prospect on our Big Board in both Defensive Rating and Defensive Box Plus/Minus, which dramatically decreases his value, especially under Thibs.
Defensive savvy or not, the elite shot creating ability and range that Donte DiVincenzo possesses will definitely fill a critical need for Minnesota.
2. Chandler Hutchison
Sticking with the perimeter player theme, our next prospect is Boise State University senior Chandler Hutchison.
The 22-year-old opted to return to BSU for his final season after a breakout campaign in 2016-17, it turned out to be a good move as Hutchison took another massive leap in 17-18' and firmly cemented himself as a first-round prospect. He also happens to be a seamless fit into Minnesota's scheme.
Hutchison was the heart and soul of his Boise State unit, and it showed when you scour his statistics. The combo wing averaged 20 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per outing, hitting 47.5 percent of his shots and 35.9 percent of his triples to cap off a fantastic senior year. When you combine his 6-foot-7 frame and 7-foot-1 wingspan with the borderline Andrew Wiggins level athleticism, Hutchison's raw physical tools jump off the screen.
The Boise State Bronco has above average ball handling which helps him slither into the paint and finish well with either hand, he is also quietly adept at making pinpoint passes when he does get into the paint. He launches himself into perimeter mismatches when he is isolated on a big and gets to the free throw line at will (7.2 attempts per game), all of which suits Tom Thibodeau's potentially prehistoric offensive scheme.
Hutchison brings high energy on the boards and provides solid length as a defender, improving every year at BSU, he likely projects to be a solid-but-not-special defender at the next level. The 35.9 percent 3-point percentage isn't ideal for a Wolves squad that is crying out for snipers, but he seems to be a better outside shooter when he is catching and firing right away and his 37.7 percent in 2016-17 is a sign that he can improve.
If our upcoming first option is off the board at 20, Hutchison will be a fine addition to this Timberwolves squad.
1. Khyri Thomas
Our first four options have been both exciting and plugged a hole in the Timberwolves roster, but none of them bring the best mix of the two like Creighton junior Khyri Thomas can.
Thomas measured in at a tick under 6-foot-4 at the Draft Combine, but with his 6-foot-10 wingspan and a Jimmy Butler style intensity, he managed average 15.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per night and capture his second straight Big East Defensive Player of the Year award. Despite being undersized he projects to slot comfortably into either guard position when he makes the jump to the NBA.
We know how badly the Timberwolves need defensive help in any way, shape or form, and Thomas brings that in spades. That's not all he has in his toolbox though, The 22-year-old is one of the most deadly 3-point bombers in the draft, he nailed 41.1 percent of his triples in 2017-18 and 40.6 percent overall in his 102 Creighton appearances.
Whether it's off screens, pulling up or on spot up opportunities, Thomas has it on lock. This kind of marksmanship will cover up another gaping black hole in Minnesota's ugly-at-times offense. You're starting to salivate at the thought of this kid in the Aurora Green Uniforms, aren't you? Me too.
Due to the freshman and sophomore being taken early based on long-term potential, Thomas projects in the mid to late 20's in every mock draft with any sort of credibility. This means there is a high chance he will available when the Timberwolves are on the clock. Minnesota won't worry about long-term potential as much as win-now capabilities, and with Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler well ahead of him in the pecking order, Thomas could smoothly slide into a sixth man role and help improve on the 47 wins the Wolves garnered in 17-18'.
To add the cherry on top of the delicious looking Khyri Thomas cake, he is a former Creighton teammate and friend of 2017 first round pick Justin Patton.
There you have it. Five options that should thrill Wolves fans no matter what. Let me know what you think!
By: Seth Toupal
With the Warriors halfway to the NBA Title (unless Cleveland can make it a series back at home) it’s time to start focusing on ways that the Timberwolves can build off of their 47-35 record this past year. With the draft, trades and free agency all as viable options for improvement; the Wolves stand a good chance to build around their core and deepen their roster. The biggest question is how aggressive will the Wolves be in trying to take the next step as a contender in the Western Conference? The answer to that question will be revealed as the offseason progresses but I’m impatient enough to want those answers now. So I took to NBA 2K18 to help speed up the process.
Before I get too far into potential solutions I should start by stating the obvious: the trades presented here were all gathered from NBA 2K18 based off of a simulation. They may not match up with what would be required to make them work in real life but I did stick to trades that were approved and seemed realistic. I did also throw in a few other transactions that I will mention at the end to fill out the roster. So let’s dive in and look at some potential trades that could reshape the Timberwolves roster.
This article will be broken down into three possibilities: first is a trade involving Gorgui Dieng and the Timberwolves first-round draft pick. The second is a trade of Andrew Wiggins. And the third trade is a blockbuster trade that I will reveal later. After revealing all of the possible trades I looked at, I will apply them to a simulation and see how the Timberwolves do with their new additions.
We start with Gorgui Dieng and the Timberwolves 1st round pick. Dieng is a good player but has not received the minutes to warrant his massive contract under Tom Thibodeau. With the amount of money he is owed the Wolves will need to sweeten the pot and that is where the first round pick comes in. I dangled Gorgui and the 1st rounder and these are the 3 most appealing trades that were offered by the rest of the league:
1. Timberwolves Trade Gorgui Dieng and the 2018 1st round pick to the Brooklyn Nets for DeMarre Carroll + 2019 2nd Round Pick.
2. Timberwolves Trade Gorgui Dieng and the 2018 1st round pick to the Memphis Grizzlies for Ben McLemore + JaMychal Green.
3. Timberwolves Trade Gorgui Dieng and the 2018 1st round pick to the Phoenix Suns for Troy Daniels + Tyson Chandler
Looking at each trade individually Carroll gives the Wolves a starter qualify wing who is a 36% 3 point shooter throughout his career and this trade would take Gorgui’s contract off the books as Carroll is on just a 1-year deal. There is a slight addition in salary ($0.33 Million) but it isn’t enough to cause any issues. Carroll is also a tenacious rebounder and helps fill the potential loss of Nemanja Bjelica too.
The second trade is aimed more at shoring up the bench. Adding McLemore adds a shooter to cover for the departure of Jamal Crawford and Green fills the spot of Bjelica if he doesn’t resign. Both players combined save the Timberwolves around $1.84 million dollars which would allow the Wolves to add another player if they deemed fit. Both Green and McLemore are both on 1-year deals so they come off the books after this season. Green brings rebounding with him and McLemore is a proven 3 point shooter.
The final trade is one I liked with the assumption a couple of other moves are made. The addition of Chandler would not be needed per say unless Justin Patton were also dealt. Chandler is a great defensive center and would be a good backup to Towns. Daniels is a 40 percent career three-point shooter so his ability to hit from deep is well documented. This trade would add $1.68 million to the Wolves salary for next year, but would add players who could help deepen the bench.
Bottom line: All of these trade possibilities provide different needs for the Wolves with much-needed bench depth. But you can only trade Gorgui and the 1st round pick once so if I was pressed into having to make a choice the trade I make is for DeMarre Carroll and a 2019 2nd round pick.
Next up is a trade of Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins signed his max extension and proceeded to have a frustrating season. Though Wiggins is young, he does not appear to be a player worthy of a max extension so if the Wolves can get out from under the contract that would be a plus. Here are some trades that were proposed:
1. Andrew Wiggins to Washington for Otto Porter.
2. Andrew Wiggins + 2020 1st round pick (Lottery protected) to Philadelphia for Robert Covington and Dario Saric.
3. Andrew Wiggins to Miami for Josh Richardson and James Johnson.
With this trade each team acquiring Wiggins is betting on him to benefit from a change of scenery. The Wolves get impact pieces in each trade and some salary relief in each case. The addition of Porter adds a capable player who is less of a scorer than Wiggins but more involved in other aspects of the game. His acquisition would allow for more shots for both Butler and Towns and Porter only has 2 years remaining on his deal. Porter is no slouch from three though as he is a career 40 percent shooter from from beyond the arc.
The Philly proposal is very intriguing as well. Covington is an elite wing defender and can hit shots from range as well. Saric would be a starting-caliber power forward that could step in if Taj starts to wear down in the final year of his deal. The addition of the 2020 Philly 1st round pick seems excessive but that is what they wanted to offer. This trade would give the Timberwolves a better-rounded starting lineup than they already had.
Richardson and Johnson add salary flexibility. Richardson is signed to a deal at just slightly over $10 million per year. Richardson is a young player who played extremely well down the stretch for the heat last year and can hit threes at a good rate. Johnson brings another veteran presence that can hit threes in a punch but can also provide defensive rebounding and blocks off the bench.
Bottom Line: Any of these trades would be helpful for the Timberwolves but I’m not taking any of them due to the final trade proposal we are going to discuss in this article. And you will see why when you see this blockbuster trade.
The final trade we will discuss is Andrew Wiggins and Jeff Teague to Charlotte for Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum. The Wolves would be wise to go in a similar route to other teams in the conference by adding a sure fire third option to build around KAT and Butler. Kemba Walker would be this player for the Wolves. Batum adds some scoring but more importantly perimeter defense. A trio of Kemba, Butler and Towns would be dominant enough to contend with most anyone in the NBA.
Kemba could end up being a rental player but the fact that the Wolves were willing to sign Wiggins to a max would likely mean they would be willing to do whatever it takes to keep this core together.
Let’s look at what we have done so far:
Wiggins/Teague for Walker/Batum
Gorgui +2018 1st round pick for DeMarre Carroll + 2019 2nd round pick
And add in a couple of trades that I added just for fun:
Taj Gibson/Justin Patton for Tyson Chandler/Troy Daniels
2020 1st round pick for Domantas Sabonis
Add in a few free agent signings and we are left with a roster of:
Karl Anthony Towns
I took this roster and simulated a season with them (I also just for fun hired Mike D’antoni as head coach). The Wolves finished the season 62-20 and won the NBA Title. So maybe this is just a way to pass time until the real-life decisions are made. But then again, maybe this shows that the best course of action for the Wolves is to be bold and make some big decisions.
Seth is host of The Scoop on KLGR Radio out of Redwood Falls, Minnesota. Listen to episodes of The Scoop here
By: Jake Paynting
With the Minnesota Timberwolves firmly in offseason mode, Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations Tom Thibodeau, General Manager Scott Layden and Owner Glen Taylor must quickly turn their focus to the upcoming NBA Draft.
Before they can cross that bridge though there is a very important question that needs to be addressed, should the front office cohorts keep the 20th pick they are currently allocated or try to use it as a sweetener in a trade.
The case for keeping the pick
With Andrew Wiggins' $148 million contract due to kick in this upcoming season, Karl-Anthony Towns' now boosted $188 million max extension due to be worked out this summer and Jimmy Butler's contract coming to an end after the 2018-19 campaign, it's fair to say the Timberwolves are strapped for cash.
With this in mind, bringing in young players on a rookie scale contracts suddenly becomes an essential part of building this team. While pick 20 isn't the most seductive selection, it is certainly in a range where the Wolves can pluck someone who can immediately contribute to a bench that had major problems this season.
The proof is in the pudding. Over the last five drafts, studs like Kyle Kuzma, Dejounte Murray, Clint Capela, Rudy Gobert and Minnesota's own Tyus Jones are among the dozens of reliable rotation players that have been selected in the 20s. The key for Thibs and company is to nail that pick, especially while the jury is still out on 2017 selection Justin Patton.
As well as the cap implications, keeping the pick enables the Wolves to select and mold a player of their choosing, rather than having to take on a slightly better albatross of a contract to get rid of a team-hampering contract like Gorgui Dieng's. The 28-year-old Dieng watched his production fall off a cliff in his reserve role behind Towns and Taj Gibson but is slated to make $50 million over the next three seasons.
If the Timberwolves want to keep one eye on the future while they continue to build into a perennial playoff member then holding on to their 2018 draft pick is probably a solid option.
The case for trading the pick
While a draftee on a rookie contract playing his way into the rotation has shown to be a triumphant plan for front offices in the past, we have enough evidence by now to know that draft picks are the quintessential 'hit or miss' situation, and Thibodeau, Layden and Taylor are in no position to be swinging at stray pitches.
Sure, projected mid-late first round picks like Creighton's Khyri Thomas, Duke's Gary Trent Jr. and Villanova's Final Four Most Outstanding Player Donte DiVincenzo seem like sure things now, but we all know that isn't how it works when some draft prospects roll around to the big leagues.
If the Timberwolves can find a way to move Gorgui Dieng and the pick for a proven, reliable role player who can help the aforementioned bench struggles, that is a far safer bet than trying to hit a draft home run - especially with Thibs' tendency to completely ignore first-year players.
Zone Coverage's Dane Moore floated a trade idea that would send the Timberwolves reserve big to Brooklyn along with the pick in question, in return Minnesota would take on Demarre Carroll - averaged 13.5 points on 37 percent from deep this season - and his 2-year $30 million contract. This was just an suggestion and not a report of any kind, but dumping Dieng's $50 million and taking on a similar contract with fewer years on it is possible, throw in that 20th pick and that player could be a serviceable rotation guy like Carroll.
If the front office decide to keep the pick, the avenue of options opens wider, but if the Timberwolves can conjure up the right move it may just be the best option while Thibodeau, Layden and Taylor look to kick this win-now franchise into the next gear.
A very important summer awaits.
By: Jake Paynting
As the dust continues to settle on a bittersweet Timberwolves season, questions around what to do with Andrew Wiggins are arising.
It was a disappointing season for the 23-year-old, who seemed to slightly regress in his new found third wheel role behind Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns, and with his 5-year max extension due to kick in next season, somethings gotta give - and he knows it.
"I don't think I had the best season. It's motivation for the summer." He told Pioneer Press reporter Jace Frederick.
According to Basketball Reference, Wiggins averaged 23.6 points on 45.2 percent shooting per game last season, contributing3.3 Total Offensive Win Shares (OWS) to the squad to boot. In 2017-18 that lauded offensive game plummeted, he put up just 17.7 points per game at 43.8 percent from the field and added just 0.5 OWS. His defense clearly improved in his fourth season, but not enough to outweigh his offensive backslide.
While there is plenty of chatter from fans about the Timberwolves potentially moving Wiggins, most signs point towards the 2014 first overall pick staying put in Minnesota and trying to fulfill his seam splitting potential.
This means that this offseason will be the most momentous in Maple Jordan's polarizing career, improving overall and adjusting to life as a third-string scorer is crucial.
When watching Andrew Wiggins, his shooting woes are the major weakness that jumps off the screen and punches you in the face. Not only his inability to consistently make jumpers, but his shot selection too.
Over the summer, the former Kansas standout needs to completely abolish the Kobe Bryant-esque post fadeaway from his game, as well as any other mid-range jumper. He attempted31.6 percent of his field goal attempts from between 10 feet and the 3-point arc this past season but made just 33.4 percent of those long two-pointers.
Rather than revolving his offseason plans around improving the most outdated shot selection in basketball, Wiggins would be better served completely removing it from his offensive skill set. This would allow him to split his time between attacking the rim - where he is elite - and firing off 3-point jumpers.
As you can see from the graphic below, that evolution has already begun:
The only problem with Wiggins analytically improving his shot selection is that, by all statistical accounts, he has gotten worse as a long-range shooter. In order to be an effective player next season, the Canadian will have to prioritize refining his outside game over just about everything else.
Like much of his game, Wiggins' shooting problems could be boosted with some extra strength, toughness, and stamina. If we're being honest, we knew that it would take that wiry kid who first stepped into Target Center a while to fill out his growing body. Another summer of pumping iron and getting up shots will do him well toward the end of games ... especially in Tom Thibodeau's star-draining rotation.
If Wiggins can use that motivation he spoke about to eliminate the mid-range shots and take a step back toward league average from behind the arc, opinions of him may be very different this time next year.
Off the ball
It is imperative that Andrew Wiggins improves his shooting and decision-making when he has the orange in his hands, but with his place in the offensive pecking order slipping it is just as important that Wiggins works on becoming a true threat without the ball in his grasp.
Wiggins is often caught ball watching while his teammates are in possession, a trait that the best third wheels in the league would balk at. When he finds himself standing in the weak side corner or wing, the 23-year-old must learn to dive into the paint and get himself easy buckets on a consistent basis.
If Maple Jordan does maximize his cutting abilities, the league will have a tough time dealing with Minnesota's offense. Wiggins shoots 75 percent and scores 1.52 points per possession on cuts, ranking him in the 91st percentile per NBA stats. The problem is that he isn't putting himself in the positions you see below often enough, finishing with only 94 such plays for the 17-18' campaign.
With his size, freakish vertical leaping ability and a first step that rivals your average cheetah, there is absolutely no reason Wiggins shouldn't be getting at least two of these plays every night, however, some of that blame will understandably fall on Head Coach Tom Thibodeau.
If Thibs can find a way to involve Wiggins in the offense more often without sticking him in an ineffective isolation or pick-and-roll play it will go a long way to rebuilding some of the Canadian's reputation. The gravity created by a diving Wiggins will also allow Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns and the rest of the gang more offensive freedom of their own.
While Wiggins' aforementioned defense in the 2017-18 season was certainly an improvement over his first three professional years, he has only just started to scratch the surface of what fans in the Twin Cities are holding out for.
He improved his defensive rating from110.4 in 16-17 to 107.4 this time around and upped his total defensive win shares from 0.9 to 1.6, but another offseason sharpening his defensive technique and gaining strength in order to deal with the wings of the NBA will only push those numbers into a more encouraging territory.
Wiggins has shown promise since day dot as an on-ball defender, where he uses his length and quickness to stifle would-be scorers. It's the tendency to fall asleep on off-ball rotations that are the chief hindrance to his defensive development.
He has publicly stated before that he needs to improve in this area, and he did take a few small steps this season, but the 22nd ranked Timberwolves defense needs him to take Neil Armstrong style leaps heading into next season.
Jimmy Butler was supposed to be the defensive savior for Maple Jordan when the three-time All-Star touched down in Minneapolis last June, perhaps another summer nailing his young prodigy to the wall will do the trick. Just ask Jimmy Buckets himself, he knows what's possible.
"Wigs is the most talented player by far. I see him do things and I'm like wow, like how?" he said to the Star Tribune. "The crazy part is that he was at 40 percent. Just think if you're 80 percent or what if you just go as hard as you can, 100? Wigs is easily the most talented person on this team." He said.
Big praise from a big player. Let's hope Andrew Wiggins can up the ante next season.
It all starts with this tremendously important summer.
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