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Rather than revolving his offseason plans around improving the most outdated shot selection in basketball, Wiggins would be better served completely removing it from his offensive skill set.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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