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Knee-jerk Notes #2: Andrew Wiggins in the Halfcourt Offense

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Obviously, feel free to leave some feedback- positive or negative. Together, we'll try to learn Flip Saunders' playbook as much as we can. Today, I'm looking at how the Wolves used Andrew Wiggins in the halfcourt offense against the Sixers.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing with what may or not become a series here at CH, these are observations from the Wolves preseason game against the Philadelphia 76ers. I am just hoping to put more content onto this website. These are merely notes. Some may be crazy, others logical, so just stick with me. Or tell me I'm loco- either one is appropriate.

How can the Wolves use Andrew Wiggins?

I've shared this post by Tom Fehr before, but here it is again: Despite Offensive Explosion vs. TCU, Self's Offense Still a Bad Fit for Wiggins. Wiggins played well while the Kansas Jayhawks dismantled the Horned Frogs of Texas Christian University despite hindrances created by Bill Self's offensive scheme, Fehr illustrates some of those flaws. He argues Wiggins is rarely bestowed sufficient spacing in Self's scheme, ergo, he was unable to flourish on the offensive end.

Before I get going here's Wiggins shot chart from his only season in college.

Wiggins NCAA chart

Example #1: Getting him the ball

Obviously, like one would with any potent scoring threat, Flip Saunders must instil ways to get Wiggins the ball on offense. Otherwise, he can't score!

This example takes place during the second half of the Wolves second preseason game against the Sixers.

WigginsSet1

While standing at the top of the key, Thaddeus Young receives a pass from Ricky Rubio before swinging the ball to Corey Brewer on the far-wing. While this is happening, Wiggins heads to Brewer's side of the floor before attempting to post-up Luc Mbah a Moute. (MBAM is a good defender, as we know.)

Whether it was by design or the result of good defending by Mbah a Moute, Brewer swings the ball back to Rubio (now at the top of the key) as Wiggins heads back to the near-post. Pekovic and Young each set a screen to free up Wiggins, who receives the ball on the near-wing. Here's the motion.

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FREEZE IT.

2mangame wiggins-thad

Now we're walking on familiar ground. With Pekovic under the basket (a defender beside him), Brewer in the opposite corner with Rubio at the top of the key the Wolves have created sufficient space for Wiggins to operate. He could do a number of things here.

  • After catching the ball on the near-wing Wiggins could take a quick, contested catch-and-shoot jumper from the mid-range area. Look at the shot chart: He can knockdown shots taken near the elbow.
  • If Wiggins catches the pass and remains still, he could play--what's referred to as--the two-man game with Young.
  • Aggressively dribble toward the free throw line. Once there, Wiggins will have achieved penetration causing the defense to collapse. From here, he could..
    • Pass to an open Brewer or Rubio
    • Shoot a pull-up jumper from the free throw line.

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Wisely, Wiggins elects to take a dribble and head to the foul line recognizing the defense has collapsed around him. Then, he kicks ball to Young- who is very, very open. By looking at his shot chart at Basketball Reference you would know the near-corner is Young's prefered corner, despite shooting below league average from this area last season.

This is a solid play. With this, we are shown Wiggins isn't inept offensively and, in fact, he may be more refined on this end of the floor than we've (ok, maybe I haven't) given him credit for being.

Example #2: Messy.

This example took place during the 1st quarter of Friday's game against the Sixers. Going by Example #1, and if you read Fehr's post, you'll know Wiggins is at his best operating in open spaces. As a rookie, he may or may not be able to determine what adequate space is and isn't at the NBA level.

Decision making will be a key factor when measuring Wiggins maturation as a pro.

Below: Using the screen set by Young, Wiggins leaves the block, heads to the wing and receives a pass from Rubio. 
Note: It's the same side of the floor as in Example #1. The view is just flipped.

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FREEZE IT

spacing is badmmmk

This....is not optimal spacing. As you'll see below, nobody is in the near-corner. Rubio is on the wing, essentially, standing next to Wiggins. Young, although bringing his defender away from the ball handler, heads elsewhere to do...something.

All five Sixers are on the same half of the court, therefor Wiggins probably shouldn't attempt to drive at the hoop. He does. This is what happens.

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Maybe one day Wiggins will be strong and athletic enough to complete this play. However, as of preseason game #2, he is not. It looks as though he drove to the hoop without letting things develop- Young is setting a screen on the man responsible for Pekovic while Wiggins slashes behind him. The defenders collapse and the play doesn't end with a bucket like the Wolves would have hoped.

Patience is a virtue, young fella.

Example #3: Wiggins can space the floor

This example is easy.

Wiggins Corner Space

Wiggins, just by standing there, can draw a defender away from the play. Opponents must respect his ability to knockdown the three point shot, until Wiggins proves he's incapable hitting from outside. As you can see from the shot chart above, we don't even know if he can hit the three point shot because Self's offense mustn't have required Wiggins to do so.

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Look, I know it's not much of an example. But spacing is one of the Wolves problems. Outside of Kevin Martin, Mo Williams and Chase Budinger, there is no go-to three point threat on this team. Replace Wiggins on this play with, say, Corey Brewer and Rubio wouldn't have nearly as much space to play the pick-&-roll with Pekovic as he does here.

Although Pekovic drops the pass and turns the ball over, the point remains the same: Wiggins can space the floor. This is a good thing.

Until next time.