Andrew Wiggins has been one of my favorite Wolves ever since the team acquired him in the Kevin Love trade two summers ago. This love only intensified after watching him battle night in and night out on a 16-win Wolves' team on his way to winning the franchise's only Rookie of the Year award. Like many Wolves' fans, I expected big things from Wiggins during his second season, but, truth be told, those expectations have been met with mixed results.
For the most part, Wiggins has shown many of the raw features of a superstar in the making (hyper-athletic, offensive and defensive potential, good kid, etc.), but a few question marks have arisen in mind about his game going forward. I want to make it clear right now that it is WAY too early to push the panic button in regards to Wiggins and that is not what I am attempting to do here; even thinking about a panic button would be highly inappropriate. However, a few questions have presented themselves nonetheless.
One of the main question marks with Wiggins going forward is his inefficient offensive output. For his short career, he is averaging 17.9 ppg on 14.7 shot attempts per game, his career eFG% currently sits at 45.3%, and his career ORtg is around 102, according to Basketball Reference. As it stands right now, these numbers are rather similar to Sacramento Kings' wingman Rudy Gay, who is a fine player, but has widely been regarded as the prototypical high volume (i.e. low efficiency) scorer.
A disclaimer needs to be added here because of how difficult it is to accurately dissect Wiggins' game and potential due to the antiquated offensive system that the Wolves' employ; the system heavily relies on long two-point attempts (many of which come off of curl action), a shot that Wiggins has attempted 191 times this season. He has converted these shots at a measly 33.5% clip this year, so to say the system isn't putting him in the best position to succeed would be a bit of an understatement.
As I mentioned in my post on Monday, implementing a system that focuses more on threes would potentially improve the team's spacing and, thus, would open up the lanes more for Wiggins. This would possibly improve his efficiency as he would only have to get by a player or two, rather than five, to get to the hoop, and it would also allow for him to continue to get to the line at a high rate. It would also dramatically cut down the number of midrange jumpers he takes, which would also improve his efficiency.
This question mark could be totally eliminated (and I imagine it will be, at least to an extent) with a new offensive system and a little time. It must be kept in mind that Wiggins is only 20 years old and is nowhere near a finished product, but until either of these things happen, the question will linger in my head.
Another question mark I have with Wiggins is in regards to his lack of a second move on offense. Wiggins' spin move is highly developed and is one of the best in the game; however, NBA teams have scouted it well and know it is coming when he drives. From time to time last season, Wiggins would pull out a step-back jumper off the drive, a move that would keep defenders on their toes and prevent them from zeroing in on his spin. This is anecdotal, but it seems as if Wiggins has completely abandoned his step-back this season and has instead intensified his focus on drawing contact and getting to the foul line as much as possible.
This in and of itself isn't a bad thing; in fact, it is quite the opposite. Wiggins is attempting 7.5 free throws per game (which places him in a tie for fifth most attempts per game), and that high of an amount helps mitigate some of his offensive inefficiency. However, he's shooting only 73.0% from the line, which limits the usefulness of the high number of free throw attempts.
Neglecting to diversify his offensive move set now will only be harmful for the future. Now should be the time for Wiggins to tinker and experiment on offense in an attempt to expand his offensive repertoire, but instead Wiggins has been relying heavily on his spin move and teams have done a good job snuffing it out.
How much of the lack of adjustments made is on Wiggins and how much of it is on the coaching staff is unknown, and it would be irresponsible of me to place the majority of the blame on one party or the other. But it is obvious that both sides need to make some adjustments in order to maximize the talents that Wiggins provides on the court. As of late, both Wiggins and coach Sam Mitchell have failed to make these necessary adjustments, resulting in a struggling team effort.
It is possible that change may be on the way, however, as Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press reported on Tuesday afternoon that the team had a meeting that allowed for the players to air their grievances. This is a positive sign as it shows that Mitchell is willing to receive input from his players, but it remains to be seen if action will be taken.
Two other aspects of Wiggins' game that have also been scrutinized this season are his rebounding and passing. While both are down this year compared to last (from 4.6 to 3.8 rbg and from 2.1 to 1.7 apg), I am not overly concerned, at least not right now. These two stats are heavily dependent on coaching scheme and philosophy and, when it comes to the Wolves, neither puts the wings in a prime position to grab boards or facilitate for teammates.
The Wolves' offense is rather simplistic and doesn't ask much of their wings other than to score. In most of their offensive sets, the Wolves get the ball to their wings and most of the time their options are to either shoot or drive. When they do pass it is most often as a reversal or to get the ball back to point guard Ricky Rubio rather than looking for an assist. On defense, the wings often get out in transition after a shot or just stand around and rarely, if ever, crash the boards. I'm not sure if that's the players actively making those decisions or the philosophy of the coaching staff, but either way adjustments need to be made.
That doesn't completely absolve Wiggins of all criticism, however, and, I admit, it would be nice to see him be a little more ferocious on the defensive glass, but I am less concerned about his rebounding and passing than his offensive inefficiency and move set as a new coaching philosophy could improve both of these aspects.
As I said in the beginning though, Andrew Wiggins is still extremely young and is far from being in his complete form. However, I believe that his offensive inefficiency and lack of a second move are two legitimate question marks that are present concerning Wiggins' game. I have zero doubt in my mind that Wiggins will continue to grow and mature and that these doubts will dissolve, at least to a certain extent. He has too much raw talent for these questions to linger in their entirety for too long, and implementing a new offensive system that focuses on getting Wiggins in the best position for him to succeed will only help. But just like many things regarding the Wolves, right now it is just a waiting game.