All of a sudden, there it was. The shot Tony Parker has perfected over the past 16 seasons in San Antonio made an appearance in New Orleans. I couldn’t help but take a mental note.
Andrew Wiggins was hitting floaters off the dribble. Instead of going full speed ahead at the rim with intentions of either 1) dunking the souls out of whoever was brave enough to contest him or 2) getting to the free throw line, Wiggins went to a shot rarely seen from him. It was exciting to consider all of the highly contested and often empty attempts, when his intentions give him tunnel vision, re-purposed into one of the more deadly shots a guard can have in their arsenal. What if Wiggins can actually make the floater a staple of his game offensively?
The floater or teardrop is a potent weapon that many of the elite guards across the league have at their disposal these days. It’s a necessary tool in the modern NBA with the size, length, and shot blocking ability that graces the court every night throughout the league. It’s a finesse shot that allows the shooter to get an attempt off before the block hungry bigs can reject their dreams near the rim; in its most pure form, forwards and centers packing the paint are left with no time to react, as if their feet are stuck in thick mud. When seeing a smooth floater, it’s almost like the game freezes for a moment as the ball hangs in the air before descending to the rim.
When Wiggins reached in his toolbox and pulled out the floater this past Wednesday night, after another slow shooting start from the field, my eyes grew wide with intrigue. Anthony Davis didn’t even react.
Shot selection has always been an issue with Wiggins; he’s prone to settling for contested long twos, turnaround fadeaways out of mid-post isolations, and driving into the heart of the paint without a real plan other than jumping higher than everybody else. Part of this is due to the fact that he can get his shot off over anyone with ease. Nobody can block his jumper and he knows that. Part of his poor shot selection also has to due with the way he’s been raised by the Wolves. Has he truly been held accountable for bad shots?
If Wiggins bricks a handful of 15 to 20 foot pull-up jumpers off the dribble, with a defender contesting the look, is he being pulled from the court to stifle this behavior? Quite simply...no, there have been few if any repercussions through 9,147 minutes. But I digress. Wiggins is taking better shots this season. That includes a career-low 13.5% attempts coming from 16 feet to the 3-point line (16 < 3) down 10.3% from his career average. 30.8% of his shot attempts have also been threes (up from 18.4% last season) mostly of the catch-and-shoot variety—which is a clear strength (Wiggins hit 40.9% on 176 catch-and-shoot threes in 2016-17 compared to 27.3% on 110 pull-up attempts).
These are positives for a player that must become an efficient scorer moving forward, and making the floater part of his game is something everyone should be able to get behind. It’s the perfect complement to his devastating dunks and catch-and-shoot threes. An increased focus on improving this shot and going to it more often would serve him and the Wolves well. Wiggins can get to the basket at will, but his decision making is where things can turn sour. He often uses the eurostep in tight spaces, or drives into multiple defenders, and gets stripped or turns the ball over because he’s trying to get as close to the rim as possible to explode over the opposition. His shot selection can directly increase his value, and making the floater a larger part of his game should help.
In the same game Wiggins put his floater on full display, he also provided the perfect example of where to utilize the shot and how it can make life easier on him. Granted, the result in the clip below is still two points, but the process is not a long-term winning formula. All too often, Wiggins makes shots more difficult than necessary.
Now let’s look at a very similar play later in crunch time when the Wolves are trying to extend the lead. Wiggins catches the ball in the left slot once again, drives into the lane in almost the same exact fashion, but instead of going to his maplestep he hits All-NBA defender and Grindfather of the Year, Tony Allen, with the gorgeous floater.
According to NBA.com’s advanced shooting splits data, Wiggins went 20-34 (58.8%) on floaters last season. (Keep in mind a few of the attempts listed below could probably be classified as another shot type. When watching the videos, some attempts did not appear to be totally legit floaters. But for the most part they passed the eye test.)
Driving Floating Bank Jump Shot: 1-1
Driving Floating Jump Shot: 6-10
Floating Jump shot: 13-23
Through eight games this season, Wiggins appears to have placed more of a focus on using it. This was particularly striking against the Pelicans.
Here are his current numbers:
Driving Floating Bank Jump Shot: 0-1
Driving Floating Jump Shot: 1-4
Floating Jump shot: 4-6
We’ve seen the return of Point Wiggins late in games like last season, though this time around makes a lot of those difficult moments a year ago, when things went poorly under his guidance, easier to stomach. The moment didn’t look too large for him in Miami when he sent Josh Richardson into the Upside Down. While Point Wiggins is not the best way to describe how the Wolves are using him down the stretch, because it’s more like top of the arc scoring iso-Wiggins, the fact remains the team is still relying on him heavily when the game is on the line. Tom Thibodeau is not leaning solely on Jimmy Butler to carry the load when the Wolves need a bucket.
With 2:09 left in regulation, tied at 96, Wiggins’ number was called again. He ended the Pelicans’ 16-4 scoring run with another floater over the outstretched arms of DeMarcus Cousins and the aforementioned Allen.
Butler eventually gave E'Twaun Moore the savvy pump-fake to get him off the ground, he drew the foul and hit the shot for the three-point play. The Wolves took the 101-98 lead before Jrue Holiday’s bad pass resulted in a Wiggins steal and ultimately the road win in New Orleans. While there were plenty of interesting developments in the fifth victory of the season (most of my thoughts can be found here), part of me couldn’t stop considering what a consistent floater could mean for Wiggins and his offensive efficiency.
My only hope is it doesn’t disappear in the coming weeks and months, because Andrew Wiggins’ floater has the potential to be a lethal weapon if harnessed effectively. He should continue utilizing it.