The Jimmy Butler saga finally over. The new era, including Robert Covington and Dario Saric, has begun. Hallelujah.
There were undoubtedly great times with Buckets in tow, and it isn’t a stretch to say he is a superstar player. However, everyone in the Minnesota Timberwolves organization who were dangling in limbo while waiting for it to end are clearly more happy and carefree, none more so than fellow wing Andrew Wiggins.
He burst out of his year-long slump against the New Orleans Pelicans and Portland Trail Blazers, dropping impressive 23 points outings in both wins. All good things must come to end however, and Wiggins came crashing back down to earth with the rest of his teammates against the Memphis Grizzlies. He finished the disappointing loss with 14 points on a gruesome 6-18 shooting.
Despite the Sunday afternoon dud, his confidence looks like it is back to where it was before Jimmy Butler pierced it with a flaming trident. With those spirits high, it’s a profitable time to bring back one of his favorite playtypes: the post-up.
“A couple years ago, I used to post up a lot,” Wiggins told The Athletic after the Butler trade. “That’s where I did a lot of my damage. As the team switched and got more people, new people, I kind of became more outside instead of driving and posting up.”
In his rookie season, the late, great Flip Saunders spoon-fed Wiggins in the post. The first overall pick averaging nearly six post-ups per game. It wasn’t overly effective to begin with, but it was a good way to get the Canadian the ball without sticking him and his shoddy handle in the pick-and-roll.
When Saunders sadly passed and Sam Mitchell took over, Wiggins had grown enough to make plays in other ways, but he was still frequented the post. His efficiency was blooming too, nailing 46.1 percent of his post-up field goals under Mitchell. This trend continued into the Tom Thibodeau era, with Wiggins posting up over four times per game in 2016-17. When Butler arrived last season, Wiggins post — and overall — touches unsurprisingly dwindled, despite still making a career-best 48.8 percent of his 2.5 shots from the block per night.
This season, despite his effectiveness continuing to climb, the 6-foot-8 pogo stick has seen his attempts slashed once again. He is shooting a scorching 58.8 percent thus far on the block, but is seeing just 1.8 such shots per outing.
At his best, the 23-year-old is truly hard to handle when he gets inside position on his man. The first thing that comes to mind when you envision Wiggins on the block is his gorgeous looking fadeaway, the same one that he told Kobe Bryant he stole off him — straight after burying it in the Mamba’s face:
It is a move that is usually reserved for mismatches, and with Wiggs now manning the shooting guard position, he will have a size advantage on most nights. That means we should see a whole lot more of the Kobe fadeaway, for better or worse. While it’s undoubtedly the prettiest post-move in Wiggins’ repertoire, it isn’t the shot that coaches or fans want to see him using every time down the floor.
There is a certain shot type that Minnesota faithful should want to see Wiggins make his go-to move though, and that is the post hook shot. Instead of fading away and making life more difficult for himself, the hook allows the former first pick’s momentum to travel toward the basket, consequently skyrocketing his shooting efficiency:
With each passing year, the hook seems to be more and more favored, and much more consistent. For all the puzzling decisions he makes when it comes to shot selection, Wiggins is clearly learning how to make the most of his post-up opportunities.
Wiggins has a certain affinity for the off-the-dribble mid-range jumper, which has been a train wreck for the majority of his inconsistent career. That includes the 17 games so far in this campaign. For the season he ranks 11th in mid-range shots per game, holding a frightening 23.7 percent conversion rate on those attempts. He is shooting the 3-pointer with far more confidence and substance this year, but obviously, something has to be done about his mid-range woes.
With Karl-Anthony Towns and Dario Saric’s ability to knock down triples at a high level, and Taj Gibson’s slowly-developing corner 3-ball, dropping Andrew Wiggins into the post, spreading the floor around him letting him feast on his undersized opponents would be a fruitful way to get easy points. Simultaneously, it will limit the amount of mid-range bricks Wiggs hoists up.
Since the Timberwolves’ spiritual ‘leader’ was traded, it seems Thibs has started to wake up to this idea. Wiggins has averaged 4.3 post-ups per game over the four outings. The best part about that is he has maintained his efficiency, hitting 50% of his shots.
Without Jimmy G. Buckets no longer around to turn to in times of scoring need, Andrew Wiggins is going to have to live up to whatever scoring potential he has left in the tank. If he can’t, the Timberwolves will not only struggle to even whiff the playoffs this season, they will be mired in mediocrity for the foreseeable future. A position that fans in the Twin Cities are too familiar with for comfort.
It may be a baby step, but using post-Wiggins as a source of scoring is certainly one in the right direction. It will be intriguing to see if he can keep up his hot start down low, and whether Tom Thibodeau continues to give him the chance to do so.