A year ago heading into the season, I played the fun game of comparing Player A and Player B in their third season.
Player A is 21-years-old in their third season. Scores 20.3 points per 36 minutes, grabs 4 rebounds per 36, dishes out 2.1 assists per 36, and averages 1 steal and 0.5 blocks per 36. Their true shooting percentage is 53.2 percent, usage 26.3 percent, PER is 15.7, WS/48 is .059, BPM is -2.4, and VORP is -0.8.
Player B is 22-years-old in their third season. Scores 19.8 points per 36 minutes, grabs 7.2 rebounds per 36, dishes out 2.7 assists per 36, and averages 0.9 steals and 0.5 blocks per 36. Their true shooting percentage is 51.4 percent, usage is 27.3 percent, PER is 16.2, WS/48 is .069, BPM is -2.8, and VORP is -1.3.
A year later, these players in their 4th season:
Player A: Scores 19.6 points per 36, grabs 4.1 rebounds per 36, dishes out 2.9 assists per 36, and averages 0.8 blocks and 1.4 steals per 36. His true shooting percentage is 52.6 percent, PER is 15, WS/48 is .050, BPM is -2.4, and VORP is -1.2.
Player B: Scores 19.5 points per 36, grabs 7.2 rebounds per 36, dishes out 1.8 assists per 36, and averages 0.7 blocks and 0.9 steals per 36. His true shooting percentage is .512, PER is 15.8, WS/48 is .063, BPM is -2.9, and VORP is -1.8.
As before, Player A is Andrew Wiggins in the season before his maximum contract kicks in and Player B is Michael Beasley in his 2nd and final season in Minnesota before he leaves for his third team of his NBA carer, signing a three-year, $18 million contract with the Phoenix Suns. A maximum contract that is not.
Coming into the year, all of the ballyhoos that we said about Wiggins seemed reasonable. He just needed a smaller role on offense to really focus on becoming a superior player. Having Jimmy Butler on board would allow Wiggins to focus on threes, being efficient on offense, and locking in on defense.
That did not happen. Wiggins’ efficiency cratered on offense and while he took a few more threes throughout the year, his shooting percentage dropped and his free throw percentage fell by about 12 percent. His statistics remained essentially flat with or without Jimmy Butler on the floor, so it was not as if that was what was depressing his numbers, and he never settled into operating as the third option.
In short, Wiggins island certainly has a lot fewer residents on it going into this year. In fact, it is almost as if we have begun to expect the inevitable Wiggins trade. Part of that is due to the financial make-up of this roster, as the contracts have become overloaded so quickly that there really is no way to make up ground unless either the Timberbulls vacate in mass or Wiggins is able to be moved for more liquid assets.
But for now, he is on the Wolves for likely another year. For a player who has been so frustratingly stagnant throughout his career outside of short bursts were we all convince ourselves that the corner has been turned (see Games 1-3 against the Rockets followed by the sadness of Games 4 and 5), it is hard to really feel much other than resignation.
It feels reductive to rehash the same arguments that have been bandied about for years. He’s just 22 (or 20, or 21, or 23)! If he was just in the right system things would turn around! The stats say he is one of the worst players in the league (that just happens to be able to score 30 plus points at will). His offensive efficiency makes him as valuable as last year’s Carmelo Anthony (who was benched in the playoffs and now waived by the Hawks).
All of that feels like just banging our heads against the wall over and over. It gets a little tiring doing it over the years. If we were on our five stages of grief with the prospect of Andrew Wiggins being a star, I feel like we are closing on our acceptance stage. He may never be the player we imagined him to be, but that does not mean he never could be. If this is Wiggins last year on the Wolves for whatever reason, we might as well try to enjoy it.