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Andrew Wiggins: One Last Chance

Will Andrew Wiggins finally live up to expectations?

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NBA: Toronto Raptors at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

With fresh eyes and an uplifted heart, a new day had dawned in Wolves land. While in previous years we were mired in the straight jacket of exclamations of “ICE” and “Do Your Job,” amidst temper tantrums and infamous practices, we lost sight of what we truly hold dear. That profound belief that, without any reasoning or rationale, without any ability to consider the past, that hope springs eternal in our heart of hearts.

After all, we have believed in lesser odds before. Did we truly believe that Brandon Roy’s knees were anything but two sticks jostling against each other? Did we really think that Alexey Shved would gain newfound confidence with more playing time? Or even the most sanctified of wishes, how deep was our belief that Ricky Rubio finally had learned to shoot over the summer?

Why should Andrew Wiggins not be regarded with the same naivete?

We even have all the hallmarks of a fresh narrative with Andrew Wiggins. Interested in shaky workout video highlighting Wiggins dominance against fellow NBA stars? Step right up and watch Wiggins dribble like a normal person for the first time:

Perhaps you are a more literary soul and cannot resist the puff pieces from the independent sources that just so happen to (every once and a while) mirror the organization’s public stance, which you can check out here.

If you were to speak to Andrew Wiggins, you probably would not learn too much. There may be some sort of maxim about playing the way he has always played and trying to improve on a few things, namely three-point shooting, dribbling, rebounding, passing, offensive awareness, defensive awareness, and just running in general. But that’s all.

If one were to suggest that perhaps things are not well in Wiggins-land, which of course I would not dare to do, one could point to a few alarming statistics by throwing a proverbial dart into Basketball Reference’s database. The bad facts can’t help but vomit themselves up. Things like a career-worst true shooting percentage of 49.3 percent, along with a career-worst WS/48 of .12 and BPM of -2.9.

It’s not like it is a big deal that, of players who scored more than 10 points a game and played more than 300 total minutes, Wiggins ranked 162 out of 166 in true shooting percentage, 161st in WS/48, and 160th in BPM. I certainly would not want to point out his statistical profile over the last few years has more closely aligned with Carmelo Anthony as he played himself out of the league and rookies like Collin Sexton and Kevin Knox.

After all, it’s not like Andrew Wiggins determines the fate of this organization due to his maximum contract that hangs like an albatross over the franchise, as he has the worst non-injury related contract in the NBA by a fair margin. Or that all narratives around how Wiggins plays better at the 2 than the 3, or that he functions better as an alpha option or primary scorer compared to the listlessness of the third option role during the Butler years, all fade away when the statistics show that Wiggins has essentially been the exact same player during every era of his career.

Enough about all that! I would much rather be the climate change denier of the Andrew Wiggins world, as it certainly seems like we are stuck here for at least another year. The only way from rock-bottom is up.

2019-2020 Andrew Wiggins Expectations

In this upcoming year, we will be watching a few key areas for Wiggins to demonstrate any substantial changes.

1) Scoring Efficiency - Wiggins is now the clear second option on this team. There were periods where Wiggins was able to transfer this opportunity into medium-efficiency volume scoring, but it has now been several years since that was the case.

We have long been curious if Wiggins would quickly become a significantly more helpful player if he simply stopped shooting long-twos, which have made up approximately 22 percent of his total shot attempts throughout his career. Theoretically, Ryan Saunders and Gersson Rosas have talked a lot about efficiency and making the Wolves play a more modern style, but this rhetoric did not lead to any noticeable on-court changes after Saunders took over and it’s entirely possible that Wiggins is simply immune to shot-selection discussions.

Wiggins had his career-worst year in efficiency last year. He has at least acknowledged that there are critics out there for the way he plays. If he is ever going to change his shot selection, this is the year.

2) Playmaking - Amidst the turbulent offseason, the Wolves have transitioned to a team of mostly point guards and bigs to a team of wings. Beyond Jeff Teague and Shabazz Napier, the Wolves are incredibly light on playmakers. Wiggins has been, to put it mildly, pretty terrible at this throughout this career. Brief forays into Point-Wiggins have produced bright flashes, along with lots of turnovers and long-twos. However, the Wolves do not have any other options on the wing. Wiggins is going to have to do something. Whether or not that something is good remains to be seen.

3) Defense - Wiggins has always been better at defense than his advanced metrics suggest. He is a decent on-ball defender and has had to shoulder the more difficult wing matchups on a nightly basis. However, with all of his athleticism and skills, this has not translated into solid team defense. Assuming Robert Covington remains healthy (and plays small forward), Wiggins should have a slightly easier matchup on defense. It’s year six for Wiggins and, like everything else about his game, there are no excuses anymore.

As has been the mantra for the past two years, Wiggins will likely decide the short-term fate of this franchise. If he continues to drastically underperform against this maximum contract, the Wolves will have no choice but to move him as quickly as possible, even at a loss. His contract simply hamstrings the Wolves ability to put a talented team around Karl-Anthony Towns for the remainder of his contract.

The Wolves have no choice but to give him another chance. This should be his last one in Minnesota. Whatever happens next is up to Andrew Wiggins.