The Disappearance of Andrew Wiggins

When Wolves owner Glen Taylor gave Andrew Wiggins $148 million, he was expecting Wiggins to be better than he ever has been, to earn the money through achievement. He wanted Andrew Wiggins to actually be worth it- rich men are funny that way. They don’t like throwing money around. Taylor wanted Wiggins to admit he has under performed. If there is such a thing as a four tool NBA player (passing, rebounding, shot blocking, scoring), Wiggins has only exhibited one of those tools. Taylor wanted to know Wiggins has heart and that he was ready to sell out for the Wolves and do everything it takes to become a top-5 player. Because $148 million is a lot of cash.

Glen Taylor needed to look Wiggins in the eye, man to man, and hear Wiggins tell him he has a plan.

Forget basketball for a moment. Glen Taylor is a businessman. All businessmen begin with a plan. It starts with a mission statement. Then the keys to success. Followed by objectives. Within the text is how you intend to get from A to B. How you plan to sacrifice. What you are willing to take on and what you are willing to leave behind. Extract the fat from the bone and Taylor is asking Wiggins does he have heart? We’ve asked that question too.

“To me, by making this offer, I’m speculating that his contribution to the team will be more in the future. We’ve got to get better. He can’t be paid just for what he’s doing today. He’s got to be better.” Glen Taylor, Associated Press

What Taylor was asking from Wiggins is self-awareness. To admit he has never posted a defensive rating lower than 112 and never had an offensive rating higher than 107. That he averages two assists a game; he racks up an assist every 18 minutes. As athletic as he is, Wiggins doesn’t block shots nor does he grab teammates misses. In 2015-16 and 2016-17, Wiggins  was a 20-point scorer but his PER reflected his one dimension and thrust him into average role player lane. Jeremy Lamb of the Hornets had a higher PER (17.05) in 2016-17 than Wiggins and you better believe no one is throwing $148 mil at Lamb. Wiggins is a terrific athlete and a finisher but he doesn’t play the team game. It’s all about Andrew Wiggins making Andrew Wiggins better.

His narrative of a small forward who doesn’t rebound and doesn’t hit threes and doesn’t block shots, he only scores, is altered slightly. This year, 47% of his shots are perimeter jumpers. The rest are at the rim. In the middle is where he is especially broken. That and his willfulness.

The way Taylor sees it, that is not good enough. Not by a long shot.

“There are some things that I need out of him and that is the commitment to be a better player than you are today.”

Glen Taylor is preaching to the choir. We’ve been waiting for Andrew Wiggins to become a better player too. We have been patient but pretty soon the rubber will meet the road. He needs improvement on distance shooting and being a floor spacer compliment to Karl-Anthony Towns. Wiggins is a miserable mid range shooter, doesn’t make long two’s, and only recently had efficiency behind the arc. He finishes at the rim like he is supposed to given his athleticism but the rest has been a work in progress for three years.

We are tired of waiting.

______________________________

Maybe there is something called the Jimmy Butler Flu. If it exists, Wiggin has contracted it and is weak in the heart. The addition of Butler, an established player, was supposed to make Wiggins better, not worse. But you can’t dispute the facts. Wiggins is shooting worse than his rookie year. Never a scintillating three point shot maker, he is miserable at 29%. He’s not driving and going to the line and those glorious moments he is at the line, he is only making 62% of his free throws. 17.9 points is one point more than what he did as a rookie. He is going backwards, not forwards. His offensive rating is a career low, 100. His defensive rating is 112, so  he’s not trying. His PER is 13.0, something you see from a rookie.  Shooting past 10 feet he is particularly solemn. Nothing goes in. Wiggins is ranked 54th among small forwards in Real Plus-Minus. The player ahead of him at 53rd is someone named Jalen Jones (who?).

What is going on in his head?

He was angry when the Cavs traded him because LeBron didn’t want to deal with a rookie’s growing pains. But now he is reluctant. Since Jimmy Butler came aboard, his aggression has taken a backseat. Nothing about his energy is the same.

It’s the truly great players that make their teammates better, that use their talent to elevate the group as a whole. At this point, Wiggins is a specialist.

Andrew Wiggins Is Not a Rookie Anymore Points Field Goal% 3-Point Percentage Offensive Rating
2016-17 23.6 45.2% 35.6% 107
2017-18 17.9 43.0% 29.9% 100

 

Pass First or Pass Last Andrew Wiggins Assists Assist Percentage
2016-17 2.3 10.6%
2017-18 1.7 7.2%

The game has changed, has gotten faster, more dependent on ball movement and pick and roll and transition points. Throwing the ball into the star player and watching him work (as everyone stands around gaping) is a dying strategy.

The breakout year everyone expected of Andrew Wiggins didn’t happen. As a rookie, his iso game reminded everyone of a young Kobe Bryant. But Bryant had versatility that Wiggins hasn’t exhibited.

4th Year Minutes Points Field Goal Percentage Assists Defensive Rating
Andrew Wiggins 36.7 17.9 43.0% 1.7 112
Kobe Bryant 38.2 22.5 46.8% 4.9 98

All improvements for Wiggins begins on the defensive end. It starts and ends with effort, with want to. His motor is low for someone of his skill set.

“I don’t know what else you can do but look at the person face-to-face and trust that he will follow through. He seems like a very good person. He seems to have the ability and so the only thing it would be is for some reason he didn’t work hard enough to obtain the skill sets. That’s what you are asking him to commit to.” (Glen Taylor)

This is the NBA reality. After awhile, athletes that never become anything more than finishers or dunkers, are memes. They don’t really matter. It is boring to talk about Andrew Wiggins potential and even his money. We want to debate Andrew Wiggins All-Star.

Andrew Wiggins already convinced Glen Taylor to give him the money. Now, he has a much harder test. He has to convince us he is worth it.

 

 

photo via llananba