Wake Up Andrew Wiggins
The moment Jimmy Butler began hopping on one foot into the visitors locker room in Houston, the pressure on Andrew Wiggins began building. Wiggins has gladly taken a back seat to Butler’s dominance, seemingly happy to be an afterthought while Butler led with force and intensity. Wiggins is talented but registers low on the intensity meter. With 20 games left and only one loss separating in the playoffs and out the playoffs, Andrew Wiggins has to do more. But can he? If the Wolves fail, will the $148 million dollar man be blamed?
This year was what many prescribed once the acquistion of Butler was official. Wiggins was going to find a way to be irrelevant, like a child who lost his favorite toy. Butler was going to cut into the Wiggins game. Is it a coincidence that in the first game without Butler, Wiggins had his first 20-point game in a month?
The Facts: Andrew Wiggins shot attempts are a three year low. His field goal percentage is a very average 43%. Never a skilled three point shot maker, 31% is just miserable and is hurting the Wolves. All year he hasn’t made free throws. He was a 70%-er the first three years but now 63% of his shots go in. Put it another way. Wiggins has a lower free throw percentage than DeAndre Jordan. His assists are way down, his offensive rating is in the toilet, his defense is awful. Three years ago, he was Rookie of Year. Now he is the 42nd ranked small forward (Real Plus-Minus).
When Wolves owner Glen Taylor gave Andrew Wiggins $148 million, he was expecting Wiggins to be better than a 43% scorer who can’t crack 20 points a game. 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 five tool NBA player (passing, rebounding, shot blocking, scoring, defense), Wiggins has only exhibited one of those tools. Taylor wanted to know Wiggins had 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.
But all of that Taylor faith hasn’t been rewarded. Because the NBA is always rewriting narratives, Wiggins has a reboot, a chance to elevate his game because- and this is the important part- his team needs him. If Jimmy Butler’s presence created submissiveness in Wiggins, ruined his whole groove, he can no longer cling to that excuse. It feels like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Scouts warned that the worst part of Wiggins game had nothing to do with his game. It had to do with his heart. In games, he disappears.
Excellence against the Bulls doesn’t matter. Andrew Wiggins has regressed, gotten worse, even as the Wolves talent quotient has increased. Last year, he had 14 games of 30 points or more. This year he has one.
As athletic as he is, Wiggins doesn’t block shots nor does he grab teammates misses. Second year player, Brandon Ingram of the Lakers has a better PER than Wiggins (13.5 for Ingram, 12.9 for Wiggins). 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. And this year, he hasn’t even done that.
His narrative of a small forward who can score is altered slightly. This year, his is making 35% of his jump shots. He has taken 581 shots outside of 10 feet. He has made 34% of them. His jump shot is broken.
Glen Taylor said this about his highly compensated player.
“There are some things that I need out of him and that is the commitment to be a better player than you are today.”
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. If the Wolves don’t make the playoffs, Andrew Wiggins has to be re-evaluated.
The Jimmy Butler Flu
Maybe there is something called the Jimmy Butler Flu. If it exists, Andrew Wiggins has contracted it and is weak in the heart. Without Butler, Wiggins is cured.
The addition of Jimmy Butler, an established player, was supposed to make Wiggins better, not worse. But you can’t dispute the numbers. Wiggins is shooting worse than his rookie year. He’s not driving and going to the line. 17.6 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, 101. His defensive rating is 113, so he’s not trying. His PER is 12.9, something you see from a rookie. Shooting past 10 feet he is particularly solemn. Nothing goes in. Wiggins is ranked 42nd among small forwards in Real Plus-Minus. The player ahead of him at 41st is Jared Dudley of the 11 NBA years and five teams.
What is going on in Andrew Wiggins 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. With Butler out, all eyes are on Andrew.
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|
|Pass First or Pass Last Andrew Wiggins||Assists||Assist Percentage|
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|
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. Or his toughness and consistency to be an All-Star. Can he fill in for Jimmy Butler and keep the Wolves playoff relevant? Or will Andrew Wiggins be blamed?
(Julian Billick )