Will You Miss Andrew Wiggins if Jimmy Butler Gets His Way?

Someone Wake Up Andrew Wiggins

For much of 2017-18 Andrew Wiggins gladly took a back seat to Jimmy Butler’s alpha male dominance, seemingly happy to be an afterthought while Butler led with force and intensity. Wiggins is talented but registers low on the intensity meter and his work habits are questionable.

This year was what many predicted once the acquisition 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, after a Butler injury, that Wiggins had his first 20-point game in a month?

The Facts in 2017-18: Andrew Wiggins shot attempts were a three year low. His field goal percentage was a very average 43%.  Never a skilled three point shot maker, 33% was just blah and hurt the Wolves. All year, Wiggins hadn’t made free throws. He was a 70%-er the first three years but in 2017-18 64% of his shots went in. His assists were way down, his offensive rating was in the toilet, his defense awful. Three years ago, he was Rookie of Year. In 2017-18 he was the 58th 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 none of that Taylor faith has been rewarded. Lucky for Wiggins, the NBA is always rewriting narratives, Wiggins has a reboot, a chance to elevate his game but the window is narrow because Jimmy Butler isn’t going to baby or make excuses for low-motor Wiggins. Butler has zero patience.

Wiggins can no longer cling to the Butler excuse as the reason his heart stopped beating.  It feels like a self-fulfilling prophecy though. 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.

It feels as if Andrew Wiggins has regressed, gotten worse, even as the Wolves talent quotient has increased.  In 2016-17, he had 14 games of 30 points or more. This past season, he had 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 had a better PER than Wiggins (13.8 for Ingram, 13.0 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 past year, he couldn’t do that.

His narrative of a small forward who can score is altered slightly. In 2017-18, Wiggins made 35% of his jump shots.  807 total Wiggins shots were outside of 10 feet. He made 32% 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. The time has come. Andrew Wiggins has to be re-evaluated.

(Mallory Stith-Wheat)

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 shot worse than his rookie year. He didn’t drive the ball and get to the line. 17.7 points per game was one point more per game than what he did as a rookie.

He is going backwards, not forwards. His offensive rating was a career low, 101. His defensive rating was 113, so  he was not trying. His PER, 13.0, was something you see from a rookie.  Shooting past 10 feet, he was particularly solemn. Nothing went in. Wiggins was ranked 58th among small forwards in Real Plus-Minus. The player two notches ahead of him at 56th was Brandon Ingram, a second year player.

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.

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 17.7 43.8% 33.1% 101

 

Pass First or Pass Last Andrew Wiggins Assists Assist Percentage
2016-17 2.3 10.6%
2017-18 2.0 8.2%

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 36.3 17.7 43.8% 2.0 113
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. Or his toughness and consistency to be an All-Star. Can he be the teammate that Jimmy Butler needs? Or is he almost out the door, heading to San Antonio for Kawhi or headed for Siberia (Orlando)?

 

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