Feb. 24, 2017
Is This NBA Player Any Good?: Andrew Wiggins
by Fox Doucette
Andrew Wiggins just turned 22, making him younger than Buddy Hield, and more talented as well; too bad the Sacramento Kings couldn't have traded Boogie Cousins for him. The first overall pick in the 2014 draft is on an utterly wretched (22-35) Minnesota team that hasn't won a damn thing since he stepped foot in town and which has a young core of guys who can make highlights but who can't win games.
So this week, we're going to ask and answer one simple question.
If Andrew Wiggins is your second-best player, can you ever be a contender?
Besides if Russell Westbrook is your best guy, of course. But that caveat aside, the Wolves are building around Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Kris Dunn, whoever they get in the next draft with a likely high pick, and at least the beginnings of an experiment involving defensive mastermind (yes, I know they're 24th in Defensive Rating) Tom Thibodeau coaching that outfit.
All stats via Basketball Reference.
The All-Knowing Stats
How do you put up only a 108 Offensive Rating when you're scoring 31.7 points per 100 possessions? A microscopic (.193) three-point rate helps, especially when you're only making 35.5 percent of them, and that's a career high after shooting Westbrook-like accuracy earlier. There are worse things to be than DeMar DeRozan 2.0, but you've got to get the ball up from long range.
Being a lousy facilitator on a team who has one guy who racks up assists because he can't shoot doesn't help either. Wiggins is a scorer. It is what he does. You do not challenge his scoring.
It's not like he's putting his efforts in on defense; his 114 Defensive Rating is vomit-inducing on a Tom Thibodeau-coached team.
But They're Better With Him Out There.
On-court Net Rating: Minus-0.2. Not bad for a team that sucks. On-off split: Plus-3.3, proof that indeed “not sucking” on a team that's 22-35 actually means overachieving like crazy.
The Real Problem Here
The best players in today's NBA combine excellent finishing at the rim with long-range prowess in some combination; at one end of the scale, you've got guys like DeAndre Jordan whose offensive game lives entirely in the paint, where they can shoot 70 percent. On the other end, you've got the Klay Thompsons of the world, scoring 15 points in two minutes by themselves when they get hot from outside.
Wiggins? He takes 26.9 percent of his shots from inside the restricted area, where he shoots 65.8 percent—he's an excellent finisher who can't get inside! He takes 19.3 percent of his shots from out in the cheap seats and makes 35.5 percent of them.
That's...well, OK, he's 22 and coached by a guy who hates fun. I'm going to come right out and blame this on Thibodeau, since Flip Saunders and Sam Mitchell got him finishing inside on over a third of his shots in his first two years. You do not take a transcendent athlete and make a midrange jump shooter out of him.
This Stat Is Bananas
Andrew Wiggins is assisted on 69.4 percent of his corner threes. What kind of utter coaching lunacy designs an offense where the point guard's only skill is passing, the shooting guard can get to the corner effectively, and yet in most of the cases he's not actually catch-and-shooting off a pass? One does not simply iso into a corner three, not in 2017 anyway; this may serve to explain why Wiggins is shooting only 30 percent on The Most Efficient Shot In Basketball.
He Couldn't Find the Boards with a Map
An athletic forward with a 6.5 rebounding rate, and it's below his season average? Wiggins is 6'8” and weighs only 199 pounds, and it's clear that he needs to get a strength and conditioning coach to grow him into an NBA body sooner rather than later. He's 22 years old.
Minnesota's not even a terrible rebounding team once you adjust for pace; they're fifth in Offensive and 18th in Defensive Rebounding Percentage. Wiggins is a big part of the reason they're not better than that, and it's holding him back.
What do you do with a guy who can score and seemingly do nothing else well? Wiggins can put the ball in the basket, especially when he's not getting beaten up on his way there. He can't rebound, he's a mediocre passer, his defense is outright terrible, and again, he's not grown into his body the way Minnesota needed him to. And his coach has no idea how to design an offense that takes advantage of his skills.
How do you describe a guy like that? In terms of the original question, there's not a chance in hell of him winning a damn thing. But if you got him the right coach, he could be at the very least Jerry Stackhouse 2.0.
Then again, Stackhouse wasn't exactly a Hall of Famer. Wiggins is 22, so I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt for now, but he needs to either be traded or Minnesota needs to get their crap together. For now, we'll call this Plausible.