Andrew Wiggins: Winter’s Blossom
Mostly comprised of sinew and stubborn patches of facial hair, Andrew Wiggins is truly the NBA’s darling Pansy. It’s not an insult! When I say Pansy, I’m referring to the large, multi-colored flower that only blooms in winter. Similarly, the NBA season is mostly played during the coldest season, and like the Pansy flower, Wiggins blossoms during those bitter months. At just 21 years-old, Wiggins has assumed the role of alpha on a young Minnesota Timberwolves pack. He leads an enormously talented group, which is tied for the fourth youngest roster in the NBA (24.9 years), and is improving each year.
Now I admit, the comparison to the Pansy flower would make a little more sense if each winter the Pansy bloomed with added size, color, and improved self-pollination traits. However, unfortunately for the Pansy, it is not a sentient being like our subject Andrew Wiggins -- and thus cannot improve its ability to swat away unwanted flies, or scream for help when being violently picked from the ground. Juxtaposed with Wiggins, he can do all those things and more! So far, he has improved his offensive statistics each year he’s been in the league. And let’s be honest, this is a scorer’s league. Wiggins is mutating into an established force in the NBA, where opposing teams watch game film and say, “That Wiggins kid, he’s a problem”.
And a problem he is (Yoda voice). Wiggins is doing a tremendous job of improving the way he scores the ball. When he was a Kansas Jayhawk for half a heart-beat, Wiggins was seen as a pure slasher; using his athleticism to get to the basket for easy two’s. That same scoring philosophy carried over into his rookie season as well, which was enough to win the Rookie of the Year award in 2014.
As a rookie, Wiggins averaged very good numbers with 16.9ppg while attempting 13.9 field goals per contest. Compared to other All-Star players around the league, Wiggins either matches up very well, or surpasses their offensive rookie numbers. Let’s examine how Mr. Wiggins stacks up against a few other NBA All-Stars and US Olympians in their rookie go-arounds: DeMar DeRozan (8.6ppg), Klay Thompson (12.5ppg), Anthony Davis (13.5ppg), Demarcus Cousins (14.1ppg), Russell Westbrook (15.3ppg), Stephen Curry (17.5ppg), and Damian Lillard (19.0ppg). Granted each player was thrust into different roles on their respective teams, yet it speaks volumes when Wiggins is on the upper tier of high scoring rookies. Cut to year two of his career and we see a noticeable jump in points scored per game, and overall offensive aggression.
As a sophomore in the NBA, Wiggins acquired expanded offensive responsibilities coinciding with his exponential improvement. He shot the ball an average of 2.1 times more than the previous year, but also shot more three’s (1.5 attempts in ’14 – 2.3 attempts in ’15). Fast forward to year 3 in the league, and we’re witnessing his will to become an established scorer. Through 25 games this year, Wiggins is averaging 22.2ppg and taking 18.2 chances at field goals – numbers which are both inflated from a year ago (20.7ppg and 16.0fga). Another earth shattering fact about Andrew “Maple Jordan” Wiggins is that he’s averaging 4 three-point attempts per game and hitting a hair under 40 percent of those long range shots. He’s also been more accurate of late from beyond 16 feet; knocking down 39 percent of those shots, an improvement of almost 5 percent. He’s maturing into a flat out more entertaining player, and that’s what the NBA wants right? Cue Russell Crow from Gladiator, “Are you not entertained?!” We are Andrew, thank you. And I’m sure Commissioner Adam Silver would gladly express his gratitude to your offensive improvement.
But we’re not done yet! Stats are fun and all, but I enjoy looking at how players are padding their numbers. For instance, Wiggins has been creating more mid-range jump shots for himself off the dribble, rather than just looking to drive to the cup. Furthermore, you’ll notice that our young alpha is bringing the ball up more often. This allows for the T’Wolves to run that single high pick and roll they love so much. This play is most typically done with Wiggins handling the rock and center Karl Anthony-Towns setting the refrigerator-like screen. Now they have a few deadly options here; Wiggins can look for his own shot at the top of the key, or drive to the hoop if defenders aren’t aggressively helping off the shooters. That’s option 1. Option 2 would be for him to seek out open teammates on the perimeter, or get Towns involved. Wiggins can either hit Towns for a pick-and-pop at the elbow, or ideally lob a pass to the soaring 7 footer for a rim rattling finish (usually accompanied by a medieval war cry).
It should also be noted that in the fourth quarter, Andrew Wiggins is typically looked to close out the game. He’s Minnesota’s Mariano Rivera. Coach Tom Thibodeau is drawing up last minute plays for Wiggins, because he believes Wiggins gives them the best chance to win. He’s a combination of Tracy McGrady and Dominique Wilkins. Dominique for his effortless athleticism, turning difficult mid ranges into sweat-less layups; and Tracy for his ability to nail big shots during crunch time. Whether Wiggins is taking ill-advised shots, or erupting for 47 points (like he did against the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this year), he’s always getting better. I’m not totally sure if he’s even done growing. Be that as it may, the Timberwolves have an exciting young nucleus that’s primed to be competitive down the road. Lead by Andrew Wiggins, this group of Pansies could be blooming as late as May in a season or two.