The REAL Reason Why Andrew Wiggins Is Playing BETTER In The NBA (Ft. Passing, Practice & Butler)
Andrew Wiggins was supposed to be the next LeBron James in the NBA, but was disappointing. Now Wiggins is playing better, but why? #NBA #Wiggins
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Andrew Wiggins is averaging 25.9 points and 5.1 rebounds on 48% from the field and 36% from 3. I know it’s weird. But more importantly than those stats, Wiggins just looks better on the court. It’s just not this. So I wanted to get to the bottom of this and see why he’s playing better.
Andrew Wiggins was compared to LeBron, not for his playmaking but for his athletic abilities. He’s 6’ 8” with a 7 foot wingspan that could jump out the gym, put on spin move layups, run through bodies, and defend. Wiggins was an elite defender as a prospect and even though he wasn’t an amazing ball handler or passer, there was potential for him to develop all that, so when we saw Wiggins stagnate offensively and actually be bad defensively, it came as a disappointment. Now, Andrew Wiggins seems to be playing better but let’s compare to his past seasons first. Wiggins in his career has never had a better offensive rating than defensive rating per 100 possessions. For the first time, his offensive rating is higher than his defensive rating, the red line crossed above the white line. Both his offensive and defensive ratings are career bests. So there is some merit in saying we haven’t seen Andrew Wiggins do this.
And maybe all of this was set up for this season. Jimmy Butler was traded to the Timberwolves in the 2017 offseason. Butler was a shooting guard, small forward combo, like Wiggins and with Butler, Wiggins role became confusing both offensively and defensively. Remember, Andrew Wiggins was coming off of his best season ever in 2016-2017. He had just averaged 23.5 points off of his best shooting percentage at 45% from the field and 35.6% from 3. He was slowly but surely showing constant improvement offensively in his first 3 seasons, but with Butler being a part of the team for the last two seasons, Wiggins didn’t continue to improve. Defensive assignments were wonky, there was confusion on who was guarding who. The thing with Wiggins is that the more he gets used, the better he seems to get like in 2016 and like now. This was the first offseason we heard Andrew Wiggins was working in Minnesota on parts of his game that would compliment Karl Anthony Towns.
So let’s take a look at the changes Wiggins has made on the court that fits his more defined role. For one, Wiggins is now the perimeter star. That doesn’t mean he’s supposed to be an amazing shooter although that would help. This means that he’s the guy the offense will rely on to create a shot and opportunities from the perimeter. They already have their interior star in Karl Anthony Towns that can also shoot from the perimeter and yeah he can create a little bit from the perimeter, but he’s not a ball handler. Andrew Wiggins is averaging a career high in touches per game at 60.6 per game. Those touches, even though there’s a higher pace, are more calculated. Wiggins is only averaging 3.6 assists that’s because he has 3 games where he has had 0 assists. He’s had 5 or more assists in 6 out of the 11 games he’s played. While the pace for the Timberwolves has been higher, he’s been more in control. It’s passes like these where he’s moving to open space, forcing the defense to shift and making the read instead of trying to shoot through it that gives Wiggins options. So even if Wiggins is also taking the most shots in his career, the shot selection is a lot better.
Wiggins is also using his athleticism to his advantage. For example on this play, Wiggins starts on the perimeter and drives. Now he could continue to go to the paint and try to take on the big man and his defensive guard which he has done in the past. But he’s smarter. The defender is playing catchup and Wiggins is pretty athletic so he gives him a bump and goes the opposite way. He creates enough space and it’s an easy jumpshot for him in the midrange area he likes. These are plays where he’s using his athleticism to avoid having to take on multiple defenders at once and create space for himself. This also means that instead of forcing his way into the midrange area, Wiggins will go to the 3 point line and take some threes. He’s taking 6.5 threes in a game which is up from 4.8 threes last season.
Also his 3 point shot his more of a one motion shot versus a 2 motion shot. He used to sort of be a two motion shot which led to flatter threes but now he can have a more consistent form and use his legs to give himself more arc from behind the 3. It’s not a crazy change in shooting percentage but small increases make him more of a threat. It’s better than this.