•  

    We continue our player spotlight series with another young gun for the Wolves, but this one is much more polarizing among NBA circles. Andrew Wiggins was a former No. 1 overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers, traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a deal for then franchise-icon Kevin Love. Four years later, he’s averaged a shade under 20 points per game, set to earn a maximum salary and has a playoff appearance under his belt. Yet many feel there is a lot left to be desired.

    The hype surrounding Wiggins coming out of the draft was immense. He had all the athletic tools that scouts drool over, excellent measurements and was one of the youngest players in the draft, coming off a productive single season at Kansas. His potential was limitless, perhaps unfairly so. There were concerns, sure, but nothing that people figured he wouldn’t be able to figure out. He wasn’t a bad person with a shaky past, or a troubled teammate. They were mostly questions about his shooting, but the answer was always “in due time, he’ll be fine.”

    After spending four years in the league, the hope was that the narrative has changed somewhat (for the better), but here we are and many of the same buzzwords still surround Wiggins. He’s played in every possible game in his career, 332 including the playoffs, and yet it feels like Wiggins hasn’t made any significant progress in his game.

    All of the tools are still in the toolbox, which is why the narrative is still somewhat positive. He’s still young at only 23, he’s still the most athletic player on the floor, when he’s giving it his 100 percent, and he still has the allure of this untapped potential that three coaching staffs have been unable to crack.

    There are now two key differences that have really divided Minnesota fans. One is money and two is his fit on the team.

    Wiggins is still considered to have another level that he’s yet to reach. The Wolves’ ownership think so because they offered a five-year, $146 million contract extension that he accepted. The problem is now there is no time for potential, the Wolves need more production, a realization of that superstar player they hoped they acquired from Cleveland.

    If anything, Wiggins took a step back in his fourth year after the Wolves completely remade their roster and acquired Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson. Even with Butler out, a factor that many pointed to as the main reason for his decline, Wiggins wasn’t able to step up and increase his production.

    Now a nearly $30 million dollar player per year, Wiggins’ future is still as cloudy as ever.

    2017/18 Stats: 82 G | 82 GS | 36.3 MP | 17.7 PTS | 4.4 REB | 1.9 AST | 1.1 STL | 0.6 BLK | 1.7 TOV | 43.8 FG% | 33.1 3P% | 64.3 FT% | 48.1 eFG% 23.4 USG% 101 ORate | 113 DRate

    In almost every number across the board this was, statistically, Wiggins’ worst year since his rookie season. His points, assists, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, offensive rating and defensive rating were all his worst since his rookie season, or simply his worst ever. He made the most 3-pointers in his career, but his percentage took a step back from last year, an already unspectacular 35.6 percent.

    Some of these can be pointed directly at the veteran additions made in the offseason. His usage rate was the lowest since his rookie season, as were his shot attempts. At the same time his 3-point attempts increased while his free throw attempts fell dramatically. Wiggins’ shot distribution changed and the results were mixed, at best.

    On one hand, Wiggins taking more 3-pointers was a good thing because he took them at the expense of long two’s. The long two is the worst shot in basketball, and Wiggins consistently ranked near the top in attempts from that range (fourth most in 2016/17). The 3-point shot is a much better option, especially when it typically requires just one step back from where he usually took them. As a result, his effective field goal percentage remained fairly consistent with last year, despite a lower free throw and 3-point percentage.

    On the other hand, Wiggins seemed a little too passive at times, especially when driving to the rim. He settled a bit too often, even pulling up on drives in the lane instead of taking the extra dribble to the rack. While Wiggins cut out the long pull up two’s from his game, he added more floaters and turnarounds at the expense of layups, dunks and free throws. Wiggins’ free throw attempts fell from 6.6 to 3.8.

    The reason for this shift in Wiggins’ shot chart resulted from the addition of new veterans, as mentioned above, but also from the coaching staff. Often Wiggins would be relegated to the corner as a floor spacer and find himself out of many plays in favor of Butler or Karl-Anthony Towns. Tom Thibodeau would combat this by giving Wiggins more time in the first quarter than the rest of the starters, but Jamal Crawford did little to support Wiggins’ efforts to get more shot attempts.

    Some of this is also on Wiggins, though. He has the athletic ability to beat his defender off the ball and fill in space correctly, but that would be a rarity. If Wiggins didn’t have the ball in his hands, he would often be stagnant.

    When Derrick Rose stepped in for the Wolves, he was very good about cutting into the lane and receiving a quick pass from someone and scoring at the rim. It stood out like a sore thumb because it was such a rare occurrence for anyone on the Wolves. Wiggins has the ability to thrive in that sort of style, but for one reason or another he wasn’t incorporated in that way.

    Squish all of that together and you get an inefficient offensive player that can’t really be relied upon from anywhere on the floor. Remember Towns’ shot chart? Wiggins’ is about the exact opposite, courtesy of NBA.com/stats.

    The mid range for Wiggins is, quite honestly, horrifying, especially when considering it’s still his favorite shot despite cutting them down a bit. The interior isn’t much better, but at the rim he’s still slightly above league average.

    Whether it’s been a mental block that has affected Wiggins, mixed messages from the coaching staff or teammates, or simply he just lacks the inner motivation to improve remains in question. His lack of development, and if anything regression, is a troubling sign that is close to becoming a trend. After four years of more or less that same, when does his potential expire and become who he is?

    Defensively Wiggins hasn’t been all that much better. He’s plagued by inconsistencies despite possessing all the raw ability in the world, awesome when he wants to be and a statue the rest of the time, which is the majority. It shouldn’t be an event when Wiggins pieces everything together for one defensive possession, but sadly it sticks out when he does.

    Wiggins doesn’t need to be a Jimmy Butler on defense (even though he probably could), but raising that baseline would be advantageous for his future development. For what it’s worth the Wolves were better defensively when Wiggins was on the floor than when he was off, but considering Crawford and Shabazz Muhammad were typically the ones replacing him the bar wasn’t very high.

    Overall this sounds like a pessimistic approach to Wiggins’ season, but it’s not necessarily meant to be. Anyone watching Wiggins knows this was not his best year, he even said so himself. He had his moments, particularly early in the season when he hit a game-winner over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    That game was peak Wiggins, everything fans expected out of him when the Wolves acquired him three years prior. It came in the first week of the season and many expected a monster breakout. Unfortunately it never came, only setting up for more disappointment.

    Entering year five and a monster contract, it still feels like there’s more to Wiggins than what we have, but patience is beginning to run thin. Perhaps the Wolves will use that allure of potential to ship him somewhere else.

    Moving Forward

    Upon signing a five-year, $146 million extension last summer it was assumed that Wiggins was one of the most secure Wolves on the roster. Owner Glen Taylor specifically told Thibs that Wiggins was untouchable in a trade, first in the Butler trade, then later in a rumored Kyrie Irving trade. Taylor challenged Wiggins before signing the extension to be a better player, mentioning that he wasn’t just paying Wiggins for what he’s done, but what he can potentially do.

    That sounds obvious on paper, but generally star players in all sports are paid for what they’ve done. You’re perhaps expecting some bad years at the end of the deal, but that’s part of the cost for the immediate production. Taylor gave Wiggins a massive contract extension and a pinky promise that he’d improve.

    Right now Taylor is probably already having some buyers remorse, and Wiggins hasn’t even started his new deal yet.

    It’s fair to say that, as outlined above, Wiggins isn’t the best fit on this Wolves team as currently constructed. The team craves floor spacers with Butler, Gibson and Teague all interior based guys. Towns is an interior guy as well, but he’s also the team’s best outside shooter, so he find himself spacing the floor. At least Towns can succeed in that role. If you’ve reached this far in the article and believe Wiggins can, please start over from the top.

    Unfortunately the coaching staff, thanks to roster construction and process of elimination, has put Wiggins in the role. The slow paced, halfcourt, clogged paint style of Thibs’ Wolves just doesn’t cater to Wiggins’ strengths. In three of Wiggins’ four years the Wolves have ranked in the bottom 20 in pace and 30th in 3-point shooting. In an offense that spaces the floor or plays at a faster pace, or both, Wiggins would possibly be much more valuable.

    With that in mind, the Wolves face a tight cap situation ahead. With Towns in line for a max-contract extension, and Butler right behind him, the Wolves could tie their future into this core of players. They will be facing the luxury tax next season at this current rate. Is this team a championship level team? That is the question Taylor is wondering right now.

    To significantly improve the team, pieces need to be shuffled around, but with no room to wiggle, existing players are at risk. With Gorgui Dieng borderline un-tradeable, the Wolves may have to turn to Wiggins.

    He’d be tough to move with his contract, but they can still use that potential of a better player to their advantage. A bad team could be looking to buy the lottery ticket and take the risk. A small market that has trouble drawing star free agents could be their only shot. Perhaps a good team looking to shuffle the deck, or hoping to cash in some dead weight contracts.

    A team like the Sacramento Kings could make sense, who have a collection of veteran players with contracts that could match, and a potential throw in like Buddy Hield to sweeten the deal. They have promising players at nearly every position, but could use that feature player on the wing.

    Kevin O’Connor from the Ringer floated some ideas for the Toronto Raptors, including a deal that would send Wiggins and Teague for Kyle Lowry, C.J. Miles and Pascal Siakam. Such a deal might be attractive for the Wolves. They would add shooting and defense, but if things don’t work out have a completely cleared cap by the end of 2019/2020. It’s doubtful the Raptors believe their key to beating LeBron is Wiggins, though.

    Maybe the Washington Wizards feel the need to mix things up and Bradley Beal or Otto Porter swap could be on the table. It would help the Wolves’ shooting woes, but likely ship them off to the Capital.

    The alternative, of course, is to change the players around Wiggins. With the amount of money tied up simply signing players to minimum contracts could feel like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, so maybe Thibs and Butler are the ones to go.

    The Wolves will look at all their options, and as a questionable fit Wiggins is a logical step to move on from. No decision will be easy however, least of all parting with the guy who was once thought of the unicorn. Minnesota might be quiet about shopping him, but in a league that feeds off of the rumor mill, expect the noise to pick up as the offseason progresses.

    Or the Wolves stay on course and see if the elusive potential of Wiggins finally materializes.

Fantasy News

  • Andre Iguodala
    SF, Miami Heat

    Andre Iguodala returned to South Florida after living in California since the NBA season was suspended.

    Iguodala returning to the market where his team is could mean that he believes team workouts will begin soon. However, there is no official timetable on when team workouts will begin and Jimmy Butler has yet to return to Miami.

    Source: Ira Winderman on Twitter

  • Zach LaVine
    SG, Chicago Bulls

    K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reported that the Bulls were cleared by the Governor of Illinois and are in talks with city officials to open practice facilities on Friday for voluntary workouts that would follow the NBA guidelines.

    The NBA's guidelines currently state that a maximum of four players are allowed in the facility at any given time and there can only be one player per hoop. The Bulls are currently eight games behind the Orlando Magic for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls may not play again this season given how far behind they are in the standings and the recent reports of proposals to not continue the regular season.

    Source: K.C. Johnson on Twitter

  • Luka Doncic
    PG-SF, Dallas Mavericks

    Marc Stein of the New York Times has reported that the Mavs plan to open their practice facility on Thursday.

    This news would make the Mavs the 23rd team to have their facilities open for "voluntary and socially distanced player workouts". Continue to monitor the wire as we should learn more about the potential of the league resuming in early June.

    Source: Marc Stein on Twitter

  • Kawhi Leonard
    SF, Los Angeles Clippers

    On Tuesday afternoon, AmicoHoops reported (via Twitter) that an unidentified NBA GM told them the league has seriously discussed resuming the current NBA season on Wednesday, July 22.

    Nothing has been officially announced, by any means, and this is the first we've heard of specific target date(s) from anyone. It's looking like the continuation of the season will occur in Orlando at Walt Disney World at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, which has accommodations for at least some of what the NBA has planned for a resuming activity. As we have relayed numerous times recently, the next week or two seem to be a likely window for some decisions from Adam Silver and Co. at the NBA league office to start to come down. Stay tuned, hoops fans.

    Source: AmicoHoops on Twitter

  • Damian Lillard
    PG, Portland Trail Blazers

    Damian Lillard announced on Tuesday evening that, in the event of a continuation of the NBA season, he would not be participating if the Blazers are scheduled to play 'meaningless games' with no shot at making the playoffs.

    "If we come back and they're just like, 'We're adding a few games to finish the regular season,' and they're throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don't have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I'm going to be with my team because I'm a part of the team. But I'm not going to be participating," Lillard told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday morning. It's hard to blame him, as it is quite easy to see the potential situation from his point of view. There have been countless scenarios tossed around by the league office during the pandemic period, but nothing is set in stone so far. Lillard, for his part, is only interested in returning to action if there exists a legitimate shot for his Blazers to reach the NBA Finals. Fair enough.

    Source: Yahoo! Sports

  • Joel Embiid
    C, Philadelphia Sixers

    The Sixers, who have their practice facility located in nearby Camden, NJ, will allow voluntary player workouts at the facility beginning on Wednesday, raising the number of NBA teams who have been able to do so to 22.

    The Celtics, Knicks, Bulls, Pistons, Wizards, Mavericks, Spurs and Warriors are the final teams remaining who are unable to return to their practice facilities. The NBA seems to be inching ever so close to, at the very least, announcing a plan for a continuation of the current season. This next week or two should be very eventful on that front.

    Source: Marc Stein on Twitter

  • Clint Capela
    C, Atlanta Hawks

    Hawks GM Travis Schlenk indicated on Tuesday that Clint Capela (right heel, plantar fasciitis) could very well play in the event of an NBA restart.

    "Clint [Capela] says he's feeling better, and there's a possibility that we can get him back on the court," Schlenk said in a phone interview with ESPN. "Practicing and playing five games would be valuable to us." Capela has yet to see the floor for the Hawks since he was acquired at the deadline from the Rockets, and one would have to surmise that he would be under a heavy minutes restriction if the league resumes and if the Hawks deem him healthy enough to give it a go. Still two big "ifs," but this is obviously positive news for the Hawks and potentially for fantasy owners who have managed to stash Capela in an injury slot this long.

    Source: ESPN.com

  • Mohamed Bamba
    C, Orlando Magic

    Magic center Mo Bamba said on Tuesday that he's spent the quarantine period bulking up, self-proclaiming that he's put on close to 30 pounds of muscle.

    Bamba said of his time off, ""I’ve worked my tail off during this quarantine. This is going to sound weird, but I put on probably about 28 pounds since quarantine (started)." He laughed and added that only about 2.5 percent of the weight he's put on is body fat. Bamba, along with many other NBA players, "can’t wait to get back out there and work" which is a great sign for the Magic and their fans. Jonathan Isaac is becoming more and more of a potential option for the team when/if the season is resumed as the days pass, so his presence would limit Bamba's chances on the offensive end of the floor. The team has yet to decide whether or not they want to play Isaac at all the rest of the season, regardless of the rumblings about a restart from the league office. However, this bulk-up on Bamba's part is nonetheless pretty impressive and is certainly noteworthy.

    Source: NBA.com

  • Terry Rozier
    PG, Charlotte Hornets

    The Hornets are the latest team to re-open their facilities, with the Novant Health Training Center set to open up on Tuesday.

    With this, there are only eight teams left to open their practice courts back up, though nobody has been able to engage in any sort of team work yet. Individual workouts are better than no workouts, however, and the league appears to be getting its ducks in a row in terms of returning to play. There's still no firm timelines but things do appear to be heading in the right direction.

    Source: Charlotte Hornets

  • Jon Leuer
    PF, Milwaukee Bucks

    Jon Leuer has announced his retirement from basketball.

    Injuries completely destroyed Leuer's career, as he played in a combined 49 games over the previous two seasons with zero appearances in the 2019-20 campaign. Leuer's high point came with the Suns, where he averaged 8.5 points to go with 5.6 rebounds, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks and a 38.2 mark from deep. His eight-year career comes to an end, with Leuer saying that his body simply won't let him play at a high level anymore.

    Source: Jon Leuer on Instagram