Well, worry is a relative term. Andrew Wiggins is probably still going to be a very good player. You could argue through counting stats that he already is one. He’s averaging 20 points per game. The Timberwolves are better when he’s on the floor. But there are troubling signs lurking here.
A pretty big one is that Wiggins can’t shoot. Even if he were shooting more than 27.1% from three-point range, it’s not as though he’s taking smart shots. Only 14% of his attempts are from three-point range. He’s never going to improve if he’s afraid to take those shots now, when the Wolves are going to lose anyway.
Instead, he’s settling for bad shots. Almost 39% of his shots are two-pointers from beyond 10-feet. That’s almost three times as many three’s as he takes. That’s ridiculous. That’s worse than Rudy Gay at his absolute Memphis inefficiency peak.
It’s extraordinarily difficult to become a star wing without shooting. DeMar DeRozan compensates by getting to the line more than just about anyone. And Wiggins, at 7.3 free throw attempts per game, isn’t far off. But DeRozan didn’t really reach All-Star level until this year, when he became at least a nominal three-point threat at 33.6%. Teams have to at least respect him. That isn’t the case with Wiggins.
And, sure enough, these bad shots yield bad returns. The Wolves score only 0.86 points per possession on pick-and-rolls in which Wiggins handles the ball, 0.84 on isolations and 0.81 on spot ups. The Philadelphia 76ers score .958 points per possession. This is concerning for a supposed franchise player.
Of course, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that Karl-Anthony Towns is Minnesota’s franchise player. And rightfully so, as Towns is a goddamn torpedo. That makes finding players that fit around him the Timberwolves’ main prerogative, and Towns is a center. He needs shooters to space the floor for him even if he can shoot a bit himself. Wiggins doesn’t shoot. Zach LaVine doesn’t shoot. Ricky Rubio certainly doesn’t shoot. Something has to give here. Eventually things are just going to get too cramped for Minnesota to run an effective offense.
Wiggins was supposed to make up for his initial offensive shortcomings as a defensive stopper. But that hasn’t happened either. In fact, he’s pretty bad defensively all things considered.
The Timberwolves are nearly identical defensively with Wiggins on the floor or off. That shouldn’t be possible. His main backups this season have been Kevin Martin and Shabazz Muhammed. Have you seen Kevin Martin play defense? It’s like watching a beached salmon die of cancer. That dude didn’t see a noticeable defensive drop off when replacing Wiggins?
The easiest adjective to describe his defense is afraid. Take a look at this screenshot below:
Wiggins is supposed to be defending Khris Middleton, a dangerous three-point threat. Here, he gives Middleton several feet of open space, supposedly to help at the basket. But he never actually provides the help, serving neither of his intended functions. He’s afraid to make mistakes, so he tries to play defense down the middle, refusing to commit so he can’t be burned.
That level of conservativeness has mitigated most of what Wiggins was supposed to be defensively. We thought he’d be a menace in passing lanes with his athleticism, but he steals only 1.2% of opponent possessions. That’s lower than Michael Beasley’s career percentage and I’m not sure he can even spell defense.
So instead of the player we hoped he’d turn out to be, Wiggins is developing into a bad defender who takes too many mid-range shots and scores 20 points largely through volume. That’s not a superstar. That’s Corey Maggette.
He’s young. He’s been badly coached. There’s still reason for optimism here. But these are problems that won’t go away overnight. As much as Wiggins needs to improve his actual skill level, he also needs to fundamentally change the kinds of decisions he makes on the court. Because if this goes on, Wiggins is never going to come close to our lofty hopes for him.