Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Andrew Wiggins Conundrum

On Friday Night, the Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Milwaukee Bucks rather easily, 116-99. It was just the second time all season the Wolves didn't trail at all.

As is often the case in Timberwolves wins, Andrew Wiggins played very well. He scored 31 points on just 18 shots, and made 11 of 13 free throws. Even more impressively, he had 6 assists and just 1 turnover. It was an incredibly efficient performance.

The 21-year-old has scored 29 points or more 8 times already this season. It's clear he has elite scoring ability at times.

And while Wiggins has been a well below average defender since entering the league, even a marginal improvement would be fine if he plays like he did Friday night on the offensive side of the ball. His athleticism is spectacular, but his basketball IQ isn't nearly as good. That's not all that surprising considering Wiggins has always been able to use his athletic gifts to gain an advantage. 

Unfortunately, it seems every time Wiggins has a great game,he follows it up with a poor one. The Wolves lost on Sunday night to the Portland Trail Blazers, 95-89. Wiggins was able to score 24 points, but he only had 1 assist and turned the ball over 5 times. He just needs to make better decisions with the ball in his hands.

I don't buy into the notion that Wiggins demeanor doesn't allow him to be a consistently great player; I think it's more his understanding of the game that will hold him back. People love to talk about Kobe Bryant's competitive fire being a good thing, and there's no doubt sometimes it was, but there's just as many times Kobe did the wrong thing when his emotions got the best of him. It's okay to be laid back, especially since it's crystal clear that Andrew Wiggins is a very competitive person. He wants to win.

I think the floor for Wiggins development is basically Rudy Gay. An athletic, talented scoring wing that just can't seem to put everything else together. Wiggins is likely going to be a better player than Gay, I concede, but how much better? I've seen people say he could be a poor man's Carmelo Anthony, which I guess is possible. Gay is basically a poor man's poor man's Melo, so I can see it. Is that the best case scenario? Or could Wiggins develop into a Carmelo-type player?

I honestly have no idea. It seems more likely he'll be somewhere between Gay and Melo, which will leave the Wolves with a difficult decision: Keeping Wiggins will almost certainly require a maximum salary--is that a prudent use of the team's money? To be clear, Wiggins has plenty of value and the Wolves should in no way simply let Wiggins leave as a free agent. 

I would like to see the team offer Wiggins, a draft pick (Not this year's likely top 10 one) and Pek's retiring contract (or another matching salary if one makes more sense) to Chicago for Jimmy Butler. Undoubtedly, some fans will think Wiggins alone is worth more than Butler, but thankfully their understanding of basketball doesn't matter in this situation.

 Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has always been seduced by athletic wings, and Wiggins certainly fits the bill. Hoiberg was a huge OJ Mayo fan when he worked in the Wolves front office. If adding Rubio and Rondo makes the deal happen, I'd do that as well. I love Rubio and think he gets an unfair shake from the media, but Dunn is the future.starter it would appear and next year's draft is very point guard heavy.

Butler's defensive ability alone makes him a great fit for this current Wolves team, and while he's not a great three point shooter he's a similar offensive player to Wiggins but with a better understanding of ball control. It's possible the Bulls would have no interest in this kind of a trade, but if they truly want to rebuild quickly they might see Wiggins as a player with a higher ceiling at a cheaper price than Jimmy Butler. 

I don't expect the Wolves to trade Wiggins at all, so I realize it's little more than a pipe dream. Here's to hoping the youngster is able to continue to improve his game, and that one day everything (or even just a few things) clicks. Nothing would make me happier than Wiggins being a great player, as he seems like a great kid, but his body of work to this point leaves a lot to be desired. He's basically a volume scorer, albeit a fairly solid one at an extremely young age. Adding other pieces to his game is going to be instrumental in him developing into a star player, and my opinion is he won't be able to do it. I hope I'm wrong.


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