The reaction around the league to the Andrew Wiggins renaissance has been, “that’s nice, let’s see if he can keep it up.” Wiggins has had stretches of strong play before, guys in their sixth season tend not to make leaps, and Wiggins had a reputation of just not being a guy who loved basketball and wanted to put in the work. Reactions to his start have ranged from hopeful but uncertain to flat-out skeptical.
While Wiggins may have slowed down of late — in his last five games his scoring and shooting percentages are down, including 30.3 percent from three — he’s still impacting games is one of the reasons the Timberwolves are above .500. November was the best month of Wiggins’ career.
Wiggins has heard the doubters and told Yaron Weitzman of Bleacher Report that, yes, it got him down at times, and you can be sure he wanted to show them up.
“You hear it, on social media, when you turn on the TV and watch sports, you always see certain stuff; certain people say certain things,” he said. He did his best to remain positive, to try tuning out the noise. “It never really got to me to the point where, you know, it messed up my lifestyle, my life,” he said. “I love myself more than anyone loves me.” But he does admit there have been times, especially last year, when all the criticism dragged him down.
“I’d go through a slump, and then you can’t help but hear it, and then you’re like, ‘F***,’” Wiggins said. “You always want to shut the people up that doubt you.”
Wiggins is averaging 24.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists a game with a 54.5 true shooting percentage (just above the league average) and a PER of 19.8 — every one of those numbers is a career high.
There are concrete things Wiggins is doing better that are sustainable. One big thing is his shot selection has improved. Last season 30.2 percent of his shots were from 10 feet out to the arc (midrange shots) and he hit less than 34 percent of them. This season he’s not shooting them any better, but those shots make up just 19.9 percent of his attempts, and in its place he’s taking more threes and getting to the rim more. Wiggins also is getting to the free throw line more often.
Time will tell with Wiggins, but this could be a case where new GM Gersson Rosas and coach Ryan Saunders have been able to get through to Wiggins — a more mature Wiggins, but still just 24 — and help him turn the corner. The sense that Wiggins was just a bit passive (and with that, not a guy who had a passion for the game) frustrated many a coach and front office person in Minnesota, but maybe this year the Timberwolves broke through.
If so, and if Karl-Anthony Towns can keep playing like the best center in the game (or very close to it), Minnesota’s path back to the playoffs may not be a fluke, either.