The Minnesota Timberwolves are enjoying their best season in a generation. The turnaround from dismal franchise in constant rebuild to top four seed in the West has been led by their two All-Stars, franchise golden boy Karl-Anthony Towns, and the first year wolf and MVP candidate Jimmy Butler. The two-headed monster have the Wolves in prime position to make their first playoff appearance since 2004. But it seems like someone is missing from that equation. Andrew Wiggins, the top pick in the 2014 draft (drafted by Cleveland) should be part of a “Big Three” with Towns and Butler, but that hasn’t been the case this season. The fourth year small forward out of Kansas is having his worst season as a pro, marred by inefficiency, poor shot selection, and failure to get to the free throw line.
Wiggins is scoring six points fewer per game than last year (23.6 last season to 17.7 this year), and his Player Efficiency Rating is a career worst 13.1 according to ESPN. Some of that can be attributed to inserting Jimmy Butler and his 22.4 points per game. But most of it has been caused by his lack of interest in meshing with new alpha dog teammates in Tom Thibodeau’s offense, and his willingness to take a backseat at times to even less accomplished scorers like Jeff Teague, Taj Gibson and Jamal Crawford.
On Tuesday, Wiggins may have bottomed out against the Rockets, missing his first 12 shots before salvaging a 2-14 shooting line that included him going 0-5 from beyond the arc. This is becoming Wiggins’ most troubling pattern, hitting rock bottom just about every five games. Look through his game-by-game stats. You’ll find plenty of games where he goes 8-17 with 18 points, 4 rebounds, a few assists, maybe a steal or two. Those are his averages so that’s the bulk of stat lines you’re going to find. But every week or two there’s at least one game, sometimes two or three in a row, where it seems everything went off the rails for Wiggins and he wasn’t part of the offense at all. Wiggins was off to a hot start this season, averaging 24.7 points through his first three games. In the fourth game though: 3-9 shooting, 0-3 from three, 1-6 from the free throw line for a total of seven points. November was full of plenty of off games, 4-10 for 11 points, 5-14 for 11 points, 5-15 for 13 points. Nothing so bad, but inconsistent with what should be his norm. December was his worst month of the season so far. Wiggins shot just 39% from the field for 15.5 points per game. He had 4 games in December where he shot below 30% from the field, and five games where he failed to score more than 12 points. He rebounded nicely in January, excluding his 4-18, 10 point performance in a loss to Golden State. February has brought back his inconsistency. He’s scored seven points twice in six games, and has failed to eclipse 20 points in a game this month.
Everybody has bad games, but Wiggins’ poor performances are sometimes so bad they are derailing his season, and detrimental to Minnesota’s cause. In 60 games this season Wiggins has failed to reach double digits in six games, something he did just three times all of last season. He found consistency last year, but has reverted back to his rookie ways of shooting too many long jumpers instead of getting to the rim.
If history has shown us anything about Andrew Wiggins in the NBA, it’s that he gets better as the season goes on. We have to see some improvement in the remaining 22 games to believe he can actually help this team once the playoffs arrive, otherwise, he could see his minutes diminish drastically when games begin to really matter.