After a Hot Start to the Season, the Jury is Still Out On Andrew Wiggins

Liam McKeone
Minnesota Timberwolves v Detroit Pistons
Minnesota Timberwolves v Detroit Pistons / Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The opening month of the 2019-20 NBA season has brought many surprises. The Phoenix Suns are a good basketball team. The Boston Celtics didn't miss a beat despite their well-documented personnel losses and, at the time of this blog, have won nine straight games. Luka Doncic and Trae Young are toying with defenders like they're 10-year vets, not sophomores who aren't even 22.

But the one man who may supersede all of those unexpected developments resides in the cold tundra of Minnesota. Andrew Wiggins, a man mocked, criticized, and ridiculed mercilessly by the NBA community for several years running now, is absolutely balling out. He's averaging 25.9 points on a 53.7 effective field goal percentage and has been the guy to hit the big shots over the Wolves' last five games.

Despite the fact that he's only 24, this feels like a shocking renaissance after watching Wiggins get paid $25 million to brick midrange jumper after midrange jumper last season. It felt like we were all piling on at times, but for the most part, the criticisms of Wiggins the player have been valid; despite his gift of otherworldly athleticism, he averaged less than five rebounds per game last season, was regularly blown by on defense, and seemed physically incapable of passing the ball.

Nobody was thriving in Minnesota last year in the midst of the Jimmy Butler disaster, but the flaws in Wiggins' game have been apparent for several years, and in the first year of his megadeal, they only got worse.

Through 11 games, though, it's clear Wiggins is making an effort to fix those flaws. He has 30 total assists over the last six games, a benchmark he failed to reach at any point last season. He's shooting more often from three and making them at the best clip of his career. The midrange is still a big part of his game, but it's far easier to swallow when he's shooting well; last season, he hit only 32 percent of his shots from 16 feet to the 3-point line, and this season he's hitting 38 percent.

Perhaps most importantly, the former No. 1 overall pick taking it to the rim at a career-high rate, and is on pace to attempt over a hundred more shots within three feet of the basket than last season. The rebounding remains suspect, but his effort on defensive has been a noticeable improvement.

Wiggins won't shoot this well all season, and he'll be frustrating to watch at times as he continues to shoot deep 2s at the same rate he has throughout his career. But nobody thought Wiggins would improve at all, much less to the point that he has so far in 2019. It seems unlikely he'll ever reach the heights we all imagined when we dubbed him "Maple Jordan", but the jury is still out on Andrew Wiggins, and he's showing us how far he can still go.