Coming into the NBA season, our stats and video analyst Nicholas Sciria takes a deep dive into Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins.
Now that we have sometime before the NBA regular season starts, our stats and video analyst Nicholas Sciria has done a deep dive into Andrew Wiggins overall game.
Deep Dive into Andrew Wiggins Overall Game by Nick Sciria
With the help of contextualized numbers and video footage, let’s dive deep into Andrew Wiggins’ game. Unless otherwise noted, I will be comparing Wiggins to players who logged greater than 1000 minutes played at small forward this past season to help contextualize the numbers I am citing. Forty-three players logged at least 1000 minutes last season at small forward, and this sample will provide the context for several statistics in this article (Nylon Calculus).
First, let’s unpack Wiggins’ 54.3 percent true shooting percentage (Basketball-Reference). Wiggins increased his true shooting percentage by 2.6 percent this past season, a good sign after an inefficient rookie season (Basketball-Reference). This bump in efficiency was due mostly to a 10.9 percent jump in field goal percentage from 3 to 10 feet, where 15.8 percent of his shots originated last season (Basketball-Reference). Wiggins also increased his field goal percentage from the “long 2” area of the court by 4.2 percent in the 2015-16 season (Basketball-Reference). However, despite this bump in efficiency, Wiggins ranked only 25th out of 43 small forwards in terms of true shooting percentage (Basketball-Reference).
To fully understand Wiggins’ relative inefficiency, let’s take a deeper look at his 30.0 percent mark from behind the arc last season:
- 88.4 percent of Wiggins’ 3-point attempts last year came with a defender greater than four feet away from him, meaning he shot more “open” 3-pointers than 63.6 percent of players who attempted more than 50 3-pointers (NBA.com/Stats).
- Taking into account the openness of his 3-point attempts, the average NBA shooter would’ve shot roughly 35.8 percent (5.8 percent better than Wiggins shot) (NBA.com/Stats).
- However, it’s important to note that Wiggins shot plenty of 3-pointers off the dribble (shots that are generally less efficient compared to catch-and-shoot attempts).
- Wiggins made 3.5 percent less of his pull-up 3-pointers compared to the average small forward while shooting 10.0 percent more of these shots (NBA.com/Stats).
- Wiggins made only 1.3 percent less of his catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts compared to the average small forward, while shooting 9.7 percent less of these shots (NBA.com/Stats).
It’s fair to say that Wiggins’ 3-point percentage was slightly deflated due to the type of shots he attempted last season. Despite being a nearly average 3-point shooter off of the catch last season, the volume of 3-point attempts that Wiggins attempted off of the dribbled killed his 3-point percentage.
In catch-and-shoot situations, Wiggins looks more and more confident and displays a quick release. In sideline out of bounds, Minnesota likes to make teams pay for going under the handoff.
Here is the breakdown of Wiggins’ shooting and efficiency before and after the All-Star Break: (Basketball-Reference)
Zach Harper described the factors that led to a jump in Minnesota’s offense a whole in the second-half of last season.
Here are some key notes relating to Minnesota’s post All-Star Break play (NBAwowy):
- Minnesota’s Offensive Rating jumped 3.1 points per 100 possessions and the team’s pace jumped 2.7 possessions per game.
- Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine were on the floor together 31.8 possessions more per game.
- The 3-point percentage with Wiggins on the floor increased to 39.7 percent from a dismal 30.5 percent.
- Tayshaun Prince’s possessions per game dropped from 40.5 possessions to 26.9.
As Harper noted, LaVine was hitting shots from all over the place, and Minnesota didn’t have nearly as many spacing concerns. More time on the court with LaVine benefited Wiggins in terms of efficiency, and LaVine’s presence made it easier for him to create offense. After the All-Star Break, LaVine’s usage percentage dropped 6.0 percent, and Wiggins’ usage percentage fell by 2.3 percent as well (Basketball-Reference). Both players benefited with another playmaker on the court, and with LaVine spacing the floor and Prince playing less, Wiggins played better as well.
However, Coach Mitchell’s caveman-era offense worked against the success LaVine and Wiggins were experiencing on the court. 24.3 percent of Wiggins’ field goal attempts were long 2-point attempts, and Minnesota had the highest long 2-point attempt rate in the league (Basketball-Reference). A whopping 23.9 percent of Minnesota’s shots came from this area on the court (Basketball-Reference).
In the end, only ten players tallied more long 2-point attempts than Wiggins this past season (Basketball-Reference).
This was a problem in college as well, as Mike Schmitz documented here:
Although Tom Thibodeau isn’t known to be overly “modern” in his offensive philosophies, one can expect Minnesota’s shot selection to improve this season. In his last season with the Bulls, 16.3 percent of Chicago’s shots came from long 2 (ranking 19th in the league) (Basketball-Reference).
Kevin Pelton discussed how Thibodeau will likely change up Minnesota’s shot selection here: https://t.co/nf1WkXwufk. When Thibodeau arrived in Chicago, the Bulls were Mitchell-like in their approach to shot selection and offense in general. But just one season into his reign, and Chicago was already average in terms of ratio of 2-point attempts outside of the paint to 3-point attempts, as Kevin Pelton notes. With regards to Wiggins, it’s clear that he will have to increase his field goal percentage on long 2-pointers or stop taking so many shots from that area of the floor.
After looking at Wiggins’ efficiency, let’s dive a little deeper into Wiggins’ offensive game. In terms of usage, only 11 second-year players were used more than Wiggins (while playing over 1000 minutes) since the year 2000 (Basketball-Reference).
Last season, Wiggins logged the seventh-highest free throw rate for a player who played greater than 1500 minutes (Basketball-Reference).
With Wiggins getting to the line this much, an increase in his free throw percentage would provide a needed bump to his true shooting percentage. In terms of free throw percentage, Wiggins’ 76.1 percent mark ranked 26th of 43 small forwards. Wiggins is off to a good start this preseason, where he is 28 of 34 (82.4 percent) from behind the line.
In terms of finishing, Wiggins shot 64.8 percent from 0 to 3 feet, a mark that ranked 18th of 43 small forwards (Basketball-Reference). Still, Wiggins has room to grow in terms of finishing non-dunk attempts. At this point in his career, he would much rather finish layups with his right hand.
As you can see here, Wiggins struggles when he is forced to finish layups on the left side of the rim (NBA Savant).
Currently, Wiggins is most likely going left to pull up and right, to get to the rim.
Additionally, it is still clear that Wiggins has too loose of a handle (a concern out of college as well).
Despite his limited dribbling ability, Wiggins can still create his own shot in driving situations. His drive scoring efficiency ranked 27th out of 195 players with greater than 100 drives (Nylon Calculus).
Before I get into Wiggins’ assist numbers, let’s make sure we understand the context of those numbers. Like I’ve said, there wasn’t much shooting around Wiggins last season, and Mitchell’s offense certainly didn’t help him succeed. Furthermore, it’s not easy to create tons of assists when almost 30 percent of passes go to Ricky Rubio (NBA.com/Stats). It might seem like a cop out, but Wiggins didn’t have a whole lot of options other than to shoot (in many cases) last season. Wiggins was put in a lot of situations that look like this, as Patrick Fenelon points out here:
Knowing that, let’s dive into his numbers. Andrew Wiggins created only 4.7 points per game off of assists last year, and he ranked 30th out of 43 small forwards in assists per 100 possessions (NBA.com/Stats, Basketball-Reference). Of 44 qualified players with a usage percentage greater than 25 percentage, Wiggins ranked 39th in assists per 100 possessions (Basketball-Reference).
Notice that all five players who logged a lower number of assists per 100 possession numbers are big men.
When the offense opened up after the All-Star Break, Wiggins saw a slight bump in terms of his assists. Before the break, he averaged 1.9 assists per 36 minutes, a number that rose to 2.5 assists per 36 after the break (Basketball-Reference). Still, however, it’s clear that Wiggins would rather drive to score and post up to score at this point in his career. Wiggins passed on only 20.10 percent of his drives, a percentage that ranked 154th out of 195 for players who drove more than 100 times (Nylon Calculus). Wiggins passed on only 13.4 percent of his post-ups, a percentage that ranked 119th out of 137 for players with greater than 100 post-ups (NBA.com/Stats).
In the above clip, the Warriors iced the ball screen. Wiggins failed to pass it to Karl-Anthony Towns quick enough to beat the ball screen coverage with a quick pop from the screener, and Mo Speights was able to recover.
Now let’s dive into the defensive end. I like how Kevin Pelton described Wiggins’ defense here:
One issue with Wiggins’ defense is his low steal rate, a perplexing trend given his tools on the defensive end of the floor. Wiggins only mustered up 1.8 steals per 100 possessions, which ranked 28th out of 43 small forwards. Of course, Sam Mitchell’s leash on Wiggins’ defense probably affected this number to some degree, and it will be interesting to see how that changes this year under a new coach. Still, there are plays on film where a little more assertiveness and effort off of the ball could have forced more turnovers.
Wiggins’ lack of steals is important to note, as this study from FiveThirtyEight discusses how valuable steals are (even if they are not necessarily indicative of good defense): http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-hidden-value-of-the-nba-steal/
Jim Petersen joined Nate Duncan on a recent podcast to talk about Wiggins’ defense, noting concerns with his off-ball habits.
Petersen noted how Wiggins rarely gets into a stance off of the ball defensively. On Twitter, @hoopscraft identified a specific play that displays exactly what Petersen was saying:
Ultimately, we must remember the context of Andrew Wiggins’ production last season. There just aren’t many players at Wiggins’ age who would have succeeded in his position under Sam Mitchell last season. Tom Thibodeau’s offense will only help Wiggins, and we will likely start seeing all of Wiggins’ tools utilized on the defensive end as well.