With the regular season around the corner, we're looking into our crystal ball to get an idea of what's to come in 2019-20. Consider it our last chance to fire off the bold predictions and hot takes that have been simmering all summer long.
Today, Andrew Wiggins is our focus.
Andrew Wiggins is entering his sixth NBA season at just 24 years of age. But to most, Wiggins is what he is.
Wiggins hasn't yet lived up to the hype that he came into the league with. And since his third NBA season (by far his best), he hasn't shown the ability to consistently impact the game on a nightly basis. The Canadian has left many scratching their heads as to why someone with so much raw talent can't seem to put it together at the highest level.
Will Wiggins ever become the player he was supposed to be? Or is it too late for the Minnesota Timberwolves to get a return on the five-year, $147 million they've invested in the artist formerly known as Maple Jordan?
Let's take a look into the crystal ball and find out what 2019-20 has in store for the former No. 1 overall pick.
Many look at Wiggins' first season under Tom Thibodeau and see his career-high of 23.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game as his best yet. But they forget that Wiggins led the league in minutes played, logging a whopping 3,048 minutes, and had the ball in his hands a ton. His usage percentage of 29.0 is by far the highest of his career.
In the slow grind out half-court style that Thibodeau employed that type of usage and mileage simply wasn't sustainable for Wiggins, and it showed. Not only did his scoring averages drop in 2017-18 and 2018-19 (some of which was due to the arrival of Jimmy Butler), his shooting percentages took a turn for the worse. His defence under Thibodeau was never as good as promised given his natural length, size and quickness either.
Toward the end of last season, we saw glimpses of what Wiggins can provide the Timberwolves in 2019-20 as more of a secondary option next to Karl-Anthony Towns. Under Ryan Saunders, Minnesota played faster than they did under Thibs - and expect that to continue this year. If you want to hide Wiggins' deficiencies, you have to get out and run - that's the simple fix. However in the halfcourt, if you want to get the best out of Wiggins, you have to put him in situations where he can drive to the basket.
In 2016-17 - again, Wiggins' most productive season to date - he led the team in drives per game at 9.6, according to NBA.com Stats. The next two seasons, where his numbers declined drastically, Wiggins ranked third and fourth on his own team in drives per game.
The crystal ball says that will change in 2019-20. We got a taste of that in the last 15 games of the season last year. Saunders put Wiggins more in situations where he could attack downhill, and Wiggins responded.
In those games, nobody on the Timberwolves drove to the basket more than Wiggins. His numbers reflected it as he saw a slight uptick in scoring, averaging 20.2 points to go along with 4.8 rebounds in the last 15 contests.
Projecting ahead to this season, that should be around the averages we should expect from Wiggins.
While the scoring is encouraging, most will want to know how efficient Wiggins can be. Let's face it: Wiggins will never be as efficient as the Kevin Durants or Kawhi Leonards of the world, but his last 15 games showed that he can be productive and economical. Wiggins shot 46% from the field and 36% from three on 5.0 attempts per game. That's far more respectable than the sub 45% field goal percentage and the low 30s he's shot from three for the large part of his career.
All the ingredients are there for Wiggins to have a good season. We won't call it a breakout year or a resurgence. Let's just call it he's doing what he's supposed to be doing. No one expects Wiggins to be an All-Star anymore, and his title as best player from his homeland belongs to Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray for the foreseeable future.
We've seen 400 games of Wiggins. We know what he is and we know the ceiling. Don't be fooled by thinking he's already hit it. He hasn't. But the ceiling that was once as tall as the CN Tower is more in a general skyscraper range. With Towns leading the way, that may be good enough.
This year Wiggins becomes the perfect sidekick. We should all be able to live with that.
Crystal Ball Prediction: Andrew Wiggins finally becomes consistent in Year Six.
Crystal Ball Averages: 21.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game on 47% FG and 36% 3FG.
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