Welcome to "One Possession!" Throughout the 2019-20 NBA season, our NBA.com Staff will break down certain possessions from certain games and peel back the curtains to reveal its bigger meaning.
Today, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins takes the spotlight.
Context: Wiggins had another big game on Friday. In an overtime win against the Golden State Warriors, the Canadian scored a team-high 40 points on 17-for-33 shooting from the field. He also dished out seven assists, setting a new season-high. Even more impressive is that Wiggins finished the game with 15 potential assists, meaning he made 15 passes that led directly to a shot for one of his teammates. The only players across the league who finished the night with more potential assists were Luka Doncic, LeBron James, Trae Young, Fred VanVleet and D'Angelo Russell.
The possession: Here is one of the 15 potential assists Wiggins had against the Warriors:
Breakdown: With the Timberwolves trailing by four points with under two minutes to play in regulation, Wiggins runs a pick-and-roll with Karl-Anthony Towns on the left wing. Wiggins is among the league leaders in scoring as the ball handler in pick-and-rolls this season, while Towns has long been one of the league's best pick-and-roll bigs because of how effective he is on pops and rolls.
On the court with them are three perimeter players in Josh Okogie, Jake Layman and Robert Covington. Though Layman is the only one of them who is currently shooting at an average rate from the perimeter, teams have to respect each of them on the 3-point line - Covington far more than Okogie, but Okogie is at least a capable 3-point shooter.
Towns comes to set the screen on Wiggins, but rather than using the screen, Wiggins rejects it, probably because he notices Golden State's only rim protector, Willie Cauley-Stein, creeping closer and closer to the 3-point line.
That opens up a lane to the basket for Wiggins to attack.
He doesn't get all the way to the basket, but Wiggins forces a key rotation: D'Angelo Russell helps off of Layman in the corner to put himself between Wiggins and the rim. The odds of Russell blocking Wiggins' shot are slim to none - Russell has blocked a total of 69 shots in his NBA career - but he puts himself in position to draw a charge.
That forces Glenn Robinson III to help off of Covington to prevent Layman from getting a layup or dunk.
Rather than force a shot or try to sneak a pass to Layman, Wiggins reads the defence perfectly by kicking the ball out to Covington on the right wing for a wide open 3-point attempt.
Covington is off to a slow start shooting the ball this season, but he made 39.4 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3s last season. Minnesota will take all the wide open 3s they can get from him.
Why it matters: The biggest criticism of Wiggins to this stage of his career is that he's an inefficient scorer who doesn't bring much else to the table. He's never reached his potential as a defender, he's never been much of a rebounder and he's never averaged more than 2.5 assists over a full season.
Unlikely as it is for Wiggins to improve in all of those areas all at once, he's making legitimate strides as a playmaker for others so far this season, specifically on drives. According to NBA.com, Wiggins is currently leading the Timberwolves with an average of 15.6 drives per game, up from 7.9 drives per game last season and 7.7 drives per game the season prior. He is still looking to score on a lot of those opportunities, but he's also averaging 4.4 passes per game off of his drives, which is the second-highest rate on the Timberwolves behind only point guard Jeff Teague.
It's also by far and away the highest rate of his career.
For all his faults, Wiggins has always been an effective driver. If anything, the knock on him has been that he doesn't drive enough, choosing to settle for tough midrange jumpers instead of using his athleticism to get into the paint.
It's still early, but Wiggins is turning a lot of those tough pull-ups that hurt his efficiency into drives towards the basket, where he's shooting a high percentage. That alone is encouraging, but the fact that he's also kicking it out to teammates more often when the defence collapses will only make him (and the Timberwolves by extension) harder to guard.
It hasn't led to a significant jump in assists or anything - not yet, anyway - but the combination is a clear example of Wiggins turning some of his weaknesses into strengths.
"I feel good," Wiggins said after the game. "I put a lot of work in this summer. I've been staying with the grind. It feels good to be back."
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