Can Andrew Wiggins Take the Next Step?

Typically, the year after winning Rookie of the Year brings great expectations, and that’s exactly what’s been thrust upon Andrew Wiggins’s shoulders. After a successful rookie campaign where Wiggins took home said honor, people are looking at the Canadian to take a step and make the All-Star team his sophomore season. Is this a reasonable expectation in a loaded Western Conference? Yes, and all one has to do is look at this summer to see the work he’s put into his game.

Wiggins has been playing for Team Canada this summer, and while his play has been a bit up-and-down, he’s been a more willing three-point shooter. He attempted 14 threes in four games for Canada after only launching 36 in February, March and April of last year. This did hinder his ability to get to the free throw line a bit, as he shot an underwhelming 11-of-16 in the four games. Of course, none of this takes away from his otherworldly athleticism. Just ask J.J. Barea:

Overall, the 2015 FIBA Marchand Continental Cup has been a success for Wiggins, who averaged 14.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.5 steals and 0.8 blocks over the four games. Obviously he wasn’t out there pushing himself beyond his limits, as the Timberwolves will need him for the rugged regular season in the Western Conference if they have any hopes of making the playoffs. He should be in the All-Star conversation next year after showing glimpses of brilliance as a rookie.

Wiggins looked especially good towards the end of the season, scoring 20 points or more in 10 out of the Timberwolves’ last 13 games. Not only did his game improve, but he showed the killer instinct many were begging for during his first and only season at Kansas. It was a welcome sight among NBA folks, and it showed why he could potentially be the Wolves’ go-to wing scorer for the next decade. And now with Karl Anthony-Towns in the mix, it could only be a few years before this team is among the elite in the West.

They have some stretch 4s to play alongside Towns, with former Hawks first-round pick Adreian Payne, 2013 first overall pick Anthony Bennett and Euro big ma Nemanja Bjelica all possible future pairings. Right now, veteran big men like Kevin Garnett and Nikola Pekovic give Towns two mentors to learn from, which should pay dividends down the line.

Youth remains in the backcourt with 2014 lottery pick and combo guard Zach LaVine (an elite athlete in his own right), who could be a sixth man at either guard spot. Ricky Rubio is still likely the point guard of the future, despite his shooting woes, and veteran shooting guard Kevin Martin provides spacing. But none of it comes together without the future superstar on the wing in Wiggins. He still needs to improve creating on his own and shooting off the dribble before taking that next step, and increasing his range and efficiency remains priority No. 1 for Wiggins.

It’s going to be an exciting season in Minnesota, barring injury, with the right amount of veteran leadership paired with youthful talent. Don’t be surprised if this team threatens for the playoffs even in the Western Conference, because if they want to take that next step, it’s going to have to be behind their potential All-Star swingman Andrew Wiggins.

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