Being drafted 1st overall has it’s perks and drawbacks. Some perks may include immediate fame and fortune, the first person in your draft class to have their dreams fulfilled and the spotlight. The disadvantages that come along with being the 1st overall pick may actually outweigh the perks. As the 1st overall pick, you’re automatically seen as the savior to the franchise, thus placing lofty expectations on the player. The spotlight will constantly be on you all season and will constantly be chastised for continuous poor performances.
It wasn’t easy for Andrew Wiggins when he arrived in the NBA. He was immediately engulfed in trade rumors and was eventually shipped to Minnesota in the Kevin Love deal. Being a part of a trade that will go down in history isn’t really the way you would want to start your career. Of course, the trade talks and eventual trade had to have worn down Wiggins mentally, an aspect of the game that fails to be recognized at times, and understandably so, Wiggins struggled the first unofficial half of the season. Sixteen days ago, an article was published that included Wiggins in a list of rookies that should forget the first unofficial half to the season.
Boy, did he forget about the first half.
If you had to go back to pick one game where Wiggins turned things around, it would be the December 23rd matchup against none other than the team that drafted and traded Wiggins, the Cleveland Cavaliers. He came out strong and ended the night with a 27-point performance, a career high at that time. However, it doesn’t stop there. Wiggins went on to record double-digit points in every game after that contest against Cleveland, scoring under 20-points just three times out of 13 games. His defense has shown as well, recording a steal in all but three out of the 13 games as well.
Things have finally started to turn around for Wiggins. From January 2, Wiggins has upped his scoring average from 13.1 to 15.2 points while slowly turning into the player we hope to see, a bona fide superstar. His athleticism is world-class and that only helps his development as a basketball player. What athleticism can’t do is teach shooting, and that’s one area where Wiggins has impressed so far.
Transition into the NBA is rough, simply put. Some major differences from the college game to the pro game are immense, most notably, the distance of the three-point line (20.75 ft to 22 ft). It’s not an over-exaggeration when someone says that rookies struggle from the three-point line. Let’s take a look at who I feel to be the best three-point shooter in this 2014 Draft Class, Nik Stauskas. A marksman from downtown, Stauskas hit 44.2% of his 3-PT attempts while attending Michigan. In the NBA, he has hit only 27.2% of his threes while failing to find consistent playing time. Another victim claimed by the three-point line.
There are exceptions however. While his overall FG% is not the most glamorous number we expect it to be, (43.4% FG), his 3-PT% stands out. Wiggins is shooting an impressive 41.1% from three-point range. Compare that to his days at Kansas and he his made a 10% jump in his 3-PT%. He really made an impression last night against the Denver Nuggets, hitting 4-5 FG 3-PT on his way to a career-high 31-points. This is coming from the draft prospect that had questions fired toward him about his jump shot.
A simple play from their game against Denver can really show the strides Wiggins has made to improve the three-ball. With about 1:50 left in the 3rd quarter, Wiggins took a drop off pass from fellow rookie, Zach LaVine, dribbled right over a Thaddeus Young screen, recognized the switch as big-man Darrell Arthur was no guarding Wiggins and pulled up for a three. Buckets. It’s not just off the dribble either. Wiggins has made 47.4% of his corner threes. Utilizing that short-corner will do wonders for his game as it can subsequently open up baseline drives if he continues to be deadly from that area.
Here’s what his coach, Flip Saunders, had to say about his stellar rookie after their win against Denver: “It’s almost astonishing his confidence level. He just keeps continuing to get better and amaze and do everything, whether it’s offense, blocking shots, rebounds.”
High praise coming from a coach that groomed and developed a rookie into an MVP in Minnesota before. That rookie would be Kevin Garnett.
Wiggins still has plenty of time before any real praise and or criticisms can be placed upon him. He is still only 19-years old, considered an infant in the NBA. Flip Saunders and the rest of the Minnesota Timberwolves organization has laid the foundation for Wiggins to succeed and glimpses of what he can become are showing. Wiggins has responded well with the performances that he’s had in the past month, perhaps taking the lead in the Rookie of the Year race.
Wiggins has all the tools to become successful. However, there is still one asterisk that surrounds him. Does he have the will to be great? Does Wiggins have that alpha-dog mentality that can help him leapfrog into future All-Star considerations?
We know what Wiggins can become. The question is, “Is he going to stop himself?”