Andrew Wiggins’ career night highlights his offensive evolution

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After scoring a win over Phoenix last Friday to end the Suns’ 18-game winning streak, the Warriors seemed to have used up some extra energy. They followed that victory with a five-point loss to modest Spurs, a game in which Stephen Curry shot 7 of 28 from the field. Fortunately, the Orlando Magic were next on the schedule and the Warriors were able to bounce back on Monday night, thanks in large part to Andrew Wiggins.

Wiggins finished the game with 28 points, including a career-high 8 to 3 points. It was one of his best games in the Warriors’ uniform and another solid data point in what has been, quietly, the best season of his career.

What has changed for Andrew Wiggins this season?

A few years ago I made this graphic to illustrate what I thought was Andrew Wiggins’ biggest concern.

He scored a lot for a young wing. But the degree to which he contributed nothing other than the score made him a huge outlier. He wasn’t a particularly effective scorer and since volume scoring was the only real contribution he made, his impact was capped well below the level of stars his raw scoring totals might indicate.

Wiggins is hands down in the midst of his best season as a pro, but it wasn’t really about diversifying his game. This season he’s averaging 7.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.3 steals. and 0.9 block per 100 possessions – a total of 11.8, roughly the same where it landed on the graph above. He’s a slightly positive defenseman by the RAPTOR all-in-one metric of 538, for only the third time in his career. But the biggest change has been that his volume score suddenly comes in very efficiently.

So far this season, Wiggins has career-highest shooting percentages on 2 and 3 points – 48.8% inside the arc and 41.6% beyond. That is in addition to his free throws for a live shooting percentage of 59.1, considerably higher than his previous career high of 56.8 (last season) or 54.3% (the best score he has ever seen). ever recorded with the Timberwolves). And while his points-per-game tally is depressed playing just under minutes than he did in Minnesota, his 22.2 points per 36 minutes is the third highest score of his career.

Wiggins has now played 107 games for the Warriors, spread over three partial and interrupted seasons. This offensive evolution really started on his arrival, but it has built up to its peak during this current streak. In six seasons with the Timberwolves, Wiggins has been assisted on just 45.6% of his 2 points and 80.2% of his 3. So far this season those numbers are 60.5 and 92 respectively, 3%.

Playing alongside healthy Steph Curry and Draymond Green helped Wiggins move from being a relatively ineffective high-volume primary and secondary creator to an effective complementary scorer and tertiary creator.

There are three types of play followed by NBA.com that generally correspond to self-created opportunities – isolation, post-up, and pick-and-roll ball-handler. In his final season in Minnesota, those three types of play made up 49.5 percent of Wiggins’ offensive possessions. This season he has fallen to 27.5% with a large and corresponding increase in the share of his offense coming in transition, off cuts and in place.

Wiggins isn’t quite Klay Thompson, but playing a more similar role has helped him eliminate some of his weaknesses and allowed him to build on his strengths. Thompson scored 60 points in a game in which he had the ball in his hands for just 90 seconds. Wiggins scored 28 goals on Monday night, his second best result of the season, and only had the ball in his hands for 126 seconds. Again, he’s not Klay Thompson but playing more like him has helped.

Wiggins is a good shooter who looks best when almost all of his shots are open, grab and shot attempts as opposed to contested and out of dribbling attempts. He’s an athletic finisher who is much more effective when another player’s gravity has created room for him on the edge, instead of having to finish over or through multiple defenders. None of this is rocket science, but the Warriors deserve credit for seeing what Wiggins could be in their system and Wiggins deserves a lot of credit for accepting and accepting an offensive role that trades primacy for efficiency.

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