SLAM Top 50: Andrew Wiggins, No. 36

There’s a specific play by Andrew Wiggins that I always think of when his name comes up. During his sophomore season, the Timberwolves were playing the Lakers on a random weeknight in February. It was the fourth quarter, the T-Wolves trailed 109-104, and Wiggins got the ball on the left block.

With Kobe Bryant playing defense, Wiggins took two dribbles, gave a little shoulder fake and buried a turnaround jumper to cut the deficit to three as Bryant tried to contest the shot. The two exchanged words on the opposite end of the court, and Bryant, who made a myriad of those mid-range jumpers throughout his career, told Wiggins how much that move—from the dribbles to the shot to the back-peddling—looked familiar.

Wiggins finished the night with 30, but the Wolves would end up losing. Despite the outcome, Wolves fans could appreciate the fact the 2014 No. 1 Draft pick, who landed in Minnesota after a trade that sent Kevin Love to Cleveland, was going at Bryant. Now, when Wiggins is on the floor, shots like the one he hit over Bryant have become the norm.

In 2015, Wiggins first made his #SLAMTop50 debut at No. 38 and moved up to No. 31 last year, but comes in at 36 on this year’s list. As he prepares to enter his fourth season, two things (OK, one for sure right now) will look different: his teammates and his contract.

This offseason, the Wolves acquired Jeff Teague, Jamal Crawford, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson—four veterans with experience in the Playoffs, a place Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns have yet to visit. The last time the Wolves played in the postseason, Wiggins and Towns were in elementary school. With the new additions, the Wolves could potentially be in a position to break the 14-year drought.

In regards to his contract, reports came out in July that the Wolves were working on something along the lines of a five-year, $148 million extension. Glen Taylor, the team’s owner, told the Associated Press that the 22-year-old star “can’t be paid for what he’s doing today,” and that he needs 100 percent commitment—especially with his defense and rebounding—before going forward with the process to give Wiggins the max.

At 6-8 with a seven-foot wingspan, Wiggins has all the intangibles to be in the discussion for top two-way players under 25, but his play on the defensive side still raises some concerns. The positive to this is that during training camp, which is right around the corner, he can soak up knowledge from someone like Butler who knows a thing or two about defense.

In terms of rebounding, there’s no question Wiggins can easily grab eight to 10 boards a game, but he averaged a mere four rebounds per game last season. Will Wiggins make it a priority to up his rebounding numbers this season? Not sure. Many can argue that guys like Gibson, Towns, Gorgui Dieng and Cole Aldrich, the team’s key assets in the paint, already fulfill all of the rebounding duties.

When it comes to points, Wiggins has excelled in that field since he entered the League after spending one year at Kansas. Last season, he averaged a career-high 24 ppg, shooting 45 percent from the field and 35 percent from deep while playing 37 mpg. Wiggins ranked in the top 10 last season in two-point field goals made. Also, 23 percent of his points came from the mid-range area, as he shoots 44 percent from the left side of the court—his bread and butter.

In shots 10 to 16 feet from the basket, Wiggins shot 36.5 percent, and 38 percent on shots further than that, according to Basketball Reference. With Teague and Butler on the team, more opportunities for Wiggins to get more looks from the 3-point line will likely open up when Teague collapses the defense on dribble-drives and Butler hits the extra pass on the perimeter. In regards to corner threes, Wiggins shot 45 percent from the right side and 30 percent from the left side, respectively.

Although the Timberwolves won’t be under the same media microscope as the Cavaliers, Celtics, Rockets and Thunder, they’ll have tabs kept on them to see if the organization benefitted from its offseason acquisitions, or if Wiggins was deserving of getting all those M’s (assuming he gets the max).

Previous Rankings:
2016: No. 31
2015: No. 38
2014: Not Ranked

Rankings are based on expected contribution in 2017-18—to players’ team, the NBA and the game.

No. 50 – Dion Waiters
No. 49 – Ben Simmons 
No. 48 – Brook Lopez
No. 47 — Harrison Barnes
No. 46 — Jrue Holiday
No. 45 — Lonzo Ball
No. 44 — Myles Turner
No. 43 — Goran Dragic
No. 42 — Andre Drummond
No. 41 — Al Horford
No. 40 — LaMarcus Aldridge
No. 39 — Kevin Love
No. 38 — Paul Millsap
No. 37 — Hassan Whiteside