ORLANDO – Andrew Wiggins never quantified it when the Timberwolves forward went back into the gym last summer and worked to improve his shooting range.
But he can do so now — he’s leading the league in three-point shooting percentage this season — and the Wolves finally appear ready to join the modern NBA, too, by leading all 30 teams in the same category.
Granted, it’s only seven games into the season, but Wiggins is making 63.6 percent from three-point range on 14-for-22 shooting.
The Wolves, tied for 25th last season in three-point percentage (33.8 percent), are best in the NBA at 41.4 percent after going 13-for-23 in Wednesday night’s 123-107 victory over the Orlando Magic.
“I’ve been working on it all summer, so I feel like I’m comfortable with my preparation,” Wiggins said.
He made six of seven three-point attempts and scored a career-high 36 points in Tuesday’s loss at Brooklyn and came back Wednesday and went 2-for-4 on threes while scoring 29 points to Zach LaVine’s career-high-tying 37.
Wiggins is 11th in the NBA in scoring at 24.0 points per game, partly because of his improved three-point range, partly because of his continued ability to get draw fouls and get to the free-throw line.
“When you see the first shot go in, it gives you confidence for the rest of the game,” Wiggins said, referring particularly to Tuesday’s 119-110 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
He said he worked all summer with his personal skills coach on the three-pointer, even if he can’t tell you how many he shot daily.
“It’s not particularly a number, I just shot a lot,” he said. “I practiced a lot of different situations, different footwork. I feel like I’m not rushing anything. I only take what comes to me.”
His six threes made at Brooklyn were a career high as well as the 36 points he scored Tuesday.
“I didn’t know how many,” Wiggins said. “I knew it was more than three or four, but I didn’t know exactly how much.”
Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said Wiggins will get three-point shots he can make — particularly corner threes — if his team does the right thing. So, too, will Wiggins’ teammates, a point demonstrated by the team’s vastly improved shooting percentage so far.
“If the ball moves and you have rhythm and you’re making the defense collapse, I want them to shoot threes,” Thibodeau said. “The game dictates what shots you’re going to get. But as long as we’re moving the ball side-to-side, we’re getting pressure on the rim, we’re sharing the ball, good things will happen: You get free throws, you get layups, you get the open three.
“But the ball can’t stick. When the ball sticks, we have a problem.”
When Wiggins gets that open three, he said he’ll shoot it. If he’s not open, he won’t.
“I’m not going to rush it and take a bad shot,” he said. “I’d rather take a contested midrange [shot] than a contested three. Midrange I feel is more what I do.”
So far his free-throw shooting (70.4 percent) oddly isn’t all that much better than his three-point accuracy. He missed four of eight free throws at Brooklyn, including two crucial ones with the game in doubt.
“I missed two early, I missed late, it’s random,” Wiggins said. “Free throws are all mental. I just need to take more time at the free-throw line and concentrate more. I know it’s not who I am. How was I better my rookie season than my second season or my third season? You’re supposed to get better. It’s all mental, and I’m going to fix it.”