As he typically is, Andrew Wiggins was succinct when asked late in the season to assess his performance in Year 5 of his career.
“I feel like it was an OK season,” Wiggins said. “Not the best, not the worst. It was OK.”
Some fans may disagree with it being OK. It was Wiggins who they booed in Target Center after he missed a pair of free throws late during a close loss to Atlanta in December. It’s Wiggins who is coming off the first year of a maximum contract he signed in October 2017, and “OK” doesn’t cut it in fans’ eyes for a player on that type of deal.
Wiggins had a slight uptick in his numbers from last season, when Jimmy Butler occupied a healthy percentage of the Wolves offense. He averaged 18.1 points per game — but he needed 16.6 field-goal attempts per game to get there. He shot 41% on field goal attempts, the lowest of his career. That’s before you dig into the more advanced numbers of where on the floor Wiggins was getting his shots.
He took 4.4 shots per game from the midrange, according to NBA.com. That was most on the Wolves and 11th overall in the NBA. If Wiggins hit those shots at a decent clip it might not be such a problem, but Wiggins shot just 34.7% from there, lower than anybody who shot more than three attempts per game from the midrange except for the Heat’s Dwyane Wade and Chicago’s Walter Lemon Jr.
With the firing of Tom Thibodeau and the promotion of interim coach Ryan Saunders came the possibility that Wiggins might turn things around, that having someone in charge with whom Wiggins had a good relationship might unleash Wiggins’ tantalizing athleticism for basketball good.
There wasn’t a dramatic turnaround.
Wiggins played 36 games under Thibodeau, averaging 17.3 points on 40% shooting, 34% from three-point range and 3.9 rebounds per game. Under Saunders, Wiggins played 37 games and averaged 18.9 points on 42% shooting (34% from three-point range) while his rebounds went up to 5.7 per game.
Wiggins’ final 10 games were unlike the rest of his season, and if there’s optimism about his future in Minnesota, you could point to those numbers, even if they were in meaningless games: 21.5 points per game, 48% shooting (40 from three-point range) and 4.7 rebounds.
“I got in a good rhythm and stayed in a good rhythm,” Wiggins said. “I feel like next year I’ve just got to start the year off aggressive and don’t look back.”
The Wolves are in the process of searching for a new president of basketball operations, someone who will have a major influence over the roster and Wiggins’ future. His contract would be hard to move now with four years remaining and Wiggins set to make $27.5 million next season, but in the coming years it’s tough to tell what the market might look like and where Wiggins’ value will be.
Along those lines, league sources told the Star Tribune that Calvin Booth, Nuggets assistant general manager, could be a candidate for the opening. Before joining the Nuggets, Booth spent four seasons (2013-17) in the Wolves front office and was director of pro personnel. Booth was in Minnesota for Wiggins’ first three seasons.
Wiggins said the search doesn’t affect his outlook for next season.
“I’m a basketball player. No matter what they do, my job is just to go out there, and that’s what I’m going to do,” Wiggins said. “I can’t control what happens.”
On the court, he can. Perhaps Wiggins can continue his upward trajectory from late in the season, or perhaps he will revert to how he played the rest of the season. His track record makes the latter more likely, but Wiggins was feeling good vibes late in the season.
“The season didn’t end how we wanted it to end,” Wiggins said. “But next year I think will be a great year for us.”