This is not about the adjustment or change. Andrew Wiggins has gone from a small forward to a shooting guard this season, but neither he nor Wolves coach Sam Mitchell say the move has been difficult.
“When he had 24 points against Milwaukee at the two, no one asked me that,” Mitchell said, referring to Wiggins’ best preseason game.
But Mitchell says — and Wiggins agrees — that the reigning NBA rookie of the year should be doing a bit more.
Through three games Wiggins’ numbers have been solid, averaging 14.3 points. But compared with his rookie season, his scoring, rebounding and shooting are down, though he is getting to the free-throw line more. Wiggins is shooting only 30.0 percent through three games and is 0-for-6 on three-point shots. In Monday’s loss to Portland, Wiggins made only five of 17 shots while scoring 16 points.
“I’m just not making ’em right now,” Wiggins said of his shooting. “I know they’ll fall eventually.”
The Wolves worked this week to make sure that happens.
“We’ve got to get him rolling,” Mitchell said. “We need him.”
Especially the way Mitchell has crafted his rotation. Looking for strong defense and a calming influence to start games, he has put veterans Kevin Garnett and Tayshaun Prince into the starting lineup along with Wiggins, Ricky Rubio and rookie center Karl-Anthony Towns.
But neither Garnett nor Prince are the scoring threats they once were. So Mitchell needs to get points from the other three, especially Wiggins.
“We’ve got to get our starters scoring the ball a little more,” Mitchell said. “Our defense has been better. But some nights in the NBA you’ve just got to score. … We’re just not scoring. We’re doing a great job of getting to the free-throw line. But we’re not scoring our two- and three-point field goals. We’re not getting enough of that.”
Looking to improve in that area, the Wolves spent a lot of time this week working on their spacing to give more room to guards Rubio and Wiggins.
But, Rubio said, Wiggins needs to do more on his own to put himself in a better position.
“He’s good, he’s athletic,” Rubio said. “Sometimes he doesn’t need to get open to take the shot. So he gets a little lazy out there. But I think he’s starting to realize that if he works before to get the ball, he’s going to be more open. And so we have to help him in that area. But he has to help himself, too.”
Wiggins has been getting shots. His 13.3 attempts per game lead the team. And he’s getting near the rim enough that his shooting percentage should be higher. Mitchell admits that he’s asking a lot of Wiggins. He wants the athletic guard to get out and run as much as possible. But, on a team with rebounding issues, everyone has to work on the board. Sometimes it’s hard to do both.
“We’re telling them to run, and yet they have to stay in and rebound,” Mitchell said. “And so it makes it tough. You don’t get those leak-out baskets and things like that, because we’re not big. If we had one dominant rebounder, then guys could leak out more. But we don’t have that. So we’re asking a lot, but you have to do what you have to do. This is how our basketball team is built.”
But Wiggins knows the team needs more from him.
“Those guys are out here to play defense and rebound, take the open shot,” Wiggins said of Price and Garnett. “They’re playing around me, Ricky and [Towns].”
Mitchell said playing with two starters who aren’t scorers might make it harder on Wiggins.
“But it also makes it better, because you’re going to get more shots,” Mitchell said.
Now it’s just a matter of making more of them.