Jimmy Butler is gone. Tom Thibodeau is gone. Karl-Anthony Towns is thriving. That leaves Wolves fans (and media members) to fixate on one big issue: Andrew Wiggins.
The fifth-year Wolves player has regressed this season as his five-year max contract has kicked in. So today’s question is this: Both short-term and long-term, what can the Wolves do about Wiggins?
First take: Michael Rand
Short of owner Glen Taylor investing in the unlikely invention of a time machine so the Wolves can undo the max extension they gave Wiggins in 2017, their options aren’t great.
Short-term, they can ride it out for the last 16 games of the season and hope Wiggins gains more traction and consistency under interim coach Ryan Saunders. Or Saunders could take bolder steps and cut into Wiggins’ playing time — perhaps even sending him to a reserve role.
I like the second option, but I’m not sure the end of this season is the time to do it if you’re hoping to get more from Wiggins — or build up his value for a possible trade.
If the Wolves have seen enough and make a sincere effort to move him this summer, they’ll be selling at a low point in his value and might have to take back an underperforming high-priced player in return.
But the numbers are gruesome. Here’s one: Of the 92 NBA players who entered the weekend having played at least 1,700 minutes this season, Wiggins had the worst true shooting percentage — an efficiency stat that takes into account two-pointers, three-pointers and free throws.
Columnist Jim Souhan: They have no choice. The only thing worse than giving Wiggins the big contract — which, if you’ll remember, he hesitated to sign, maybe because there was this cute YouTube video of a cat cuddling with a rat ... but I digress — would be letting him play it out.
I’ve been covering pro sports since 1989. All general managers make mistakes. The good ones extricate themselves from those mistakes.
Wiggins is not a winning player. We’ve already seen him at his best — as the go-to scorer on a bad team. They need to cut their losses, and find that one NBA GM who thinks he can salvage Wiggins.
Rand: That’s obviously easier said than done, though. This is two years in a row of regression, and Wiggins no longer has the built-in excuse of deferring to Jimmy Butler. He’s been a better rebounder since Saunders took over, but his scoring and shooting numbers are almost exactly the same as they were earlier this season.
I’m worried that he isn’t tradable, even if that’s a desirable option at this point.
Souhan: He’s tradable if you emphasize getting rid of him over getting value for him. And let’s not forget that we didn’t expect the Wolves to get value for Jimmy Butler, and they got two nice players. Robert Covington’s injury is probably the key factor in this team’s struggles of late.
If you surveyed all NBA GMs on Wiggins’ value, the median value would be very low. But you’re going to trade him for the best offer you can get, so all you need is one optimistic general manager.
They key point here is that the Wolves are a better team without Wiggins. So even if you can’t trade him for perceived value, you have to trade him.
Rand: I’m starting to think the time machine is the most plausible solution.
Final word: Souhan
Taylor spent $40 million on Thibs and $148 million on Wiggins. A time machine would be cheaper.
More Rand: startribune.com/RandBall
More North Score: startribune.com/NorthScore