You get the feeling that a few months ago Andrew Wiggins wouldn’t have attacked. Maybe he would have passed, deferred. Or settled for a midrange jump shot.
But Wiggins, the Timberwolves’ presumptive rookie of the year, continues to grow.
Further proof of that could be seen all over the highlight reels after the Wolves’ loss to Utah Monday night. Three times over the course of the night Wiggins went right at Rudy Gobert, Utah’s burgeoning shot-blocking specialist.
Twice Wiggins won the battle. One time, in the second quarter, he got so high and dunked the ball so hard that it bounced off Gobert’s head on the way down.
“I do want more out of him,” coach Flip Saunders said after the game. “That’s what a coach is supposed to want. But he continues to expand his game. When you think about that first month of the season, and now look at how he’s attacking the rim, getting to the line? Before he’d have layups at the rim. Now he’s dunking over people.”
Wiggins’ aggressive play can be seen in the stats. For the season, Wiggins is averaging 16.2 points, 5.2 free throw attempts, 3.9 free throws made and 4.4 rebounds per game.
But, in seven games over the past two weeks all those numbers have risen. Starting March 19 against New York, Wiggins is averaging 21.4 points, 9.6 free throw attempts, 7.7 free throws made and 5.1 rebounds per game.
“He’s playing in a situation where, because we’ve been so undermanned that he’s the guy,” Saunders said. “Like [Monday], when he got the ball, they had three people over there guarding him. But this will help him when we can surround him with more veteran guys.”
That won’t happen until next season. But Wiggins will have gone through a rookie season in which he played in every game (so far), has played big minutes (the most in the NBA since Dec. 1) and has learned to go from deferential to confrontational, at least when it comes to going to the rim.
“You just watch other players, how they have great games,” Wiggins said when asked how he took the next step. “It’s just getting to the line, getting to the rim. That’s what I’ve been trying to do.”
Along with it has come more emotion. Wiggins roared after that second-quarter dunk Monday. Of course, Gobert responded with a flex after blocking Wiggins’ dunk attempt moments later.
“That’s part of the game,” Wiggins said.