To Andrew Wiggins, his recent spike in rebounding numbers comes from a desire to do more. To coach Ryan Saunders, it’s a first step.
One of the more interesting trends in the 10 games since Saunders took over for Tom Thibodeau is an upward one. Wiggins is a career 4.2 rebounds-per-game player. In the first 36 games of this season he averaged 4.1.
But in the past 10 games under Saunders, that has jumped to 7.0 boards per game, including two with point-rebound double-doubles.
It began right away, in Saunders’ first game as coach, when Wiggins scored 40 points with 10 rebounds in a two-point victory in Oklahoma City.
“He just told me to focus on it more,” Wiggins said. “He told me he needed me to rebound.
“So I’ve been in there trying to do what he asked.”
Saunders said this is the product of several discussions between the two.
“My biggest thought on rebounding the ball is that, a lot of times, it’s do you want the ball?” Saunders said. “I mean, do you want it more than the other guy? Andrew has done a good job of attacking rebounding.”
And, perhaps, it’s a start.
Consistently a player who teases with big games but often lacks consistency, Wiggins has yet to be a constant force since he entered the league. Saunders, an assistant for his dad, Flip, when Wiggins came to the Wolves as a rookie, is the latest coach to take that challenge.
After practice Tuesday, Saunders said increased aggressiveness on the boards can translate to other areas of Wiggins' game, too.
“I believe in Andrew,” Saunders said. “I always have, and I’ll continue to. There is something there, and him making this first step of really trying to be aggressive, in terms of rebounding and other things within his game? He’s on a great path.”
Will it work? Wiggins has averaged 21 points in 10 games with Saunders. In his past three, he has averaged 26.3 points while still averaging that 7.0 rebounds per game.
“The next step in my mind is just a level of consistent impact of the game,” Saunders said. “It’s impacting the game when maybe your shot isn’t falling. On the defensive end. Rebounding. Are you getting to loose balls? Things like that.”
Saunders is not the first coach to try to get that out of the talented Wiggins.
But perhaps he has a different way of going about it. Asking him to focus on rebounding, for example. Saunders does have a good relationship with Wiggins. Maybe he has a different way to approach the goals this franchise has for Wiggins.
“With Andrew I feel I’m fortunate to have known him for a while,” Saunders said. “Heck, I knew him when he was a teenager.
“You can’t say that about many players. Just being around him, you learn what can work for certain guys. No two people are the same in terms of how you might want to get something out of them.
“When it comes to players, you have to handle people differently. I have some things with Andrew we can talk about; things that I think work well and things I think might not work as well.”
Note: Wolves guard Josh Okogie was selected to play in the Rising Stars game on Friday night during All-Star Game weekend in Charlotte, N.C.