Andrew Wiggins vows to become more vocal and aggressive on the court this season, which would be like putting the color beige in a rainbow.
Some things just look odd.
“Everyone has their own personality, their nature of the game,” Wiggins said. “I’m just trying to expand mine a little bit.”
He doesn’t have a choice. Nor do the Timberwolves.
If Jimmy Butler isn’t part of the picture, the revised organizational blueprint has zero chance of succeeding if Wiggins doesn’t blossom into a star commensurate with his paycheck.
He is being paid as a max contract player. Now he needs to perform like one.
“I came into this training camp really comfortable, really confident,” Wiggins said.
And probably really happy that Butler remains hell-bent on a divorce after one season with the team. Wiggins never appeared comfortable with his reduced role or Butler’s hard-edged motivational tactics, and his performance regressed rather than ascending after signing a five-year, $148 million contract.
Butler’s trade demand and Wiggins’ struggles rekindled debate about whether the Wolves miscalculated in giving Wiggins a max deal. Some argue that Wiggins hadn’t done enough to earn that contract status. The fact that owner Glen Taylor (who also owns the Star Tribune) wanted to meet with Wiggins before completing the deal so that he could look him in the eye to make sure he was committed to expanding his game revealed some internal concern.
Whether you agreed or disagreed doesn’t matter now. That money is spent, so the focus should be on getting Wiggins to become the best version of himself consistently, not just in flashes.
He remains an enigma five years into his NBA career, largely because of his demeanor. We’re all guilty of being body-language police, but Wiggins often projects an air of indifference. He’s impossible to read.
“He can hit a game-winner or miss a game-winner and his facial expression and his demeanor would be the same,” said Rob Fulford, Wiggins’ high school coach. “He’s such a very low-key, laid-back guy. That’s not a good thing or a bad thing. But people like the rah-rah guys.”
That’s true. Sports observers tend to equate being vocal with passion or caring more, which can lead to wrong assumptions. But Wiggins’ lack of aggression at times calls into question his competitive fight.
“That’s not a fair assessment,” said Fulford, now a college assistant coach at Akron. “That’s a personality trait. Certain guys are great at being rah-rah guys. Other guys aren’t. He probably gets a knock more than he should.”
The Wolves don’t need Wiggins to rant and rave, or pretend to be someone he’s not. They don’t need him to reinvent his personality. They need him to play like an alpha, not necessarily act like one.
Not having Butler dominate the ball should give him more freedom and responsibility again. That means he should attack more.
Before last season, more than 30 percent of Wiggins’ career shot attempts were at the rim. That number fell to 23 percent last season. He settled for long jump shots instead of using his A-plus athleticism to drive to the basket.
For his career, Wiggins averages 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists. That’s inadequate for a player with his physical traits. He can do more. He has to.
“I’m going to be in attack mode, stay aggressive and do whatever I can to help the team win,” he said.
Consistency is the key. The Wolves need him to treat a Tuesday night in Orlando with the same intensity as a date with LeBron. If Wiggins wants to be more vocal, that’s a bonus.
“This year I have a different mind-set,” he said.
There are no more excuses holding him back. He’s not a young player anymore. And the Butler trade will happen at some point, returning Karl-Anthony Towns and Wiggins to their 1 and 1A status.
One has established himself as an organizational cornerstone. The other still needs to prove that he’s worthy of that label.
Chip Scoggins • firstname.lastname@example.org