I have identified three players in the western conference, one from each division that this year intrigues me for different reasons. Some are high draft picks who haven’t clicked yet and the clock is ticking. Others may be poised to break out if they round out a few parts of their game.
The thing these players have in common is they are all facing massive seasons. Pressure is on them to develop, and have a great year. Their teams are counting on them, and in some cases, it may be their last chance for that team. None of these players are stars yet, but some have the talent to be.
Without further ado here are the three most intriguing players in the Western Conference for the 2018-2019 NBA season:
Andrew Wiggins, F/G, Minnesota Timberwolves
Like him or not, how could you not be fascinated by how Wiggins is going to play this year? Wiggins was the former number two overall pick, and the last offseason signed a massive contract, only to have maybe his worst year yet. There is no question the physical tools are there, but Wiggins has yet to put it all together.
His defense has never been good, his three-point shot comes and goes, and he has yet to learn to make plays for others. Last year the fit with Jimmy Butler was rough, as Wiggins needs the ball in his hands to be successful.
Now year two into the Butler experiment, how can Wiggins become useful. I am not sure he will ever live up to being the number two overall pick, but I think he can still be good. Two years ago Wiggins averaged 23.6 points. Last season Wiggins averaged 17.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, two assists on 43% shooting from the field, 33% shooting from three and an awful 64% from the line.
He was at 76% form the line the previous three years, a sign he lost a lot of confidence last year. Wiggins also got there at a career-low rate; once he started missing, he stopped going to the cup as much. Add it up, and Wiggins had a career-low true shooting percentage. So how can he bounce back this year?
Wiggins main skill is getting to the rim. He is an elite athlete, who can unleash some breathtaking facial dunks. Last season he shot 67% at the rim a very good mark. Wiggins is strong too and drew fouls at a high rate. He needs to drive more; again I think a lot of that was confidence.
One thing the Wolves should explore more is posting up. He posted up only 9% of the time yet ranked in the 71st percentile. It may be the best part of his offensive game and should be used more.
Wiggins gets the ball in the mid-post. He takes two hard dribbles, then half spins and turns around and hits the jumper. This is a tough shot, and one Wiggins can hit, he has a variety of moves down on the block.
However, the truth is Butler, and Karl Anthony Towns are the primary options, and Wiggins must get better playing off the ball. Mainly his three-pointer, if he can get to that to 35-36%, that would be huge for Wiggins and the Wolves. I am not sure if he will ever be a good passer, but he needs to improve some and at least be able to make the simple pass. Right now he is a lousy passer, becoming average would do wonders. I would also explore using Wiggins as a cutter more, he rated very well last year as a cutter even though he didn’t do it often.
Defensively, Wiggins was a little better last year, but still not good. He is much better as an interior defender than as a perimeter defender. Inside, he is a good shot blocker and a low foul player. The Wolves should use him at the four a little more. On the perimeter, he gets caught napping a lot, basically gets beaten back door, gives up open threes, has trouble chasing players off screens. I don’t know if the light bulb will ever click for him on this, and the Wolves may need to start protecting him more on this end instead of hoping he gets better.
It is getting close for Wiggins. I am sure the Wolves have already explored trading him. Soon he may just be a bad contract if he doesn’t improve. This is a massive season for him. The Wolves were pretty good last year with him struggling; if he grows on both ends, the Wolves could be a real threat.
Next Up: Player 2