NBA

Tale of Two Guards: Shot Charts Reveal Progress, Regress Made by Andrew Wiggins and Nik Stauskas

Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

John Bauman is the editor of Keeping It Heel, a blog on the FanSided network that covers the North Carolina Tar Heels. You can find him on Twitter on both @KeepingItHeel and @bauman_john.

Two top 10 draft picks, two very different seasons.

Andrew Wiggins, the first pick of the 2014 NBA Draft, was expected to do big things for the Minnesota Timberwolves right off the bat. While Nik Stauskas didn’t receive half the hype that Wiggins did, he was also expected to make a similar impact for his new team, the Sacramento Kings.

As it turned out, Wiggins thrived and Stauskas struggled.

There’s a lot to be said for how their seasons trended in different directions. However, their shot charts go a long way in showing their progression or, in Stauskas’ case, regression. By comparing their shot charts in their last season in college to their shot charts this year, it’s clear how their offensive games have transitioned to the NBA in year one and where they’re headed in the future.

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In Andrew Wiggins’ lone year at Kansas, he averaged 17.1 points per game and shot 44.8 percent from the field. A year later in the NBA, his numbers were nearly identical, standing at 16.8 points on 43.7 percent shooting. However, as similar as those numbers are on the surface, there are a few key changes and differences that stand out when comparing his shot charts.

First, take a look at Wiggins’ shot chart from his year at Kansas.

The biggest thing that sticks out is the 62 percent shooting at the rim, a promising sign for an athletic prospect like Wiggins. For comparison’s sake, that’s the same field goal percentage at the rim as Ron Baker (Wichita State) and Jerami Grant (Notre Dame) posted this season, per Shot Analytics.

However, as good as Wiggins was around the basket as a Jayhawk, he was a below average shooter outside the paint, represented by the many blue spots on his shot chart. While there is enough yellow behind the arc, especially on the right side, to give Timberwolves fans some hope that Wiggins could one day develop into a solid 3-point shooter, it’s the biggest question mark in his game

Now, look at this year’s shot chart from Wiggins’ time as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

The most obvious difference is the much larger sample size, the product of an 82 game season versus a shorter college year. But focus on the color of the shots and where the majority of Wiggins’ attempts come from compared to college.

The first big thing that stands out is Wiggins’ lost efficiency in the mid range game. At Kansas, Wiggins showed hints of a potentially fruitful in-between game. This year, he showed off a developed, sophisticated midrange and post up game; he just didn’t see a lot of those shots fall.

But more on his post up game. Despite being just 20 years old, Wiggins displayed the size and strength to post up bigger, older defenders. He didn’t shy away from taking the shots, either. While he shot at a below average rate this season, the presence of the developed post up game is encouraging. As Wiggins grows and gains experience in the league, expect Wiggins to start hitting more of those midrange and postup shots, turning the shades of blue on the shot chart into reds.

Another encouraging development is Wiggins’ 3-point percentages from the five areas beyond the arc — despite having to adjust to a further distance, they have not dropped too much. His percentages from the corners both perked up this year, which is important for Wiggins as he plays a role in an NBA offense.

Wiggins hasn’t dropped in efficiency at the rim, either, despite far more attempts this year against much better rim protectors. Wiggins shot 58 percent at the rim as a rookie, comparable to the likes of Zach Randolph and Klay Thompson, per Shot Analytics. He has still got a ways to go before he is an elite finisher, but he proved able to go right up against the big boys of the NBA and finish with some sizzle.

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Nik Stauskas didn’t achieve the same kind of success as Andrew Wiggins. While Wiggins solidified himself as the frontrunner for the Rookie of the Year, Stauskas fought tooth and nail for playing time on a 29-53 Kings team. He saw just 15 minutes of court time a game, parlaying that into a quiet 4.3 points — a far cry from the 17.5 points per game he averaged in his final season at Michigan

The biggest reason Stauskas didn’t receive consistent minutes is because he failed to produce at the similar level offensively as he did a year ago at Michigan. His struggles from the 3-point line were particularly alarming when comparing the two shot charts from his final year in college and from his first year in the NBA.

First, Stauskas in the 2013-14 season at Michigan.

Now that’s a shot chart. Stauskas’ college shot chart from last season brings to mind images of Kyle Korver-esque levels of red from behind the arc.

Last season for the Wolverines, Stauskas was an elite marksman, hitting 44.2 percent of his 3s, culminating in a sea of red on his shot chart. While Stauskas struggled from the top of the key, he was excellent from all other areas, especially from the wings. In fact, Stauskas ranked fifth among 59 players in the Shot Analytics’ database in shooting percentage from the left corner 3.

Stauskas also very much knew his limits. He didn’t try to jack up shots from the midrange areas; instead sticking to his strength of 3-point shooting and attacking the basket as he saw fit. Stauskas shot 57 percent at the rim last season, which wasn’t bad by any means.

The Kings were hoping Stauskas would bring much of the same — deadly 3-point shooting and improved finishing at the rim to provide much needed spacing — when they drafted him with the 8th overall pick in last year’s draft. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t get the same player in the NBA as they saw in college.

In the NBA, Stauskas regressed significantly across the board from behind the arc. His shooting percentage from the corners, a vital shot in today’s NBA, is especially bad for someone who was drafted to be primarily a 3-point shooter. Stauskas shot under 31 percent on corner 3s this season, the same mark as Andre Roberson of the Oklahoma City Thunder. (If you’ve ever seen Andre Roberson play, you know that’s not exactly an ideal comparison for a shooter.)

Stauskas also shot much worse at the rim — 46 percent this year, compared to 57 percent, albeit with far less attempts a year ago. Much of that has to do with Stauskas struggling to adjust both to the speed and length of the NBA game. For example, on this possession in the third quarter of a blowout loss to the Miami Heat, Stauskas drove baseline but made a layup much harder than it had to be by going reverse. Running into Hassan Whiteside, an excellent rim protector, certainly made him think twice. Stauskas is going to have to learn how to finish when he goes up against the tall trees.

Comparing the two shot charts gives a good visual representation of how Stauskas regressed from his last season at Michigan until now. Kings fans are hoping that in year two, Stauskas’ shooting percentages, especially from the corners, perk up and that he can find his footing in the league.

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Two top ten draft picks, two very different seasons.

Both Andrew Wiggins and Nik Stauskas had similar success stories in their final year of college ball, and both rode that momentum into being top 10 draft picks. But one, Wiggins, adjusted well to life in the NBA, while the other, Stauskas, left a lot to be desired.

Those changes are highlighted by their shot charts, proving how one player is the favorite to take home the Rookie of the Year award, while the another is left only to win the Nickname of the Year. Both their teams are hoping this is just the tip of the iceberg, however, when it comes to their potential in the big leagues.

All shot charts from Shot Analytics.