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Andrew Wiggins owes Jimmy Butler a debt of gratitude for leaving the Minnesota Timberwolves in such a loud, explosive fashion. The story of the Wolves quickly became about Butler’s exit ruining their season, and then it became about Tom Thibodeau getting fired for a little bit, with undertones of Butler throughout.
What hasn’t been the story, at least not one told by all that many people, is that Wiggins has been positively uninspiring all season long. After reaching career-high marks of 22.8 points per 36 minutes and 35.6 percent from 3-point territory during the 2016-17 NBA season, Wiggins has regressed in both of those metrics. He’s currently scoring just 18.3 points per 36, shooting 33.6 percent from 3-point range and just 39.6 percent from the field this season.
The Timberwolves are slightly better with him on the floor, but the emphasis there is on slightly. The Wolves with Wiggins are plus 0.7 points per 100 possessions, and Minnesota is minus 0.7 points per 100 possessions without him. Not horrible, certainly not tremendous, just uninspiring.
If Wiggins were just some wing player, his season would be worth shrugging off and not much more. To this organization, Andrew Wiggins is not just some wing player. He’s the centerpiece of the return from the Kevin Love trade, and currently the highest-paid Timberwolf and will be for years, even after Karl-Anthony Towns’ extension initially kicks in.
That guy can’t be uninspiring. Not if Minnesota is going to be more than a team fighting for a shot at the eighth seed, as the Wolves currently are following a nice little run that has seen Minnesota win four of its last five games. In the three games Wiggins has played over those five, the Wolves were outscored by a total of 36 points in his minutes.
Wiggins having such inherent importance in Minnesota yet doing so little is an untenable situation. Rookie Wolves coach Ryan Saunders has a lot on his plate after taking over for Thibs midway through the season, but his greatest challenge will be coaxing more out of Wiggins. His tenure with Minnesota will be dependent on how successful he is at that task.
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