Andrew Wiggins Just Beginning to Realize How Good He Can Be

The career-high 29 points were impressive. You had to love the pair of three-pointers, the four steals and only one turnover.

But the most encouraging aspect of Andrew Wiggins‘ breakout performance against the Sacramento Kings on Nov. 22, a 113-101 loss, were the 22 shots he put up.

Throw in 10 free-throw attempts, and it was by far his most aggressive outing of the young season.

Hopefully the experience led to a realization for Wiggins, who was criticized throughout his college career for passive play (cue the tape from Kansas’ 2014 NCAA tournament loss to Stanford, when he finished with six shots and four points in 34 minutes).

You just get the feeling he’s not looking to step on anyone’s toes or that he’s trying to avoid derision for poor shot selection.

That wasn’t the case against the Kings. With Kevin Martin out after breaking his wrist, Wiggins entered attack mode by actively hunting for offense and seeking out scoring opportunities.

Jim Mone/Associated Press

“I don’t want to say it was a coming-out party, but I think we saw some things that we expect out of him,” coach Flip Saunders told Fox Sports’ Brian Hall. “We force-fed him a little bit. But he took initiative.”

Even in a tight game, missed shots shouldn’t prevent Wiggins from continuing to fire away. His pockets are loaded with house money.

At 3-9, the Wolves are playing for the future, which allows us to overlook present inefficiency.

Through 12 games, Wiggins is averaging 12.5 points on 42.6 percent shooting while sporting an 11.3 player efficiency rating. Those aren’t exactly Rookie of the Year numbers, but he’s still looked unguardablefor a few stretches, at just 19 years old.

Prior to the 29 he scored against the Kings, Wiggins had gone for highs of 20 points against the New Orleans Pelicans on Nov. 14 and 17 points against the Brooklyn Nets Nov. 5.

For Wiggins, these types of performances should act as self-confirmation regarding his talent and capability. And that’s big for a guy whose game is fueled by confidence.

Kathy Willens/Associated Press

It’s not as if any of his best offensive outings have been the result of miraculous shot-making. The shots Wiggins has been getting and the ones he’s making are looks he’ll find on a routine basis just by staying active and aggressive—especially now that Martin is expected to miss the next six to eight weeks.

So far this season, he’s done most of his work in the mid-range, where he’s taken 64 total shots to just 49 in the paint and 16 from behind the arc. Wiggins has actually shot pretty well—34.4 percent in the mid-range and 8-of-16 from downtown. And it’s a good thing, because he’s only finishing in the paint at a 51 percent clip.

Still, with a whopping 42.2 percent of his shot attempts being pull-ups, it’s no surprise his field-goal percentage is as low as it is.

This is an important stretch for Wiggins’ shot-selection development. No Martin, Ricky Rubio (ankle) or Nikola Pekovic (wrist) means a giant boost in touches to go with minimal team expectations—an ideal situation for a go-to scorer in training.

While he’ll still see plenty of scoring opportunities off the ball, whether it’s on the break, the offensive glass or spotting up, this extra freedom he’s expected to receive should also give him a chance to work on his one-on-one arsenal. Step-backs, pull-ups, jab steps, post-ups, drives in isolation—being able to create and hit these types of shots regularly is what makes a No. 1 option a No. 1 option, something the Wolves presumably hope Wiggins evolves into over time.

And the good news is that he’s got these shots in the repertoire. Through 12 games, 72.7 percent of his made buckets in the mid-range are unassisted, a reflection of his improved ability to create his own look.

Now it’s just a matter of being able to connect and execute with consistency. And additional minutes and reps should only help.

Over the past few weeks, you can just feel Wiggins’ confidence building. There’s less hesitation and more repetition of success in terms of what’s been working for him.

And the quicker Wiggins figures out just how dangerous he’s capable of becoming, the more dangerous he’ll actually become as a two-way mismatch on the wing.

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