People have been talking all season about how good Andrew Wiggins has been in his rookie year. The kid as essentially run away with the NBA Rookie of the Year award. Wiggins has been the bright spot in a dismal season for the Minnesota Timberwolves. The real question is, is Wiggins really a dominant force, or is he just the favorite by default.
This has been a very weak rookie class so far. Only five players are averaging more than ten points per contest this season. Wiggins is the only one average more than 12 with his 16.7 points per game. (Jabari Parker was over 12 a night prior to being injured this season). Wiggins also ranks fifth among qualified rookies in rebounds per game this season. He also sits fifth in terms of steals per contest and sixth in rejections. Wiggins is shaping himself into a very capable all-around player.
One major knock against Wiggins despite all of his talent is his underwhelming assist-to-turnover ratio. He may only be a small forward, but with the amount of time Wiggins spends on the ball, (22.1% usage rating) it would be nice to see Wiggins as a distributor. He is one of only a few players that owns a ratio under 1 sitting at 0.91 assists for every turnover. In fact, he is the only small forward to play 30 minutes or more per game yet still post a ratio under one.
The kid out of Kansas is still young though and has a long time to develop that side of his game. It really should not be much of a concern. The overall athleticism he exudes though is tantalizing for anyone with interest in the Wolves. It might seem harsh to judge the kid on what he has done through just one season but I am curious to see how he stacks up with some of the other top picks in the past several years.
Already, Wiggins is in elite company. Of the top picks since 2008, five out of six have been named All-stars. Those players include Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin, John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis. The only one yet to live up his billing as the top pick is Wiggins’ teammate, Anthony Bennett. It is not really fair to compare Wiggins to the last small forward drafted first overall either, seeing as that was LeBron James. However, there are a couple of other star small forwards we can compare this budding superstar.
Carmelo Anthony was taken in the same draft as James. His numbers put up against Wiggins’ are superior although not by much. Anthony averaged 21 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 0.5 blocks per outing as a rookie playing for the Denver Nuggets. However, he also posted an assist-to-turnover ratio that was under one. Wiggins actually trumps Melo in shooting percentage though with 43.6 compared to 42.3.
Wiggins also stacks up pretty comparably with Kevin Durant’s rookie season. Obviously, the huge discrepancy in height makes this comparison a little tough but Durant averaged 20 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1 steal and 1 block per game. Durant has the edge in the scoring department but once again, Wiggins is shooting at a higher percentage, especially from behind the arc. Durant posted a 28.8 percent success rate from three his rookie year; meanwhile, Wiggins has drained 32.5 percent of his takes. Once again, Durant had an assist-to-turnover ratio below one.
The best comparison for Wiggins though might be to a former Boston legend. Not many others have played better than Paul Pierce over the course of his career. Pierce is also the same style player as Wiggins, switching between a two-guard and a winger. Pierce had a very similar stat line to Wiggins when he first began playing for the Celtics back in 1999. Pierce tallied 16.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.75 steals and 1 block a night, however only in 48 games. Those are not too far off from Wiggins is doing now and Pierce posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of almost exactly one. If this means that Wiggins is destined to average 21, 6 and 4, I think fans in Minnesota will be more than content with that.
While it looks like he is running away with this years’ award, keep in mind that Wiggins still has a lot of growing to do before he can be considered an elite player. However, with him only at 19 and oozing with potential I don’t think the growth will be that hard to come by. Wiggins has the potential to be a perennial All-star in this league and maybe even make Minnesota competitive in a couple of years. With Wiggins at the center of a young core, it seems like the Wolves are off to a good start. His presence certainly makes it easier to forget the absence of certain Love Minnesota used to have.