Andrew Wiggins is a "lightning rod" player, because his physical gifts are so amazing that it makes people believe there's no ceiling on his upside -- almost literally, in the case of his famous NBA combine picture:
Andrew Wiggins' reported vertical: 44 in. (via @P3sportscience)
Aaron Gordon at NBA combine: 39 in.
Dudes can jump. pic.twitter.com/QZnJutAz9q
- SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 16, 2014
This physical upside, as much as anything, is what made Wiggins the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, ahead of Jabari Parker, and it's a big part of what got him a maximum $150M extension from the Minnesota Timberwolves this offseason.
However, well into his fourth year in the NBA, all as a full-time starter, there's a strong argument to be made that Wiggins has not performed at nearly the level that his upside would suggest. He has averaged 20-plus points per game twice, peaking thus far at 23.6 PPG last season, but he is neither a creator off the dribble, nor a long-range shooter.
He also hasn't been very versatile, never averaging more than 4.6 rebounds or 2.3 assists, and struggling on defense as well. He currently ranks 73rd out of 85 eligible small forwards in defensive real plus-minus (DRPM) this season. This has led many to ask the question, does Wiggins really even have superstar upside?
This question came to a head on Monday, starting with a report that teammate Jimmy Butler had said, in an interview with Jerry Zgoda, that Wiggins is "by far" the most talented player on the Timberwolves, more than Butler himself or even Karl-Anthony Towns.
That led to me asking on Twitter if it were still possible for Wiggins to reach the potential that many thought he'd have. Responses sparked conversation about whether Wiggins could have a career arc like DeMar DeRozan. Zgoda jumped in with the opinion that it was still too early to compare Wiggins to veteran players like DeRozan. After all, he's still only 22 years old. That's an excellent point.
My argument, however, was that for Wiggins to reach his maximum impact upside, I don't think that a guy like DeRozan is the best model. Wiggins is 6-foot-9, he's long and also has that ridiculous vertical -- all of the tools needed to be a monster wing defender. I think Wiggins, especially playing next to Towns and Butler, should emulate the development of Kawhi Leonard, a defensive stopper who could also be a plus offensive player.
Then, Wiggins went out Monday night and had the last word, on the court:
The Clippers couldn't stop Andrew Wiggins. pic.twitter.com/FB0VbT0GyF
- NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) January 23, 2018
Butler (knee) and Jamal Crawford (toe) were both missing their second straight game. In that pair of contests, Wiggins has averaged 34.5 points (55.1 FG%, 78.6 FT%), 5.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.0 3-pointers (36.4 3-point%), 0.5 blocks and 3.5 turnovers.
These are obviously great numbers but, outside of the scoring, they're very similar to what he's done over the course of his career. The scoring isn't sustainable with Butler and Towns in the lineup, so both in fantasy and real life, Wiggins needs to start doing other things in order to reach his potential.
Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves: 40 points (16-28 FG, 5-8 FT), 6 rebounds, 3 3-pointers, 1 assist, 1 block, 3 TO
To illustrate just how crazy the Pelicans' frontline is, Anthony Davis produced this line: 34 points (14-23 FG, 6-8 FT), 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 2 TO. He wasn't even close to being the player of the game. Cousins' night was historic, as he became the first person to notch a 40/20/10 triple-double since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Cousins and Davis are dominating the stats for the Pelicans, but Jrue Holiday (12 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 3-pointers) and E'Twaun Moore (15 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists, 2 3-pointers -- 86.0 percent availability) still did enough to make some impact on Monday night.
Murray had a career night, but the Nuggets currently have five starters who are all capable of producing. Nikola Jokic went for 16 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 3-pointers and 2 combined steals/blocks, even playing out of position at power forward. Mason Plumlee (90.5 percent availability) is starting until Paul Millsap returns, and he went for 11 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks and 1 steal. Gary Harris and Will Barton both had pedestrian nights (for them) on Monday, but either or the pair can ramp things up on any given night.
Brogdon also had a career night, leading the Bucks to a win in the first game of the post-Jason Kidd era -- even without Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee). Brogdon may not have outplayed teammate Khris Middleton (35 points, 13-19 FG, 7-8 FT, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 3-pointers, 2 steals) but earned top accolades because his production is rarer. Eric Bledsoe (19 points, 7 assists, 4 steals, 3 rebounds, 1 block) was also solid against his former team. After Antetokounmpo returns and Jabari Parker (knee) comes back next month, individual Milwaukee players could see a decrease in fantasy numbers, however the overall team could be much stronger.
Simmons still hasn't come out of his funk, nor has he made an adjustment to teams giving him the jumper and making it harder for him to dominate off the drive. He's averaging only 11.6 points, 5.4 assists and 4.2 rebounds in his last five games. Meanwhile, teammate Dario Saric (22 points, 7-11 FG, 5-5 FT, 10 rebounds, 3 3-pointers, 2 assists, 1 block) was the player of the night for the 76ers. Joel Embiid and Robert Covington were solid as well, but Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (99.6 percent availability) was the other line of the night with 20 points, 6-9 FG, 2-2 FT, 6 3-pointers, 2 assists and 1 block in his 30 minutes playing in place of JJ Redick (leg).
Injuries of note
Otto Porter Jr. left Monday's game for the Wizards with a hip strain. Porter has been battling injuries for much of the past couple of months, and should be considered day-to-day until more information is released.
Both Goran Dragic (knee) and Tyler Johnson (ankle) sat out Miami's close loss to Houston on Monday. Neither injury is considered serious, but while they continue to sit, Josh Richardson and Wayne Ellington will continue to have more offensive responsibilities than usual.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist sat out on Monday after being listed as probable by the Hornets prior to the game. There has not been news of a setback, so for now consider this a cautious decision by Charlotte. They started Treveon Graham in his place, but he did very little. Consider Kidd-Gilchrist to be day-to-day ahead of Wednesday's game against the Pelicans.
Analytics advantage for Tuesday
The Cleveland Cavaliers have one of the worst defenses in the NBA, ranking 28th in team defensive rating with 112 points allowed per 100 possessions. However, in their last seven games, they've played a special kind of terrible on that end of the court. In this putrid stretch, they've allowed a whopping 121.9 points per game on 47.6 made field goals against. Orlando has allowed the most made field goals per game (41.8) on the season.
On top of that, Cleveland is allowing opponents to shoot 50.3 percent shooting from the field while allowing 11.9 3-pointers per game on 38.6 percent 3-point shooting. Unless the Cavaliers suddenly right the ship on Tuesday, the San Antonio Spurs should be in for a great night and make great streaming/DFS targets.
Top players to watch tonight
LaMarcus Aldridge is the man for San Antonio with Kawhi Leonard out. While he is coming off of a pedestrian 10-point, 10-rebound double-double in his last outing, he was averaging 25.3 points with 11 boards during his three previous games. The Cavaliers, as noted above, have really struggled on defense lately, allowing the second-most fantasy points to opposing power forwards in their last five games.
Boston's Kyrie Irving returned from injury last game with a monster 40-point effort, but the Celtics still lost to the Magic, marking their third consecutive defeat. Anecdotally, it has seemed that Irving tends to post bigger scoring numbers during periods when the Celtics are struggling than when things are going well. Plus, the Los Angeles Lakers (Tuesday's opponent) are weak at defending point guards, allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to the position.