The Timberwolves suffered through a miserable 16-win season last year with a teenage shooting guard running point for them.
The teen, Zach LaVine, picked up valuable ball-handling and distributing experience that should serve him well. Andrew Wiggins, who won Rookie of the Year, spent significant time at shooting guard without having to battle more physically developed forwards. And – best of all – Minnesota lost enough to land the No. 1 pick in the draft, Karl-Anthony Towns.
This team looks primed for a bright future with LaVine at shooting guard, Wiggins at small forward and Towns at center. The Timberwolves must still determine whether they want to ride with Ricky Rubio at point guard and find a power forward, but they’re well on their way.
There is a hitch in the plan, though
One of the keys to Minnesota’s future success is for Wiggins, 20, to be strong enough to be a full-time small forward and open up the shooting-guard position for LaVine, also 20. Team insiders, though, lament how many weightlifting sessions Wiggins skips, and the supposedly slim-fit, sleeved jerseys the Wolves love to wear show the ample room to grow in his arms.
I think this assessment underrates Wiggins strength. He certainly has more room to fill out, but it’s not as if he’s some weakling out there.
Wiggins even uses his strength to his advantage in clear ways. He ranks in the 96th percentile when defending a post-up that ends a play. His 7.2 free-attempts per game rank eighth in the NBA.
That’s not because he’s a crafty veteran with a bag of tricks. It’s because he’s reasonably strong.
That said, the Timberwolves aren’t necessarily wrong for being dismayed with Wiggins. If he’s skipping weightlifting sessions – especially in Minnesota emphasized them to increase his viability with LaVine – that’s problematic. LaVine, who’s coming off the bench, should be especially perturbed.
These are the types of issues that come up with young teams trying to make the next step. Some figure it out. Some just move past the noise.
I don’t know how the Timberwolves will handle this, but – with Wiggins, LaVine and Towns – they have potential to be special if they figure it out.