Will Andrew Wiggins Ever Be a Top Fantasy Basketball Asset?
While he remains a primary scoring option for the young Timberwolves, the highly-touted first-overall pick in the 2014 draft has disappointed fantasy owners this season, barely clinging to top-180 value in 9-category leagues, per Yahoo!
Despite the paltry returns, the young forward remains nearly universally owned across fantasy leagues, likely thanks to his steady 20-plus-point-per-game scoring output -- and thanks, perhaps, to his name value and seeming star pedigree.
But is Wiggins' prolific scoring enough to buoy his fantasy value going forward?
Counting Stat Problems
One culprit in Wiggins' deflated overall fantasy production is his meager contributions in all counting stats outside of the scoring column.
The table below collects Wiggins' 2016-17 per-game totals in rebounds, assists, and combined three-pointers, steals, and blocks, considering them alongside the current season per-game marks for three small-forward-eligible players who are on the fringes of standard league ownership: Courtney Lee, Will Barton, and Kent Bazemore.
It's important to note that Wiggins is producing at this subdued level in considerably more minutes per game than any of these three players. Bazemore, for instance, matches Wiggins' output in 10 fewer minutes per contest.
Wiggins' poor production here is no aberration -- his NBA career-highs in these categories are all within decimal points of his current season totals; in fact, his current 1.2 three-pointers per game is a career high.
Another torpedo to Wiggins' fantasy output is his shooting inefficiency. We can see in the table below how Wiggins' shooting has regressed considerably this season, a step backward from the notable gains that he had made between his rookie and sophomore campaigns.
Especially damning for fantasy owners is this season's two added attempts from the field per game. Wiggins' low make rate on 18 attempts a contest is quite a drain for fantasy owners who aren't punting field goal percentage. His ineffectiveness at the line (72.6% on a non-insignificant number of per-game attempts) certainly doesn't help matters.
Shot Distance Oddities
So, what's behind the Minnesota forward's shooting woes?
It makes sense to point to Wiggins' average distance per shot, which has ballooned from an average 10.8 feet in his first two seasons to over 13 feet in 2016-17.
But this only tells part of the story. Take a look at the table below, which breaks down Wiggins' make percentages by distance.
|Season||Under 3 ft.||3-10 ft.||10-16 ft.||Over 16 ft.||3P|
Wiggins' success from distance may very well represent career highs, with his three-point make rate well above career norms, but this is a very low bar to clear.
Compounding Wiggins' high-volume, low-success distance shooting this season is a poor success rate from between three and 10 feet. One has to think that his sub-40% mark on short-distance twos will improve, but then again, last season's 45% looks like more of an outlier than his 34.7% rookie year, especially when you consider that his make rate at the rim has virtually flat-lined.
Outlook: Not Great
Perhaps the most unsettling piece of data to cull from Wiggins' season-to-date shooting numbers is the radical decline in his makes off of assists.
Only 37% of Wiggins' two-point field goals have come from assists this season, down from about 50% over his first two seasons. The numbers on assisted three-point makes are just as depressed -- only 64% of Wiggins' three-point makes have been assisted this year, down about 20% from his previous career marks.
It's possible that Wiggins, like the other Timberwolves, is struggling to adjust to a new system under Tom Thibodeau. But the total statistical picture here is not a promising one: an increasingly iso-reliant shooter making marginal gains from deep that are offset by continued struggles on makable twos, along with a reverse in progress from the free-throw line.
If this profile persists, along with Wiggins' insubstantial contributions in assists, threes, steals, and blocks, it's not out of line to see the top-80 fantasy value as a firm ceiling for Wiggins -- and that's assuming his two-point make rate normalizes a bit, that his passable three-point shooting can continue, and that he can push closer to the mid-20s in points per game.
Still, those points numbers are often what catches the eye of the un-savvy fantasy owner, so if you own Wiggins in a long-term format and can turn his name value and single-category production into a stable top-50 asset, it might be wise to cash out.