NBA

Andrew Wiggins and Minnesota Timberwolves facing revealing stretch to close out season

Jay Asser 22:25 09/03/2018
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Andrew Wiggins is carrying a greater burden with Jimmy Butler injured.

It’s getting to be gut-check time for the Minnesota Timberwolves – for this season and beyond.

Losers of three straight and with a grueling schedule on the way, Minnesota are staring at the possibility of missing the playoffs after raising expectations ahead of the season.

At the same time, the pressure continues to mount on Andrew Wiggins and his potential for growth as he takes on more responsibility with Jimmy Butler out with a knee injury.

As a whole, Wiggins has raised his play since Butler went down on February 23, averaging 21.2 points, 44.1 per cent shooting and 38.5 per cent on 3-pointers.

But he slipped back into more of a passive role in the 117-109 loss to the Boston Celtics on Thursday, when he took more than enough shots (21), but settled too often for contested pull-up jumpers.

Though he’s only 23, Wiggins is deep into his fourth season and has yet to show he can be much more than a volume scorer. With Butler out and the Timberwolves in desperate need for Wiggins to step up, it feels like a crucial time for the swingman to start showing he can evolve.

“Andrew is one hell of a talent,” teammate Taj Gibson told the Pioneer Press ahead of the Celtics game. “Every day in practice he surprises me. I think the sky is the limit for him, really.

“But I think at times he just has to want to take over the game, because the more and more that we’re going deeper and the game is getting more and more crazier, teams are going to try to take him away, and we need him, (Karl-Anthony Towns), almost everybody to try to do their hardest, their best.”

The other end of the floor is likely the bigger concern for Wiggins.

Despite possessing elite athleticism, length and range, he’s been an underwhelming defender for his entire career.

And with just two games separating them from ninth in the West and a murderer’s row of opponents on the way – Golden State, Washington, San Antonio, Houston and the Los Angeles Clippers – Minnesota need Wiggins to be a two-way force now more than ever.

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