NBA

Does Andrew Wiggins Blame Jimmy Butler for His Slowed Development?

This season is a make-or-break one for Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins is attempting to guide his team to the playoffs in the NBA’s absolutely loaded Western Conference. With multiple contenders ahead of them, it will be a tough challenge. 

In an interview this offseason, Wiggins attempted to pinpoint why his development seems to have slowed in recent seasons. After reviewing his answer, it may appear that he believes his former teammate Jimmy Butler is to blame. 

Andrew Wiggins’ career overview 

Andrew Wiggins played his college basketball at the University of Kansas, one of the top programs in the NCAA. In 2014, he was drafted first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers – though soon after shipped to Minnesota in a package for Kevin Love. 

Wiggins has shown flashes of brilliance at times during NBA career and maddening inconsistency at other times. Below are his career numbers

  • 400 career games
  • 19.4 points per game
  • 4.3 rebounds per game
  • 2.2 assists per game
  • 14.5 Player Efficiency Rating (PER) 
  • 13 win shares

While Wiggins’ career started off promising enough, he’s experienced something of a lag in recent seasons. 

Andrew Wiggins’ excuses for his slowed development

In an interview, Wiggins was asked about his development as a player. His excuse was two-fold: organizational changes after his first three seasons and the style with which the team was coached:

“I can get better. There’s always room for improvement. I feel like my first three years I was on the rise and getting better and better,” Wiggins said. “And then as changes were made, I feel like there was a little decline…All the yelling and stuff, I feel, is not really going to change my mood,” Wiggins said. “But when a coach comes at me and is real, and tells me the real, I feel like I respect that a lot more than anyone just yelling.

“I feel like anyone can yell, anyone can raise their voice, but not a lot of people can be real. So that goes a long way for me.”

While it seems as though Wiggins is giving a diplomatic answer by not naming any names, any basketball fan paying close attention could discern the people to whom he’s referring. 

What he was really trying to say

According to ESPN’s Nick Friedell, Wiggins’ vague statement is a direct rebuke of Butler and former head coach Tom Thibodeau. Below is a comparison of Wiggins’ statistics from 2014-2017 compared to 2017-2019 compiled by ESPN: 

  • 2014-2017: 20.4 points per game, 45% shooting, Player Efficiency Rating (PER) or 15.7 
  • 2017-2019: 17.9 points per game, 42.5% shooting, PER of 12.7 

In his statement, Wiggins referred to “changes” made after his first three years in Minnesota. This is a pretty clear reference to Jimmy Butler. Butler’s arrival in Minnesota directly coincides with Wiggins’ decline. Butler very famously torpedoed the T’Wolves until they traded him. Butler spent a good portion of his time in Minnesota creating distractions for the team, so it’s very possible that could have impacted Wiggins’ game. 

Wiggins’ comments about “all the yelling and stuff” most likely pertain to Thibodeau. Butler himself offered a telling critique of Thibodeau’s brusque coaching style. It’s evidence that Thib’s high-strung, intense style might be as effective with today’s players. Wiggins’ passive-aggressive criticisms here may have merit, as Thibodeau is no longer the T’Wolves coach. 

Whether Wiggins has a point on both counts or not, it has to be dispiriting for Minnesota fans to hear. It’s the mark of a great player to carry themselves with extreme accountability and ownership of their situation. Wiggins’ comments make it sound like he’s passing the buck. This season though, Wiggins is out of excuses. It’s on him to produce.