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Pace and Space

Smart NBA talk for smart NBA fans.

Is This NBA Player Any Good?: Andrew Wiggins

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

by Fox Doucette

Andrew Wiggins just turned 22, making him younger than Buddy Hield, and more talented as well; too bad the Sacramento Kings couldn't have traded Boogie Cousins for him. The first overall pick in the 2014 draft is on an utterly wretched (22-35) Minnesota team that hasn't won a damn thing since he stepped foot in town and which has a young core of guys who can make highlights but who can't win games.

So this week, we're going to ask and answer one simple question.

If Andrew Wiggins is your second-best player, can you ever be a contender?

Besides if Russell Westbrook is your best guy, of course. But that caveat aside, the Wolves are building around Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Kris Dunn, whoever they get in the next draft with a likely high pick, and at least the beginnings of an experiment involving defensive mastermind (yes, I know they're 24th in Defensive Rating) Tom Thibodeau coaching that outfit.

All stats via Basketball Reference.

The All-Knowing Stats

How do you put up only a 108 Offensive Rating when you're scoring 31.7 points per 100 possessions? A microscopic (.193) three-point rate helps, especially when you're only making 35.5 percent of them, and that's a career high after shooting Westbrook-like accuracy earlier. There are worse things to be than DeMar DeRozan 2.0, but you've got to get the ball up from long range.

Being a lousy facilitator on a team who has one guy who racks up assists because he can't shoot doesn't help either. Wiggins is a scorer. It is what he does. You do not challenge his scoring.

It's not like he's putting his efforts in on defense; his 114 Defensive Rating is vomit-inducing on a Tom Thibodeau-coached team.

But They're Better With Him Out There.

On-court Net Rating: Minus-0.2. Not bad for a team that sucks. On-off split: Plus-3.3, proof that indeed “not sucking” on a team that's 22-35 actually means overachieving like crazy.

The Real Problem Here

The best players in today's NBA combine excellent finishing at the rim with long-range prowess in some combination; at one end of the scale, you've got guys like DeAndre Jordan whose offensive game lives entirely in the paint, where they can shoot 70 percent. On the other end, you've got the Klay Thompsons of the world, scoring 15 points in two minutes by themselves when they get hot from outside.

Wiggins? He takes 26.9 percent of his shots from inside the restricted area, where he shoots 65.8 percent—he's an excellent finisher who can't get inside! He takes 19.3 percent of his shots from out in the cheap seats and makes 35.5 percent of them.

That's...well, OK, he's 22 and coached by a guy who hates fun. I'm going to come right out and blame this on Thibodeau, since Flip Saunders and Sam Mitchell got him finishing inside on over a third of his shots in his first two years. You do not take a transcendent athlete and make a midrange jump shooter out of him.

This Stat Is Bananas

Andrew Wiggins is assisted on 69.4 percent of his corner threes. What kind of utter coaching lunacy designs an offense where the point guard's only skill is passing, the shooting guard can get to the corner effectively, and yet in most of the cases he's not actually catch-and-shooting off a pass? One does not simply iso into a corner three, not in 2017 anyway; this may serve to explain why Wiggins is shooting only 30 percent on The Most Efficient Shot In Basketball.

He Couldn't Find the Boards with a Map

An athletic forward with a 6.5 rebounding rate, and it's below his season average? Wiggins is 6'8” and weighs only 199 pounds, and it's clear that he needs to get a strength and conditioning coach to grow him into an NBA body sooner rather than later. He's 22 years old.

Minnesota's not even a terrible rebounding team once you adjust for pace; they're fifth in Offensive and 18th in Defensive Rebounding Percentage. Wiggins is a big part of the reason they're not better than that, and it's holding him back.

THE VERDICT!

What do you do with a guy who can score and seemingly do nothing else well? Wiggins can put the ball in the basket, especially when he's not getting beaten up on his way there. He can't rebound, he's a mediocre passer, his defense is outright terrible, and again, he's not grown into his body the way Minnesota needed him to. And his coach has no idea how to design an offense that takes advantage of his skills.

How do you describe a guy like that? In terms of the original question, there's not a chance in hell of him winning a damn thing. But if you got him the right coach, he could be at the very least Jerry Stackhouse 2.0.

Then again, Stackhouse wasn't exactly a Hall of Famer. Wiggins is 22, so I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt for now, but he needs to either be traded or Minnesota needs to get their crap together. For now, we'll call this Plausible.

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NBA Breakfast Special: The Hottest Woj Bombs and Paul George Trade Rumors!

by Fox Doucette

Indiana Pacers forward Paul George has been included in credible trade rumors that would have him sent to his hometown Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Julius Randle, Jeremy Clarkson (the television presenter, who will report the weather whilst driving the road between Indianapolis and Evansville very fast in a European mid-engine supercar and who is not to be confused with Jordan Clarkson), a vintage 1979 Magic Johnson rookie card, five lessons in the sky hook taught to Myles Turner by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and a bunch of archival footage of Frank Perdue making chicken commercials.

Oh man, it feels good to report fake news for clicks. No wonder everyone and I do mean every goddamn one of my colleagues in NBA news reporting is doing it.

Nah, this is the Breakfast Special, and that means basketball highlights, and with the season resuming tonight, let's take this moment to recap the very best of the 2016-17 season so far, with a little bit of whatever YouTube and Twitter have to offer thrown in as a bonus.

Let's start by kicking it old school:

Now we'll go to official league sources for the best dunks of October and November...

and December...

...and January:

Your columnist broke his ankle in January (don't worry, I'm better now), but my ankle-breaker at the hands of a King County Metro bus and a frozen patch of Kent, Washington sidewalk has nothing on the ankle-breaking going on in the Association:

How 'bout a little “get that weak stuff outta here”:

And it wouldn't be a Breakfast Special without Shaqtin', so let's go ahead and throw in the big flops...

...and the worst fundamentals:

Terrence Ross is the best and the worst:

And finally, Nate Robinson got tired of slinging chicken and waffles in Seattle, so he headed on out to Delaware:

Normal service resumes tomorrow, folks. About damn time, I was going through withdrawal symptoms. Thanks for reading!

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NBA Breakfast Special: The Best of Pace and Space 2016-17

by Fox Doucette

The games resume Thursday, but you want your basketball fix today. Well, hoop junkies, we feel you, and we got you covered. Now's a great time to get caught up on the very best of Pace and Space from our entire roster of writers. We've all put some classics out there, so here you go:

Zach Bashes the Celtics' Inside Game

It started in November, when six games into the season, it was evident that Boston didn't have the defense and rebounding it needed to match last year's performance. It got worse as Jared Sullinger's absence was felt by the end of November, and came to a head in late January as the defense stubbornly continued to fail to improve.

Zach's been doing even better deep-dive work this year than last; his breakdowns have been on point.

Oh, and there's also this Sam Hinkie piece, which has the most interesting intro I've ever had the pleasure of editing...

Chasing History

I'm a fan of using statistical tests to reach across eras. Whether it's making sense of Russell Westbrook's averaging a triple-double or sussing out just how crazy scoring's gotten with all the 50-point games or figuring out if Anthony Bennett was the greatest draft bust of all time, if there's a chance to use good numbers to make an argument, I'm as obsessive as anyone at FiveThirtyEight about it.

And Speaking of History...

P.D. Parr's fantastic historical articles have given some old-school flavor to the site, but nothing he's done has been quite so important in the broader narrative of sports in society than his two-part piece right at the beginning of Black History Month, and with a protest storm erupting over President Trump's Muslim immigration ban, than the stories of Luol Deng and Thon Maker. They carry on Manute Bol's legacy of Sudanese NBA players.

Meanwhile, everyone wants to compare Steph Curry to guys like Ray Allen and Reggie Miller, but how about Pistol Pete Maravich? When you talk greats of the game, you kick it old-school.

Winter Is Coming

When I got a message on Twitter that Brad Winter, former owner of the excellent Corner Three blog, wanted to write for Pace and Space, the only question about publishing his articles was “when can you start?”

Since that point, we've had prescient predictions like Vivek Ranadive doing something incredibly stupid at the trade deadline (although nobody's quite sure how Dell Demps came out looking like the smart guy) in Brad's trade-predictions roundup.

We've had a fun piece about NBA rivalries right out of Bill Simmons' playbook.

And we've had a fantastic breakdown of the Houston Rockets' weaknesses (whether these weaknesses change with Lou Williams on the Houston roster remains to be seen.)

The games come back tomorrow.  We'll be putting together some highlights from the season so far in the morning, and then normal service resumes Friday. Thanks for reading!

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