Does Andrew Wiggins Need to Change his Shot Selection?


Throughout the history of the NBA, players and coaches tend to adopt certain offensive philosophies and styles of play based upon the successes of other teams. Whether that style is to have a dominant post presence or run the triangle offense, there is one style that is perceived to be superior to others at a given point in time.

The most recent of these philosophies seems to be maximizing offensive efficiency by overwhelming opponents with a barrage of three pointers and relentlessly attacking the basket. By increasing the number of three pointers and close shots, lower percentage mid-range shots or long two point shots are minimized. This offensive phenomenon has been popularized by teams like the Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers as both are pacing to break the single season NBA record for most three point attempts by a team. This recent trend is making the mid-range jumper, which was a major component in the offensive repertoire for former players like shooting guard Michael Jordan and shooting guard Kobe Bryant, somewhat of a lost art.

Some of the best players in the NBA have embraced this new style of play. Houston Rockets point guard James Harden, Cleveland Cavaliers small forward LeBron James and Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry are all shooting the majority of their shots from the three point line or at the rim. Below is a percentage breakdown of each player’s shot selection with regards to area on the court.

Player Three Pointers Painted Area Mid-Range
James Harden 49% 40% 11%
LeBron James 27% 53% 20%
Stephen Curry 54% 30% 16%

Small forward Andrew Wiggins doesn’t seem to subscribe to that school of thought as nearly 40 percent of his shots are from the mid-range area. Obviously Wiggins has a much different skill set than the players above, but he still shoots a high number of mid-range shots relative to the modern NBA landscape. A couple of Wiggins’ signature offensive moves consist of either burying a mid-range jumper off of a high screen and roll or rising over the top of a defender on a fall away jumper.

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Some argue because of the number of mid-range shots Wiggins takes, he is inefficient and should adjust his style of play to align with the players mentioned above. While advanced statistics haven’t been kind to Wiggins this season, that doesn’t mean he needs to conform his offensive game to others in the league. San Antonio Spurs small forward and MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard is regarded as one of the most efficient players in the NBA and he shoots a high percentage of mid-range shots as well. Below is the same table from above applied to Wiggins and Leonard.

Player Three Pointers Painted Area Mid-Range
Andrew Wiggins 18% 43% 39%
Kawhi Leonard 29% 35% 36%

In fact, Wiggins shoots more high percentage shots in the painted area than Leonard. A potential problem of why Wiggins has a true shooting percentage (explanation of true shooting percentage in hyperlink) of only 53.3 percent, which ranks him 38 among qualified small forwards, could have more to do with the quality of shots Wiggins is taking, as opposed to the location of them.

The videos above are a couple of examples of the uncanny ability Wiggins has to make difficult shots with a hand in his face. While he does make quite a bit of them, if he continues to consistently take a large number of contested jump shots, he is going to miss more of them than he makes. Wiggins simply works too hard to create his own shot night-to-night. Of the 18.7 shot attempts Wiggins averages per game, less than three of them are in catch and shoot situations.

Wiggins’ athleticism and ability to create space are advantages he has over many players in the NBA. He doesn’t need to adjust his approach on the offensive side of the floor despite the popularity of certain styles of play throughout the league. In order to create more open shots for himself, Wiggins just needs to learn to play without the ball; something that most NBA players do not learn to do effectively until the later stages of their careers.  At the age of 22 and in the third year of his career, he has some time to figure it out.

Logan Metzger is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter:@loganmetzger33

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