Andrew Wiggins has all the tools to be a great NBA player, but he is hands down one of the worst contracts in the NBA, relative to his production. At the start of last season, his contract extension was one of the most complicated questions in free agency. The way he got the contract is an example of bad ownership.
The Timberwolves owner had a meeting in which he asked Wiggins will he work hard to be a great player. Shockingly, Wiggins said yes, and the owner decided to give him a 5-year max extension that amounts to about $145 million through ’22/’23 season. Wiggins proceeded to have his worst NBA season yet, lowest field goal percentage and points scored in his career. The worst thing is, his more significant issue is his defense.
That was supposed to be fixed with bringing Tom Thibodeau on. Thibs made his mark on the defensive end, first as the Celtics assistant coach and then in Chicago. His teams would regularly be in top 5 defensively, and people had high hopes for Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins under his coaching. The opposite happened.
Thibs only has one gear, and it suits ancient Sparta. In Boston, he had KG, in Chicago Joakim Noah. His scheme is founded on a dominant defensive center and a locker room where the leaders consider themselves warriors, and that’s the pace they set for the entire team. You know, when you do a set of push-ups on your knuckles after a flagrant.
After his departure from the Bulls, Thibs had a redemption tour. He visited a lot of teams and said he evolved on many things about basketball from analytics to sports science and rest. Then Jimmy Butler, the man who just reported to Miami’s training camp at 3:30 am, SIX HOURS BEFORE THE SCHEDULED START, said that Thibs needs to ease up with the workload in Minessota.
It was clear the new generation of players such as KAT and Wiggins don7t respond to his style, and Thibs left Minessota. With Ryan Saunders at the helm, Andrew Wiggins made it clear what happened with his development under Thibs.
Coaching is a balancing act, where you have to set a culture that players should change to fit in to, but also know how to treat different people. Some players respond well to aggression and yelling, and others need an encouraging word on the sidelines. That last part was a bridge too far for Thibs. Wiggins had to throw this in (via Derek James):
“Yelling and screaming isn’t necessarily coaching”
Was Thibs a bully or Wiggins a sensitive millennial? Probably the truth is in the middle. But the critical thing to note is the consequence of player empowerment. In the old days, players needed to adapt to coaches. Today, it’s the other way around. Adapt or die coaches.