Today in the Startribune Kent Youngblood wrote a great article overviewing Andrew Wiggins, the person and the player. In which Youngblood quotes Bill Self to have said this:
“He absolutely was too nice. And he’s still too nice. Flip [Saunders] will have to get more of that dog in him. He’s just young.”
We all know Andrew Wiggins to be a incredible basketball talent with world class athletic ability and we also know that he was far less dominant at Kansas as some, I think most of us, expected him to be. Regardless, Andrew Wiggins is a very highly touted prospect for very good reason and a great acquisition for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Along with this comment, Youngblood reported Bill Self to also says that “Wiggins is the best natural athlete who has ever played for him” and that being part of a program like Kansas, that carries some clout. But we are also not surprised.
It’s interesting to note that Self is not cutting at Wiggins when he says he has been too nice. Self appears to be one hundred percent in Wiggins’ corner. Later in the article Self was quoted to say that he expected Wiggins to put on a show when he returned to Cleveland with Minnesota.
This suggest to me that Self believes Wiggins has that “dog” in him. That the drive to be great is just maturing inside of him now.
Imagine for a moment that in the next couple of seasons, Andrew Wiggins reaches his potential with the Minnesota Timeberwolves. What will that look like?
Wiggins’ freakish athleticism and long frame could make him a tenacious defender at three or potentially four positions if he remains laterally quick gains strength. Offensively, his game is still in flux. If he can continue to develop his ball handling and his perimeter game, the Timberwolves truly found a gem.
Even if he only becomes a tenacious defender, the Wolves still have something they haven’t had it quite sometime, other than Andre Kirilenko: a prominent wing defender who can stay in front of his man.
Youngblood makes another great comment:
“In fact, Wiggins has always had an interesting combination of confidence and humility. He grew up admiring Vince Carter and in high school talked about being able score like Kevin Durant and get to the hoop like (LeBron) James … At the same time, he kept college recruiting low key …”
This is an intriguing combination. He’s got the confidence to speak up about what he thinks he can accomplish, but the humility to, as the article talks about later, calmly sign autographs for hours.
Can Andrew Wiggins be hungry enough to live up to his potential as an NBA player? What does he have to do to get to his potential?
Let me run with the canine metaphor that Bill Self used. I say … forget being a “dog”. In most circumstances dogs get fed. This is what I started to despise about Kevin Love and even Rick Adleman. They were hungry but they acted as if they deserved to be fed. They could always be found whining at officials and smiling sarcastically when things didn’t go their way. The mentality that Bill Self is hoping to see in Wiggins, is not just that of a dog, but that of a hunter.
For the new and (hopefully in the longterm) improved Timberwolves to succeed, Flip Saunders has to instill the hunger of wolves into Wiggins, Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng and all the other T-wolves.
They have to play with desire and confidence, and if they run into adversity they can’t stop and whine. They have to keep going. Kevin “Duran Duran” Durant is certainly “Hungry Like a Wolf” and he has proven to be a pretty stone faced leader of a franchise. He didn’t whimper last year when his team played most of the season without his home dog Russell Westbrook.
My question for the team is: who is going to be that leader? Of course, Flip Saunders has a big role to play as head coach, but what player is going to step up and be the Alpha Wolf of the pack? Can that be Wiggins? Can Ricky take the reigns? Can Pekovic stop being a big ice fishing teddy bear and start striking fear into people? Maybe Zach LaVine?
I don’t know … It may take a while, but I think that four players specifically are developing that inner wolf. They are Ricky Rubio, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, and Gorgui Dieng. I think they have what it takes to become intense competitors on both sides of the floor. Now with the whiney dogs out as leaders of the pack, can a real Alpha Wolf step up and lead the charge?
That will be the difference between this organizational “retooling” being just that, or another rebuilding process.
With the base skills that Andrew Wiggins already has, along with the natural talent he was given and the confidence he has expressed, I think it’s only a matter of time before we see Andrew “Alpha Wolf” Wiggins running around the Target Center taking the NBA by storm. I hope this pack is ready to run!