Andrew Wiggins' ascent is picking up speed by the second, which makes determining how high he'll ultimately fly an increasingly tricky task.
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft turned 20 years old on Feb. 23, and he celebrated by turning in a highlight that perfectly encapsulated his boundless two-way potential.
That's James Harden, the league's leading scorer and singularly dangerous one-on-one assassin. And that's Wiggins, again, just 20, staying with Harden through dozens of dribbles, jukes and shakes, ultimately closing out to block the jumper.
That's also Wiggins running the floor, finishing athletically through contact.
Holy smokes, right? What can't this guy do?
Wiggins' overall numbers on the year don't quite inspire nearly the awe that highlight does, which makes them a good tool to temper enthusiasm. He's been productive, but there are no fewer than 37 rookies in league history who've matched or exceeded his averages of 15.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.1 steals.
You can thin the herd a bit by including Wiggins' 35.4 percent accuracy rate from long range, which puts him in the company of just seven previous first-year players.
When you factor in age, something special happens, per NBA.com:
Though Wiggins has a few historical peers based on his overall numbers, none of his contemporaries comes close to matching up. He leads all 2014-15 rookies with 856 total points through games played Feb. 23. The next guy on the list, K.J. McDaniels, has just 476.
There's also this, via ESPN Stats & Info:
Make it 18. Wiggins dropped 30 on the Rockets Feb. 23.
He's collected the Rookie of the Month award in the Western Conference in every month so far. With his latest numbers looking strong and the rest of the rookie class floundering, he'll soon add one for February.
Wiggins keeps getting better, and that's where the discussion of his ultimate ceiling gets interesting. We don't really know what kind of player he'll be because he won't stop raising the bar (with the exception of February, which we'll get to in a moment).
|Andrew Wiggins' Monthly Per-Game Splits|
Those stats are moving in the right direction. Or, at least they were until Kevin Martin rejoined the Minnesota Timberwolves' rotation in late January.
K-Mart is a fine scorer who offers very little else, and he's jumped right back into a primary role for the Wolves—much to the dismay of Minnesota fans who'd prefer Wiggins continue to function as the first, second and third option on offense.
After averaging 16 shots per game in January, Wiggins is now down to 13.1 in February, which ranks third on the team behind Martin (17 attempts per contest) and Nikola Pekovic (13.4).
I guess it makes sense to marginalize Wiggins that way, what with the Timberwolves chasing a playoff spot and needing to lean on their veterans at the expense of their younger players.
Oh, wait. Actually the Wolves are light-years away from the postseason, mired at the bottom of the conference with absolutely no logical explanation for taking shots away from Wiggins. It would seem the only ceiling on his development is organizationally imposed.
Come on, Wolves. Figure it out.
At any rate, Wiggins, when allowed to do what he's capable of doing, has been a sight to see. Even if we can't be sure exactly what we're looking at.
Not even Wiggins himself seems to know.
"I don't know who you'll see, because I haven't really gotten to my highest level yet, playing basketball," Wiggins said, via B/R's Ethan Skolnick. "So I'm not sure yet. I haven't gotten that far."
It's dangerous to invoke the comparison, but the last time we saw a top pick confound us with his talent like this, it was Anthony Davis.
It's far too early to say Wiggins will be a superstar and a legitimate MVP candidate by the time he's 21. But it's worth noting that his statistical achievements to date (go look at that list from ESPN Stats & Info again) and the arc he's on feel special.
Maybe he's not once-in-a-generation special like Davis but special nonetheless.
In a fascinating twist, the Wolves have given Wiggins something most young stars-in-waiting and certainly Davis have lacked.
Kevin Garnett's farewell tour is about many things—sentiment and ticket sales among them—but one of the most important roles he'll fill in his return to Minnesota is that of mentor. Exposing Wiggins to KG could be a way to assure the former's ceiling, whatever level of the stratosphere it may potentially reach, is as high as possible.
Garnett may be a mixed bag as a teacher; he's overbearing and has a history of occasionally playing dirty. But if he can inspire some of his trademark maniacal competitiveness and legendary work ethic in Wiggins, it could assure Wiggins surges right past very good on his way to great.
The mental aspects that have defined Garnett are often innate, but if they're lying dormant in Wiggins (by all accounts a polite and personable guy) who better to bring them out than KG? If Wiggins is missing anything at this point in his career, it's some snarl.
And nobody knows how to growl like Garnett.
The Wolves would never get away with an open-air arena in mid-winter Minnesota, but it might be worth the risk of frostbite if they tore the ceiling off the Target Center—if only to prevent Wiggins from crashing through it as his career takes flight.
*All stats via Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated.