The Wolves aren’t winning like they need to, but Andrew Wiggins has become more of a scoring machine since Zach LaVine went down with a season-ending knee injury.
Wiggins’ 41 points in Tuesday’s loss to Cleveland was his 14th straight game with 20+ points, the last six of which have been particularly impressive.
LaVine went down in Detroit Feb. 3 and Wiggins has posted scoring totals of 23, 27, 31, 29, 27 and 41 points since then. That’s a six-game average of 29.7 points.
It’s his second-best six-game scoring stretch of the season. He averaged 33 points in a six-game span from Nov. 8-17 (LaVine played in five of those games).
Without LaVine, someone has to take more shots – and it’s not going to be Brandon Rush.
Wiggins has attempted 22-plus shots in three of the last six games. He took that many just six times in the previous 50 games.
His shooting surge has pushed his usage rate from a season average of 27.5 percent to a six-game average of 31.5 percent. That’s on par with the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis and Isaiah Thomas.
Wiggins’ last six games (season averages in parenthesis)
- 29.7 points (22.9)
- 52.7% shooting (46%)
- 42.3% 3-point shooting (35.2%)
- 6.3 free-throw attempts (6.3)
- 4.0 rebounds (4.1)
- 3.2 assists (2.5)
- 1.8 steals (0.9)
- 0.5 blocks (0.4)
- 14.4% PIE (9.7%)
That last stat, “PIE”, might be the most impressive. PIE is a “Player Impact Estimate” that NBA.com created to help explain how much of an impact a player has on an individual game. A player with a PIE rating above 10 percent is likely to be better than the average player.
For perspective, LeBron James’ PIE this season is 17.8 percent. Karl-Anthony Towns’ is 16 percent.
Wiggins without LaVine, for whatever reason, has been more impactful than with LaVine. Wiggins’ player impact estimate was 8.9 percent in November, 9.9 percent in December and 8.4 percent in January.
Prior to his devastating knee injury, LaVine missed only three games. The Wolves won all three, beating the Lakers, Rockets and Thunder, with Wiggins scoring 47, 28 and 19 points, respectively. The 19-point game was one of the games Wiggins attempted 22-plus shots, so don’t be fooled by the low point total. Had he shot well that night he would have put up 25 or more.
It’s a small sample size, but Wiggins appears to be more dominant in all aspects of his game with LaVine off the floor.
On top of that, the Wolves are 5-4 in the nine games LaVine has missed, including quality wins over Houston, Oklahoma City and Toronto.
It’s something to pay attention to while LaVine is out.