/B/R NBA Digest: Luka Doncics MVP Case Is Very Real

B/R NBA Digest: Luka Doncics MVP Case Is Very Real

Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Reclaimed Potential Award: Andrew Wiggins

Through his first five NBA campaigns, Andrew Wiggins totaled minus-4.9 wins over replacement player (defined by Basketball Reference as value over replacement times 2.7).

Among a 3,052-player sample from the three-point era, that number ranks 2,916th.

There was plenty of reason to be out on Wiggins’ potential. After five years, inefficient scoring, inattentive defense and a lack of wide-ranging contributions seemed to simply be his game.

But in 2019-20, Wiggins is kindling the hope with which he entered the NBA.

Career bests in points (25.9), rebounds (5.1), assists (3.6), blocks (1.1), turnovers (1.5), field-goal percentage (47.8), three-point percentage (36.1) and box plus/minus (1.9) suggest he’s turned a corner.

The mid-range clanks have mostly been eliminated. The three-point-attempt rate is up, while the mid-range-attempt rate is down. And he’s passing the ball more.

There’s still reason to wonder about his defensive impact (Minnesota is surrendering a whopping 13.1 more points per 100 possessions when he’s on the floor), but Wiggins has shown enough for believers to come out of the woodwork this season.

And if Wiggins can remain the kind of efficient, playmaking wing he’s been to start this season, the Timberwolves have a real shot at a postseason return.

As of Thursday, FiveThirtyEight‘s projection system had Minnesota finishing tied for sixth in the West.

               

Cult Following Award: Aron Baynes

My last 10 tweets that do not contain the name “Baynes” have an average of 200.2 total engagements. It’s true. I really figured that out.

My last 10 tweets that do contain the name “Baynes” have an average of, wait for it, 1,126.7 total engagements.

No, this isn’t a perfect science or the kind of analysis you were expecting here, but it’s time we acknowledge the bizarre and frankly impressive loyalty Aron Baynes inspires in fans.

Perhaps it’s his beyond-the-wall aesthetic, his literal-wall screens, Australian fandom or Twitter’s Baynes Fan Club that have caused this phenomenon. Or, perhaps it’s the fact that he’s legitimately one of the game’s most impactful players right now.

As you saw above, he’s top 10 in box plus/minus. And his plus-7.9 net rating swing ranks in the 72nd percentile, per Cleaning the Glass.

Baynes has been so good that it’s now fair to wonder what happens when Deandre Ayton returns from suspension. He doesn’t stretch the floor like Baynes. He doesn’t communicate and position himself as well on defense. He doesn’t set the same legendary picks.

Maybe we now know why there was some talk of Ayton moving to power forward before the season started.

And playing with another center-sized player wouldn’t be new for Baynes. In his two seasons with the Boston Celtics, he spent over 1,000 minutes on the floor with Al Horford. Boston was plus-14.5 points per 100 possessions in those minutes.