Aaron Wiggins is forcing the hand of the OKC Thunder

Aaron Wiggins #21 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images)
Aaron Wiggins #21 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images) /

The Oklahoma City Thunder are in the midst of an unexpected season. With the NBA postseason race coming down to the final two games of the regular season, the Thunder are clinging to the tenth spot in the Western Conference. However, an under-the-radar piece of the team’s success has been their 55th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Aaron Wiggins.

When Sam Presti selected Aaron Wiggins with the 55th pick out of Maryland, many of the Thunder fanbase had not heard of the prospect. Most fans were scrambling to find Josh Giddey highlights and frantically scrolling Twitter trying to make sense of the Alperen Sengun trade. As a result, Wiggins was as under the radar as they come, even inking a two-way deal for the Thunder that summer instead of a standard contract.

Aaron Wiggins is forcing the hand of the OKC Thunder with his play on the floor this season.

A running joke for most of the season was that the Oklahoma City Thunder would be 82-0 if they started Wiggins every game. Instead, the team saw him go on a run, turning in a record of 6-0 when in the starting lineup this season.

That is mainly due to Aaron Wiggins’s winning impact when he steps on the floor. At the same time, his stat sheet does not pop off the page, sitting at six points, three rebounds, and an assist per game while swiping half a steal on the defensive end. In addition, Wiggins is shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc this season and 50 percent from the floor.

On non-corner triples, that percentage leaps to 49 percent, ranking him in the 100th percentile for his possession. Synergy grades Wiggins out as a “very good” offensive player, highlighted by his 1.206 points per possession in transition, 67th percentile off the catch, and in the 67th percentile when cutting to the basket.

Beyond those primarily off-the-ball stats, Wiggins ranks in the 70th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball handler. With his ability to finish around the rim, knock down shots off the catch, seamlessly cut back door, and thrive in transition for a young team that wants to get out and run, the wing fits perfectly for Mark Daigneault’s rotation.

However, it is more than just the offense that gets a passing grade for Aaron Wiggins. His 6’5 frame allows him to be versatile, as the OKC Thunder see him graded out as “excellent” as an isolation defender (85th percentile). So the framework is there for Wiggins to be a good defender, especially as this team plays a slightly more conventional style next season with a defensive anchor in Chet Holmgren behind him.

At just 24 years old, Wiggins is on a cheap and controllable contract through the 2024-25 season. Next year, Wiggins will see a pay increase to 1.8 million dollars before that number jumps to 1.9 million in 2024-25. Past that, he will hit the unrestricted free agency market.

Both seasons have triggers that allow the Thunder to escape under his deal. 2023-24 is a non-guaranteed deal, and 2024-25 is a club option that Presti can decline if he would like.

Despite finding himself in-and-out of Mark Daigneault’s rotation this season, the Thunder will not be able to find a better value than Aaron Wiggins this offseason. That value only increases as you add back Chet Holmgren, a healthy Kenrich Williams, and whoever OKC drafts in the first round. While Wiggins will not be a superstar, he will be an increasingly valuable role player as games continue to increase in consequence from this point forward.

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