Why Aaron Wiggins is the Thunder's X Factor

The OKC Thunder can look onto Aaron Wiggins for a big boost off the bench every night, and the numbers bare it out.
Oklahoma City Thunder v Utah Jazz
Oklahoma City Thunder v Utah Jazz / Alex Goodlett/GettyImages

The Oklahoma City Thunder have taken the league by storm this season, currently sitting atop the Western Conference. A huge reason the Thunder have been so successful is the bench production and the players' willingness to adapt to certain roles.

Seemingly flying under the radar until recently is the impact of Aaron Wiggins. He's in his third season in a Thunder uniform, and it seems the organization has nothing but praise for his efforts. Mark Daigneault has previously given him credit for doing all the little things and being a hustle guy.

Wiggins was a bench player for most of his college career, so being a spark plug is nothing new to him. He was known as a mid-range maestro throughout his time at Maryland, choosing to break down the defense off the dribble or navigating screens.

Aaron Wiggins makes a huge impact for the OKC Thunder off the bench.

After being selected 55th overall in 2021, Wiggins was aware of the kind of role he'd be stepping into. To say he's played the role well effectively would be an understatement. Not many 55th overall picks carve out a spot in the league, let alone a real role on a contender.

Despite playing a career-low 12 and a half minutes per game, his impact is still felt. The main reason for the minute decrease is how deep the Thunder's roster is this season, which includes allocating minutes to rookie Cason Wallace and wing Kenrich Williams.

He has provided the coaching staff with an excellent plug-and-play option, as he fits with any lineup. His spacing and repeated efforts has impressed fans and the team and he's proven himself as a hustle guy.

Wiggins keeps earning himself minutes this season, with the way he's been able to impact games in certain ways. Out of Thunder players who have played at least 20 games this season, he ranks just seventh in usage at 15 percent. With such low usage, he relies on off-ball movement to be impactful offensively.

One of the most impressive skills Wiggins has developed is his clever cutting ability. Not just with relocating, but he utilises a wide range of backdoors, slips and cuts. His IQ and timing on cuts has been crucial in moments for the Thunder this season, often creating instant offense.

His offensive game has become very simple yet effective. Over 94 percent of his shot attempts come from either inside ten feet or from beyond the arc. His shot attempts at the rim are assisted 78 percent of the time, meaning the Thunder are doing a good job rewarding him for his off-ball movement.

The evolution of his game to adapt to his role has been clear. A lot of his game and volume came from mid-range pull-ups in college, yet this season he's attempted just nine total shots between ten feet and three point line.

Wiggins is shooting over 60 percent from the field this season, which is the highest out of any Thunder player. He stands at just six foot six, making it even more impressive.

Even with the lack of self-creation, he has been an elite floor spacer this season. So far in 2023-24, he has shot 55 percent from three on over one attempt per game. 55 percent is one of the league's highest marks, making it dangerous for defenses to leave him open.

Players like Wiggins can be the difference in a playoff series. He has stayed ready throughout his career, and even contributed in the Thunder's play-in run a year ago. He remains a threat for the Thunder, and it seems anytime he sees the court he brings positive production and a spark for the team.

His elite floor spacing with his perimeter jumpshot and ability to move off the ball makes him a threat at any time he's on the court. Mark Daigneault continues to show trust in him as he continues to earn his way back into the rotation.

Next. Jordan Walsh dishes on what an OKC Thunder predraft workout is like. Exclusive: Jordan Walsh dishes on Thunder predraft workout. dark