A change of scenery can do wonders for those seeking a fresh start and Andrew Wiggins is the latest example of such.
As the top overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Wiggins was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers only to be traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves almost two months later. The expectations of being the first overall selection were tough to meet even when he was relatively healthy (He played in all 82 games in three of his five full seasons in Minnesota and missed a total of 10 games during that span of time.) in part because his stats were good but not great. Moreover, wins were hard to come by for the Wolves and as such, Wiggins was the fall guy.
The trade deadline during the 2019-2020 NBA Season presented a turning point in Wiggins’ career, as he was acquired by the Golden State Warriors in what was a lost season from them. For the former Kansas Jayhawk though, the environment was a far cry from what he had to deal with in Minnesota so the pressure in San Francisco was a privilege rather than a burden.
If Wiggins’ time with the Wolves was a learning curve, his time with the Warriors was a maturation process. Throughout his career, the 27-year old could create his own shot and score off-the-ball, but Golden State put him in much better positions to succeed. His physical abilities allow him to play multiple positions and that has helped head coach Steve Kerr and the rest of the Warriors coaching staff move him around the court for him to create and capitalize on mismatches when they arise.
In the 2022 NBA Playoffs, Wiggins is currently averaging 15.8 points (on 48.0/35.3/63.5 shooting splits), 7.0 rebounds, 1.7 rebounds, and almost a steal and a block in 16 games. These numbers are somewhat similar to his five-game playoff run with Minnesota back in 2018, but his efficiency (save for his free throw shooting) has markedly improved.
The space Wiggins creates and benefits from has partly led to improvements on that end and when you have teammates like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole, and a guy who finds gaps like Draymond Green, life is much easier. Much of the chemistry he developed with many of his Golden State teammates dates back to 2020, when a down year for the Warriors turned into a developmental year that’s bearing fruit as of late.
That Wiggins made these strides despite guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter player is something that cannot be stated enough, especially considering how taxing it can be guarding Luka Doncic. His effort to limit the damage Doncic inflicted definitely earned him the respect of his peers.
Coaching from the likes of Kerr and the mentorship of Green are huge, but converting all that advice into action is another thing as well. In the NBA Finals, Wiggins will be an X-Factor on both ends of the floor as his offense will help open things up for the likes of Curry, Thompson, and Poole, while he will have to guard Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart at some point in the series.
The Boston Celtics have the personnel to stay with Golden State and Wiggins, Green, and Thompson will be able to provide the defensive versatility (especially if the likes of Gary Payton II and Andre Iguodala return) needed in having various coverages. Wiggins’ offense is also a far cry from what PJ Tucker can provide as he has a more diverse skill set that he can produce with more consistently and punish defenses with when they forget about him.
Andrew Wiggins may not be THE GUY with the Golden State Warriors, but he is one of the guys the Warriors should be thanking, especially if they complete their coronation two weeks from now. Like his current team, Wiggins had to bide his time and now with things falling into place, it turns out all he needed was a breath of fresh air in San Francisco.