As the Golden State Warriors inch closer to the NBA Finals, the narrative surrounding former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins is changing, and his play is a big reason for that. ESPN analyst JJ Redick also credits the defined role he has on the Warriors as a big reason the All-Star is excelling. Is it fair to still call him a bust?
“Andrew Wiggins, to me, is in the perfect situation right now,” said Redick. “As a number one option, playing on bad Minnesota teams, that wasn’t the right role for him.”
Wiggins is a game away from his first trip to the NBA Finals, and in Game 3 of the conference finals he had his best playoff performance. 27 points, 11 rebounds, tenacious defense and an epic posterization of Luka Doncic.
— Chris Alvarez (@CAlvarezABC7) May 23, 2022
Drafted No. 1 overall in the 2014 NBA draft, Wiggins was expected to be a franchise raiser. The way almost all No. 1 picks are. He has size, athleticism and raw tools. Many believed he would be one of the apex predator wings we see dominating the league today.
But that never materialized. He was drafted by the Cavaliers and on draft night sent to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
To put it mildly, the Timberwolves are a substandard organization. In the five and a half seasons he spent in Minnesota they finished below .500 every year except 2017-18. That’s when they had Jimmy Butler, and we know how and why that ended.
Wiggins was largely an enigma and lacked the motor and desire to be a true franchise raiser. Some of that is on the terrible organization and some of it is on Wiggins.
He’s traded to the Warriors halfway through the 2019-20 season, and it’s like night and day. One minute he’s around chaos, ineptitude and low expectations. The next he’s surrounded by stability, excellence, championship expectations and accountability. More important, he’s been given a specific role.
The Warriors coaches and players to a man know how talented Wiggins is. But they’ve simplified the game for him. He’s not the number one, two, or even three offensive option for this team.
They ask him to play within the system, read and react, cut to the basket. When he has a wide-open three because of all the attention paid to everyone else, they want him to shoot it with confidence. On defense they ask him to guard the opponent’s best wing player. And when they get the rebound get out in the open court and use his athleticism.
Wiggins has done that perfectly this entire season and postseason.
“I think the way this series has mapped out, there’s space for him to attack,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “You know, the way they are guarding Steph and Klay, the lineups that are out there for both seems there’s some room for Wiggs to attack.
You don’t win in the playoffs without guys like Wiggs. We’re basically mirroring Dončić’s minutes so that Wiggs can stay on him. And he’s another guy, like Steph, who just never seems to get tired. He’s in amazing shape. Wiggs, it’s been a brilliant year for him and it’s continued in the postseason.”
It has been a brilliant season for Wiggins. He posted the highest EPM of his career. He’s at peak efficiency and he was named an All-Star starter.
“He earned it,” said ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith. “He earned changing that narrative.”
While he may not be what was expected from a No. 1 overall pick, he is a pivotal piece on a team that is one step closer to winning an NBA title. That shiny trophy will help in continuing to change the narrative.