This is just who Andrew Wiggins is
Sean Carroll illustration
I’d sit back, watch the Minnesota Timberwolves never accomplish anything, I’d listen to Zach Lowe pontificate about what to expect from a number one overall pick and go “hmm, how quizzical Zach!” and laugh from my Bay Area ivory tower.
But my world was flung upside down when my team, the Golden State Warriors, ended up with Maple Jordan on their roster. All of a sudden, I went from a neutral bystander to someone who had an actual stake in Wiggins figuring it all out.
The experience was fine in the 2020-21 season. Without Klay Thompson, there weren’t many expectations for this Warriors roster and Andrew could cruise behind an excellent Steph Curry season and hide behind a horrible Kelly Oubre Jr. stint.
This season, Wiggins found himself in an unfamiliar spot: competing. With Jordan Poole looking like this would be his breakout season, Steph still existing and the trio with Klay and Draymond Green set to return, the Warriors were in the conversation for an NBA championship.
How did he respond? He played so well he was named an All-Star starter. In the 54 games before the All-Star break, Wiggins averaged 17.7 points, pulled down 4.2 rebounds and shot 48 percent from the floor, 41 percent from the three-point line and 66 percent at the charity stripe.
In all honesty, I don’t think he deserves to be an All-Star starter but you have to admit that Luka Doncic hadn’t played up to his level by the break, Paul George and Anthony Davis missed too many games and Kawhi Leonard hadn’t touched the court.
When you look at the eligible players on the wing, it’s Wiggins, Jaren Jackson Jr., Mikal Bridges or one of the reserves.
Whether it’s right or not, I, like all other Dubs fans, pulled up the Asics and took that victory lap with pride.
Here’s what I wrote for Sir Charles in Charge right after the trade happened:
“Building on [the Harrison Barnes comparison], maybe Ron Adams is right in his assessment and [Wiggins] is just a more athletic version with a higher ceiling. Not bad.
“And if Harrison Barnes had to be the number one option on a bad Minnesota team for a number of years, maybe he would’ve produced the same or worse. At least Wiggins will be asked to do less than he has in the past, think of it as a consolidation of what he does well.”
You best know I was reading excerpts for weeks. Not for too many weeks because since the All-Star break, Wiggins has completely fallen off a cliff. I don’t know whether he read his mentions after being named an AS starter, whether he decided to cruise or what, but Maple Jordan looks more like Rice Syrup Rondo.
Since the break (as of 29/3/22), Rice Syrup Rondo has averaged 15.1 points while shooting 41 percent from the floor, 30 percent from behind the arc and 55 percent from the free throw line. When he’s on the court, the Warriors have a 101 offensive rating and a 113 defensive rating – abysmal.
It’s his lack of free throw juice that seems to be really hurting his confidence, as well as the fact he’s taking fewer shots at the basket. Much like a certain reticent Australian, he’s looking less keen to drive to the paint since he’s not trusting himself to make the free ones when the defence gives it to him.
Because of this, he’s seeing a five percent drop in shots at the rim according to Cleaning the Glass. Taking the drive element of his game away has hurt his efficiency since defences know he’s not going to be as aggressive when he gets the ball. He’s being treated as a one-dimensional scorer and that one dimension isn’t even working.
But it’s not just his frequency. Before the break, Wiggins was converting his shots in the paint to the tune of 75 percent, an elite mark for his position. That same number is now below average and sitting at 65 percent per Cleaning the Glass.
He was in the 83rd percentile among all forwards in efficiency using the same metric before the All-Star weekend. Since, he’s in the 11th percentile.
“Why?” I hear you ask? It could be a range of reasons. The Warriors had to integrate Klay back into the lineup and this piece by The Ringer's Zach Kram details all the changes that have been brought on including leaning more on Wiggins defensively and taking the ball away from Poole.
But despite the changes a healthy Klay brings, the Warriors have continued to win games when Draymond and Steph are on the court. Adding Thompson to the mix shouldn’t impact what Wiggins does out there.
If anything, it just asks more of him. It asks him to put the ball in the basket, to create for himself without elite teammates, something he has been asked to do in the past.
And this is just who Andrew Wiggins is in today’s NBA. Timberwolves fans berated him for not forcing the issue, not making his mark on the game for years, but he just isn’t that guy.
I play a lot of card games and across each one, whether it be Hearthstone, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon, Legends of Runeterra, Inscryption or Gwent, there are some cards defined as ‘win more cards’.
Typically, you’ll play a card to try and outvalue your opponent and get an edge in the game. Value can be defined as almost anything but it could be drawing more cards (giving yourself more opportunities), destroying opponents' leads, creating a lead for yourself or winning more.
The issue with these win more cards is that they only work when times are good. If you’re ahead in a game and make a win more play, you’ll probably crush them.
If you’re behind in a game or want to stop your opponent from taking an insurmountable lead, win more cards are useless.
The Timberwolves drafted a win more card in Andrew Wiggins. They needed someone to set the table, score efficiently and do it all on the basketball court. He simply couldn’t do that.
With the Golden State Warriors, Wiggins looked like hot sex on a Friday because Steve Kerr only asked him to benefit from others. Instead of dribbling the ball down or being the focal point on offence, Drew Wig could mind his own business in the corner and score off a hyper-efficient Steph-Draymond pick-and-roll.
What’s better is that Wiggins isn’t the worst creator in the world. When Curry, and others, create an opening for him, he’s got a handful of one-dribble pull-ups or sneaky hesitations to get all the way to the paint.
The issue with his bag is that it’s only good from time to time, not every time down the court. When he pump fakes, takes it to the rack and yams it all over Karl-Anthony Towns, it’s like found money.
He’s a win more basketball player.
Andrew Wiggins is no longer an enigma. I’ve done it.
Is this what Alan Turing felt like after cracking the German enigma code in WWII?
If the Warriors end up playing the Timberwolves in the 3-6 playoff slot (or hell, maybe even the 2-7 playoff spot), the boos will likely rain down on Andrew Wiggins. Fans wanted a player that could drag them to the top of the West and quite honestly, they got that – he just can’t do it alone.