The Warriors Will Salvage Andrew Wiggins' Potential

Liam McKeone
Andrew Wiggins traded to the Warriors
Andrew Wiggins traded to the Warriors / David Berding/Getty Images
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If you're relatively new to the NBA, you may only know Andrew Wiggins as the hyper-athletic but inefficient No. 2 option in Minnesota with an albatross of a contract that does not, in any way, reflect his value on the court. Wiggins is making $27.5 million this season and is averaging a grand total of 22.4 points per game while only shooting 44 percent from the floor.

But the hype for Wiggins coming out of Kansas in 2014 was extremely high, and for good reason. He had a smooth-looking jumper and elite athleticism, even for an NBA player. His case was also helped by being one of the first big "mixtape" players of the modern NBA. I didn't really follow basketball all that closely in the early 2010s, and even I had watched his highlight reels on YouTube. Dubbing him "Maple Jordan" was obviously hyperbole, but it wasn't viewed with the same scorn that it is now.

The point is, Wiggins has always had potential. He was just never able to translate it into winning basketball. He was given his big contract as a result of decent counting stats, but he regularly takes deep mid-range shots early in the shot clock and is disinterested (to put it mildly) most nights on the defensive end of the floor despite his prolific physical gifts. He's never managed to top more than five rebounds per game (again, despite the fact that he can out-jump everyone on the floor most of the time), and his career-high in assists per game is coming this year, racking up a whopping 3.7 per game in 34 minutes per night.

He now has a chance at redemption after he was shipped to the Warriors in a deal for D'Angelo Russell, and his potential will be fully unlocked once the roster is fully healthy. Right now, the Warriors just need warm bodies to play their games and will be trusting Wiggins with primary ball-handling duties until Stephen Curry returns. That probably won't go all that well, but a low-key role next to a healthy Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green is exactly what Wiggins needs to make the impact we all thought he could coming out of the draft.

Having Green barking in your ear all night is an easy way to get anyone motivated to play defense. If Wiggins can stay locked-in on that end of the floor, his length and quickness will allow him to at least hang with the various dangerous wings of the Western Conference. He won't be a LeBron or Kawhi-stopper by any means, but he can make their life slightly more difficult by making the right reads and staying attached to their hip. The culture will also probably help with that; Wiggins won't be "The Man" anymore, and the Warriors have already proven they're more than willing to throw aside individual accomplishments to win basketball games. If Wiggins buys in with the same mentality, he can give them a two-way presence that they don't really have other than Thompson.

Offensively, Wiggins can't thrive as the main option. He relies upon his jumper too much and doesn't take enough deep shots, not to mention his propensity to hoist up a bad shot instead of passing the ball. But next to Curry and Thompson, he'll never be that main option. All they need him to do is be able to drive and kick when the defense inevitably collapses on his two star teammates. Three assists per game isn't a lot, but it is more than he's ever averaged per game so far, and indicates at least a willingness to make the right read and pass the rock-- an improvement over past years.

Whatever you want to say about him, Wiggins can definitely score the basketball. His points per game average increased each year he played with Karl-Anthony Towns. He knows how to take advantage of a defense that has its attention directed elsewhere. it doesn't hurt he has Steve Kerr to coach him out of his early midrange shots and increase volume at the rim and from the three-point line.

Golden State has the staff, culture, and teammates to put Wiggins in the best position possible to succeed. This will be his first taste of winning basketball in his career; the Wolves did go to the playoffs with Jimmy Butler, but it didn't sound like anybody really enjoyed that experience. The pressure will be significantly lessened to prove he's worth his contract now that he's no longer with the team that gave it to him, and the Warriors don't need him to score 25 points per game to be competitive. They just need him to play focused and efficient basketball-- if he can do that, then the best of Andrew Wiggins is yet to come.

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