'22 Season Review: How Andrew Wiggins anchored the Warriors' title run
Wiggins Island is officially the home of a champion.
The following is a conversation on NBA champion Andrew Wiggins’ season between Daniel Hardee and Thomas “Dr. Tom” Bevilacqua, the author of “Golden Age: The Brilliance of the 2018 Champion Golden State Warriors”.
Daniel: Hear ye, hear ye! The two prophets of Wiggins Island have a special message for Dub Nation on this day, delivered directly to the HQ first!
IT’S TIME FOR THE ANDREW TWO-WAY ALL-STAR PLAYOFF WIGGINS SEASON REVIEW!
We here at DNHQ went from arguing about whether acquiring Wiggins in 2020 ruined Golden State’s chances to ever compete again, to grateful Warriors fans frantically swimming towards Wiggins Island to buy timeshares before it reaches max capacity.
That’s because the 6-foot-7, 27-year old wing was an anchor of GSW’s championship success last season. He played in 73 games and averaged 17.2 PPG, 4.5 REB PPG, 2.2 AST, while shooting 46.6% shooting from the field, 39.3% from 3PT range, and 63.4% at the free throw line. He was a steadying, positive force for Golden State during their epic run and the ultimate example of how the Warriors’ mystical chemistry can revitalize careers.
Annnnd we can’t forget Wiggins established himself as the most ferocious dunker the Warriors have had since Baron Davis and Jason Richardson roamed Oracle.
Dr. Tom: That man absolutely ended Luka Doncic with that dunk in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals.
But it didn’t just start in the playoffs, though we’ll want to spend a good amount of time talking about that stretch for him. If you take a look at Wiggins’ splits by month, he arguably had his best stretch of the season in November, when the Warriors really needed him (with Klay not back).
Daniel: Yep! He kept the Dubs rolling despite missing an Olympian in Klay Thompson. Let’s also not forget that Wiggins was keeping the Warriors surging during some terrible off-nights for Stephen Curry that literally had the fanbase wondering if the best player alive was declining.
Dr. Tom: That game against the Timberwolves where he threw down that dunk shows that. Steph was playing good (for any other player) but wasn’t making his threes. Jordan Poole couldn’t buy a bucket. The Warriors needed someone to step up and Wiggins goes out there and really takes it to a team that turned out to be good/made the playoffs (but Rudy Gobert is going to put them over the top…. Hahahaha but I digress).
Daniel: Interesting that Wiggins had 35 points (his highest scoring game this season) against his former teammates on the Timberwolves. Maple Jordan was reminding Dub Nation that he had an extra gear in him for games that revved him up emotionally.
Dr. Tom: Not to jump ahead, but think about his playoffs and his rebounding and defensive intensity. It was through the roof. This coming from a player some people (cough Brady Klopfer cough) think sits back too much and doesn’t really affect the game as much as he should.
It really stood out in the playoffs but in the regular season, particularly in that strong start, it was there.
Daniel: LOL yikes. Back to Wiggins’ regular season, he was quite effective scoring with spot up jumpers, scoring out of pick-and-rolls, transition buckets, cuts, and offensive rebound putbacks. Here’s the numbers per Synergy:
Not bad for a guy who was fourth on the team in points per game; most teams would kill for this quality efficiency from a fourth option!
And in Golden State’s signature wins throughout the regular season Wiggins gave us plenty of context clues that both he and the Dubs were primed for a deep postseason run.
Wiggins had 24 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocks in the January win against the Brooklyn Nets when the Splash Bros combined to go 10-of-32 from the field.
On New Years Day he had 25 points and knocked down 4-of-6 treys in a road win against the eternal DARKHORSE CONTENDER UTAH JAZZ. In ESPN’s recap of the game they called this W a “major road victory over an elite Western Conference foe” hahahaha.
Wiggins also averaged 22 PPG on 55% shooting (45% from beyond the arc daaaamn) in Golden State’s regular season sweep of the Miami Heat, the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Dr. Tom: One of those Miami games came during that stretch at when Steph was out with the foot injury and wins were at an absolute premium for the Warriors. Then Wiggins goes out there to lead the team to a much-needed win against a really good team.
I’m sure someone will tell me why individual plus/minus is a bad stat but… in a game against the powerhouse Utah Jazz when they still didn’t have Steph, Wiggins really played that glue-guy role to get the Warriors a win when they really had to struggle to get one.
Also, he was able to affect the game while not just filling the stat sheet. Wiggins had a good statistical game but he wasn’t the one pouring it in. In what is going to become a theme… it really undermines the narrative certain people try to sell on Wiggins.
(Related—who thought it was a good idea to put faith in the Jazz? Who? Who thought Rudy Gobert could be a championship-level big man? My guy just caught another stray but… whatever, good luck with Karl-Anthony Towns in Minny.)
Daniel: Hey did you know Wiggins has not only posterized Big KAT before, but he’s also already destroyed THE STIFLE TOWER?!
BUT I DIGRESS!
Dr. Tom: Moving on… based on how he played against the Celtics in the regular season…shouldn’t we have known he was going to shut down Boston? That night only Steph scored more points for the Warriors than Wiggins, while Jayson Tatum was forced into an inefficient night and Jaylen Brown turned it over a bunch.
The clues were all there there! Why is anyone surprised?
Daniel: Wiggins also did a supreme job throughout the regular season of neutralizing the opposing team’s point/wing scorers:
Luka Doncic: 10-of-22, 6 turnovers, 1 assist
LeBron James: 7-of-22, 4 turnovers, 3 assists
Anthony Edwards: 5-of-9, 6 turnovers
Tyrese Maxey: 2-of-10
Donovan Mitchell: 3-of-16
Ja Morant: 5-of-17
Jayson Tatum: 1-of-7
Dejounte Murray: 5-of-16
Devin Booker: 2-of-7
Mike Conley: 3-of-10
There were PLENTY of signs that Wiggins could hit the postseason as a robust scoring option with elite defensive chops. I mean, he was a freakin’ starter in the All-Star game!
For those wondering how Playoff Wiggs’ defense fared against ELITE UNSTOPPABLE SCORERS in the postseason:
Tatum shot 21-of-56 (37.5%) from the field with Wiggins as a primary defender with 8 turnovers and only two FTA!
Doncic shot 23-of-48 (48%) from the field with 11 turnovers with Two-Way Wiggs harrassing him.
And poor Jaylen Brown shot 2-of-13 (15.4%) when defended by Wiggins in the Finals.
Dr. Tom: That’s the thing–Wiggins’ playoff performances were great but they should not have been surprising. What he did was really what he’d been doing… all season? Since he came over to the Warriors/was freed from the burden of Karl-Anthony Towns?
This is who Wiggins has been since being traded. The folks who were so invested in this being the worst trade ever and Wiggins a player who cannot succeed just refused to see it.
The game everyone will remember of the 2022 NBA Finals is Steph’s Game 4. Rightfully so. But let’s spare a thought for Wiggins’ Game 5. The series in the balance and Steph not being able to make a three-pointer and Wiggins not only leads the Warriors in points and rebounds but absolutely locks up Tatum in the fourth quarter.
The narrative around Wiggins was an empty stat, high athleticism but not a winner, low enthusiasm kind of player. We knew that wasn’t the case but as if to hammer that point home he did it on the biggest stage with a title hanging in the balance.
Daniel: Funny, it seemed like whoever Wiggins blanketed became an empty stat type of player. Anyways, Wiggins kept having those big-time moments during the postseason that really swung momentum Golden State’s way.
Playoff Wiggs averaged 16.4 PPG and 7.5 rebounds during the postseason…which BARELY trailed rebounding legend Kevon Looney for team high in boards (Loon averaged 7.6 REB). We CANNOT ignore how the former #1 draft pick morphed into a dominant rebounder when the undersized Dubs needed it most.
His 34 rebounds in the first round series against Denver led the Dubs.
His 42 rebounds in the Grizzlies series was more than any Memphis player tallied.
His 36 rebounds in the Dallas series was 2nd highest for Golden State.
And in the NBA Finals he wrestled down 53 rebounds, more than any other player in the series!
Wiggins discussed his ascension on his teammate Andre Iguodala’s podcast “Point Forward”:
Dr. Tom: You’re absolutely right noting how Wiggins turned those star players into empty-stat stars at best. Luka, for example, was able to get his because he’s a great player. But it was an absolute grind and those buckets never came when the Mavericks needed them.
Think about all these great playoff moments we’re talking about for Wiggins, who was only playing in the postseason for the second time in his career. He stepped up and was clearly the second-best player on a team with title aspirations (that they fulfilled).
He showed EXACTLY why the Warriors wanted to trade for him this season, but especially in the playoffs. He showed exactly why those of us who could see were excited about this trade once everyone was back and healthy.
Daniel: What makes Wiggins such a perfect fit for this championship team in your opinion?
Dr. Tom: For one thing, the athleticism that he possesses. The way Wiggins crashed the glass against some pretty physical teams in Memphis and Boston was a sight to behold. How many comparable wings in the league would do that? How many wings who even rank better than Wiggins would do that?
But beyond that more obvious point, his versatility and his willingness to see his role on this team in terms of who he is not what he does. Wiggins can be the tip of the spear, he can be the complimentary scorer next to Steph, he can be the no-stats glue guy.
He can and is willing to be whichever of those guys the Warriors need. Also, Wiggins seems to realize his value to this team is just… him. Not him as any one of those things or playing those roles.
That’s what doomed him in Minnesota. Well, one of the things that doomed him. His value was always to be the number-one draft pick and to thus play like one.
With the Warriors, sometimes he does need to be that guy. Other times he doesn’t. But his value to the team and his place within it isn’t determined by which role he’s playing on a given night.
His skill, his athleticism, those things are all important. But what makes Wiggins an ideal member for this Warriors squad is that mindset.
Daniel: And that’s why we should trade him along with James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, and Moses Moody for Ben Simmons!