Sports

Have you been sleeping on Andrew Wiggins?


This man is having a stretch...

This man is having a stretch…
Illustration: Getty Images

People have been calling Andrew Wiggins a bust for what feels like forever.

And sure, chances are he probably doesn’t live up to his massive contract, his status as a former No. 1 overall draft pick seven years ago, and he might never make an All-Star Game. But Wiggins is still only 26, and just because he hasn’t lived up to the projections outlined for him early on doesn’t make him a failure, or even a bust. There’s still an avenue for Wiggins to become a productive NBA player who could have a lengthy career. And there are stretches where the Golden State Warriors’ swingman is not only effective, but quite good, which is where he’s been for the past month or so.

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On the season, Wiggins’ averages sit at 18.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game while his shooting splits of 48 / 38 / 72 from the field, three-point land, and free-throw line, respectively. The numbers are roughly around his career tallies of 19.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per contest on 45 / 34 / 73 splits.

In the last month, Wiggins has elevated his game, not quite in the way he had been doing in one of the great high school mixtapes you’ll ever see, but he’s improved at a time when the Warriors obviously need him most. In case you haven’t heard, the Play-In games start in a few days, and the playoffs will follow immediately after.

Since April 15, Wiggins is averaging 20.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and even 1.1 blocks per game while producing shooting splits of 48 / 37 / 80 during the 15-game stretch. And in those 15 games, the 37-33 Warriors are 10-5, currently riding a four-game winning streak ahead of tonight’s duel with the Zion Williamson-less Pelicans. If you narrow the sample size to eight games, Wiggins is up to 23.4 points per game (along with about the same rebounds and assists) on splits of 52 / 38 / 83. And, of course, there were his 38 points on 17-of-24 shooting in a 122-116 game against the Phoenix Suns two nights ago, which would’ve been a season-high if he hadn’t dropped 40 points on March 19.

Steve Kerr has taken note of how Wiggins has adapted ever since the former Kansas Jayhawk was brought in via trade 15 months ago.

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“It’s so valuable to have someone who you know you can count on every single night to play big minutes and to guard one of the opposing team’s best players,” Kerr told reporters during a video conference following Wiggins’ 38-point performance.

“Klay’s (Thompson) been that guy for many years, and now Andrew, the same thing. So what I love to think about is next year, having both guys in that role, two guys you can count on to be there night in and night out, because I think that’s what’s going to be the case with Klay. So, we start thinking about that; it gets pretty exciting. But we gotta take care of this year first.”

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During a post-game interview on the floor, some socially distanced Bay Area fans stuck around to chant Wiggins’ name in support and admiration of his 38-point effort.

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Regarding other metrics, Wiggins’ season stands as one of his personal best, which is a good sign for the Warriors since he’s contractually locked in through 2023. His 107 offensive rating per 100 possessions ties his career-high set five seasons ago as a Minnesota Timberwolve. His 111 defensive rating per-100 is the best of his career. Concerning advanced numbers, Wiggins has personal-best tallies on win shares per-48 minutes (.079), Value over Replacement Player (0.8), and Defensive win shares (2.6). It’s worth noting that Wiggins is only sixth in usage rating on the Warriors (23.3), a mark that is the second-lowest of his career only to his rookie season.

The Warriors are currently tied with the Memphis Grizzlies for eighth in the Western Conference. Beyond that, both play winnable games this evening, with the Warriors hosting the Pelicans as the Grizzlies at home against the Kings. Then on Sunday, the Warriors and Grizzlies play each other in a game that will determine who enters the Play-In at No. 8, and at No. 9. They’ve split their earlier season contests, so all your theater remains intact so long as both teams win tonight. Then again, the Los Angeles Lakers have a 74 percent chance of finishing in seventh place, and is that the reward you want for No. 8?

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Regardless, the Warriors are winning and, although he’s questionable for tonight with a knee injury, Wiggins has had a big hand in it.

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