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Opinion

Keep one eye on Andrew Wiggins

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9th February, 2021
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Andrew Wiggins has just cracked the top ten in All Star voting for the west and funnily enough, it’s not totally wrong.

More eyes on my league pass MVP Stephen Curry means more eyes on his supporting star. But if you are not already keeping an eye on Wiggins’ development, I highly recommend you do, because he still might become great.

It’s no secret that particular teams in the league are better at developing young players than others. A primary reason is that some teams have built upon an alive culture of winning basketball and some haven’t. Some teams never had it in the first place.

But what makes the draft process so amusingly unfair is that a winning culture is not a default characteristic of teams that acquire these lottery players.

In fact, it is often on the rookies themselves that have to mould a franchise into a winning direction. This challenge only becomes more insurmountable when a team has spent a good half of a decade intentionally losing games, or as it is called, tanking.

When you push a 19-year-old into this environment, play him nearly 36 minutes a game, change his coach nearly every season, hand him the max and tell him constantly that one day he’s going to be an all-time great, it might not always work out.

Basketball

(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Coming into the 2014 draft, Wiggins was compared to the likes of Tracy McGrady and Clyde Drexler. They were two great players that thrived on their individual talent and loved being the number one guy, and because of that, they did not win very much.

It was only after their primes had eventually faded that they took lesser roles on established teams in pursuit of getting what really mattered: a ring.

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Drexler realised this earlier and came out a champion playing behind Hakeem Olajuwon. McGrady was not so lucky.

I never believed Wiggins was ever going to be the leading guy on a championship team, but neither was Antoine Walker, Rasheed Wallace, Robert Horry or James Worthy. Yet they were all great.

Why? Because these terrific forwards realised they could obtain greatness by riding in the passenger seat all the way to a championship.

This is a totally achievable path for Wiggins, as when Klay Thompson makes his return, along with the imminent ascension of James Wiseman and to a lesser extent Kelly Oubre Jr, the Warriors will be right back making a push in the playoffs.

If Thompson comes back to 90 per cent of what he was, which is likely since he is a shooting specialist, that is one deep starting five that can play any style they choose.

Whether intentional or not, Wiggins being traded to the Golden State Warriors was the best thing that ever happened in his career. The eye test alone tells anyone that Wiggins is feeling himself in the bay, especially in contrast to how he looked in the small-market, high-pressure Timberwolves.

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One element of Wiggins’ progression this year has been the guidance of Draymond Green. I could make the case that there is no better veteran for looking over young guys’ shoulders than that man himself.

How many players can you name that rebound and block like a centre, defend all five positions like a versatile wing, and facilitate like a point guard, doing all this as an undersized power forward?

But on top of this, he actively stands up and mentors his new teammates. I’m talking about a guy so passionate he got ejected from a game for yelling at his own teammate, James Wiseman.

Wiseman can also play a similar role as old stomping teammate centre Karl-Anthony Towns. It will be very interesting seeing this dynamic transition through the next few seasons, hopefully leading to a more evolved pick-and-roll duo than what we saw in Minnesota.

Wiseman also acts as a more valuable future franchise piece, lessening the role Wiggins previously played as the soon to be legendary guard that will drag our hapless franchise to unprecedented playoff success any year now.

The fact is that the Green effect is already operational in Wiggins’ game: career high in blocks while tallying a career high in assists per 36 minutes, all while playing the lowest minutes of his career. This is what happens when you trade in Taj Gibson for an elite veteran.

Wiggins is no bust because busts don’t put up nearly 20 a night on just over 30 minutes a game. Wiggins just needed the different environment, a little guidance and to not walk off the court every night after a 15-point loss.

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He has not even had a major injury yet. So next time you watch the Warriors jam out, keep an eye on Wiggins. You might see something different.