Andrew Wiggins

How Steph Curry played in back-to-back vs. Rockets, Spurs in NBA 2K sim

How Steph Curry played in back-to-back vs. Rockets, Spurs in NBA 2K sim

Editor’s note: With the NBA season halted over coronavirus concerns, Warriors fans have unanswered questions about the team and how it’s building toward the future. To provide answers, NBC Sports Bay Area will simulate some previously scheduled Warriors games through NBA 2K, mixing video-game results with real-life insights for our coverage team.

A number of tests needed to be passed for Steph Curry to be fully integrated back into the Warriors' lineup. Among them was how Curry would play on the road during a back-to-back.

In the virtual world of NBA 2K20, he flourished under the circumstance, leading the Warriors in blowout victories over the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs.

Over the two-game stretch, Curry accumulated 71 points while shooting 60 percent from the field. During the first game of the Texas Two-Step, Curry exploded for 45 points against the Rockets, including 18 in the third quarter, helping the Warriors beat Houston 110-93. A night later, he added 26 points, as the Warriors handily beat the Spurs 108-100.

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Curry's digital outburst came during a unique time for the guard. After missing three months with a broken hand, the former MVP played his first game back from injury March 5. As Curry approached his return, Warriors coach Steve Kerr expressed caution when asked how he'd bring his star guard back into the fold, making the virtual back-to-back uncertain. However, Curry pushed back on the notion of sitting out games down the stretch.

In any case, Curry's digital availability worked out for his newest teammate Andrew Wiggins. Alongside Curry, Wiggins scored 36 points against the Spurs, including 18 points in the first quarter. Nearly two months ago, Wiggins was acquired in large part due to his perceived fit alongside Curry. In their lone real-world experience playing together, the duo combined for 62 points. If virtual play is any indication, Curry and Wiggins are adjusting well to each other's games.

[RELATED: Remembering Warriors' five most memorable playoff moments]

While the two-game stretch was promising, it might not be realistic. Entering league suspension, the Warriors were the worst team in the league, even with Curry on the active roster. While Curry's 2K play was encouraging, he'd still be playing without Klay Thompson, who was going to miss the rest of the season rehabbing a surgically repaired left knee. Additionally, Wiggins' propensity of inconsistent play could hinder a team trying to find rhythm heading into next season.

But as we've found out over the years, Curry makes any team he's on better, whether in actual or virtual reality.

Andrew Wiggins-Steph Curry duo's potential shown in Warriors NBA 2K sim

Andrew Wiggins-Steph Curry duo's potential shown in Warriors NBA 2K sim

Editor’s note: With the NBA season halted over coronavirus concerns, Warriors fans have unanswered questions about the team and how it’s building toward the future. To provide answers, NBC Sports Bay Area will simulate some previously scheduled Warriors games through NBA 2K, mixing video-game results with real-life insights for our coverage team.

Even amid the NBA season suspension due to the global coronavirus pandemic, Andrew Wiggins enters the spring as the Warriors' biggest question mark.

A former No. 1 overall draft pick, Wiggins' potential drops jaws, while his inconsistency is head-scratching. Upon arrival, the Warriors believed his ability would bode well alongside Steph Curry and the team's culture.

In a simulation of the March 28 game against the Oklahoma City Thunder using NBA 2K20, Wiggins showed promise towards that goal in a 117-110 loss.

In the digital confines, Wiggins finished with 35 points, getting most of his buckets within the flow of the Warriors' motion offense.

"I think he really fits well," Draymond Green said of Wiggins last month. "As seamless as it could possibly be, I think he can fit right in. He can score the basketball, he can run the wings, he's a pretty good defender. So I think he'll definitely fit in with this core for a long time."

Similar performances weren't as consistent during Wiggins' first four seasons in Minnesota. Wiggins didn't live up to the expectations that come with being a franchise player. His offensive inconsistency quickly drew the ire of NBA observers. Worse, Wiggins became one of the worst defenders in the league, even after he signed a five-year, $145 million contract.

Nonetheless, the Warriors saw potential in the 25-year old, trading former All-Star point guard D'Angelo Russell, along with Jacob Evans and Omari Spellman, in part to pair Wiggins with Curry. In the 2K simulation, the pairing worked, as the tandem combined for 62 points on the night.

The performance was consistent with Wiggins' lone real-world game alongside the former MVP. Against the Raptors back on March 5, the duo combined for 44 points in Curry's return from a broken left hand.

Curry's first highlight against the Raptors came with the help of his Canadian teammate, when he took a dribble in the lane, drew a double-team and fired a behind the back pass to Wiggins in the lane, leading to an easy layup, surprising Wiggins in the process.

"I didn't even know it was coming, really," Wiggins admitted after the loss to the Raptors. "I was kind of watching like it may come, but then when he went behind the back I was just trying to catch it. It was a hell of a pass."

"I'm very excited," Wiggins added. "He's an MVP player, one of the greats. He helped transition the game with his 3s and how fast he plays. So, I'm excited."

[RELATED: How Steph perform in Warriors-Hawks sim]

Wiggins' virtual performance Saturday coincided with his strong play during his short stint in the Bay Area. In his last five games, he averaged 20 points on 46 percent shooting from the field. If Wiggins continues to build on his current play, the Warriors will see the potential they've wanted all along, making for an intriguing process Wiggins says he's ready for.

"I feel like I've adjusted well," Wiggins told NBC Sports Bay Area earlier in March. "I've never played with anyone as good as him. By far, he's the best player that I've played with. Just getting a chance to learn from him and feeding off him and just learning."

Steph Curry, new Warriors' potential chemistry showcased in NBA 2K sim

Steph Curry, new Warriors' potential chemistry showcased in NBA 2K sim

Editor’s note: With the NBA season halted over coronavirus concerns, Warriors fans have unanswered questions about the team and how it’s building toward the future. To provide answers, NBC Sports Bay Area will simulate some previously scheduled Warriors games through NBA 2K, mixing video-game results with real-life insights for our coverage team.

With the Warriors stuck in the Western Conference cellar, the remainder of this season was set up as an audition for young players, as well as a case study on how Steph Curry would transition from his wrist injury back into a lineup with a new supporting cast.

According to NBA 2K's simulation of Wednesday night’s game against the Atlanta Hawks at Chase Center, the transition won’t be seamless.

Off the jump, the most glaring projection was that Curry wasn’t the primary ball handler. Instead, Damion Lee, Jordan Poole, Mychal Mulder and Draymond Green took turns bringing the ball up the court

Steve Kerr’s insistence on using Curry off the ball has been a point of contention with many Warriors fans over the years. The coach's strategy is simple: The more Curry, and Klay Thompson, run around the court, the more havoc and chaos the Warriors create for the opposing defense. And while Curry has done exactly that, many naysayers rightfully clamor for him to be the focal point of the Warriors’ offense with the ball in his hands, in order to let him create off the dribble and incite chaos on his own. More of a balance between the two philosophies could fit Golden State’s revamped roster.

That especially will be true if the opposing team defends Curry as the Hawks did in this game simulation. They consistently put one defender, usually Trae Young in isolation, on Curry, and that definitely isn’t the way to defend the Warriors star in reality. More often than not, the opposition puts a bigger, longer defender on Curry, and many times brings up another player to throw a double team, making him pass the ball.

In one fourth-quarter scenario, the Hawks finally put a double team on Curry, which freed up Andrew Wiggins for a wide-open 3-pointer. Wiggins could be one of the biggest beneficiaries of this famous "gravity" and the most obvious focal point for Curry's reintegration into the Warriors’ lineup.

With the simulated Hawks refraining to put extra defensive pressure on Curry, there wasn’t a full depiction of how Wiggins could blossom in the Warriors’ fast-paced, ball-movement offensive scheme. Yet a few plays showed off what actually might happen, including that open 3 on the Curry double team.

One of those plays came in the third quarter, when Marquese Chriss came up to set a high ball screen for Curry. Two defenders jumped out to stop Steph, but he penetrated past the initial wave into the key, eventually drawing away the corner defender to leave Wiggins wide open for a corner 3. Wiggins is a much better shooter when he’s in a catch-and-shoot position, rather than having to consistently create off the dribble.

Wiggins also is a great slasher to the rim, which he wasn’t fully able to show with a less-talented Minnesota Timberwolves squad around him, but he displayed that ability during the fourth quarter of this sim. Lee was stuck in the corner with the ball, but he found an opportunistic Wiggins, who shook free of his defender at the top of the key and cut straight to the rim for an easy dunk.

Over the years, Warriors players such as Harrison Barnes and Kevin Durant greatly benefitted by having great shooters spread around the floor, spacing the defense apart and allowing them to slash straight to the hoop. Wiggins, who scored 15 points on 6-of-15 shooting in this sim, should be the new version of exactly that kind of player.

[RELATED: How Curry is staying in shape during NBA hiatus]

The Warriors lost by 10 points in the end because of subpar shooting and sloppy play -- something that fans have grown accustomed to this season. However, with Curry’s reintroduction into the lineup, the game automatically was more exciting. He scored 25 points, and shot 10 of 25 from the field and 5 of 14 on 3-pointers, with all marks leading the team. Chriss joined Curry and Wiggins as the only Warriors in double figures with 11 points.

It’s unfortunate that fans might not be able to see Curry and Co. play an actual game for a while and analyze how the Warriors might look in the future, but these sims definitely can help inspire the imagination.