Runnin' Plays

How Andrew Wiggins won over Damion Lee, Warriors with quest to improve

How Andrew Wiggins won over Damion Lee, Warriors with quest to improve

The Warriors didn't see a whole lot of Andrew Wiggins, but they saw enough to get excited.

Wiggins, who joined Golden State ahead of February's NBA trade deadline, played just 12 games with the Warriors before the NBA season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. He averaged 19.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game in that stretch, winning over his new teammates in the process.

"I love Wiggs," Warriors guard Damion Lee said of Wiggins on this week's episode of the "Runnin' Plays" podcast. "He's quiet and reserved, but even from the point of just playing with him from the first game even until the last game that we had, you can tell that he knows how to play the game and wants to continue to learn more."

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The Cleveland Cavaliers drafted Wiggins No. 1 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, headlining a trade to the Minnesota Timberwolves that brought Kevin Love to Northeast Ohio. Wiggins showed flashes and even signed a max contract that went into effect ahead of the 2018-19 season, but he never consistently put it together in the Twin Cities. The 25-year-old never shot better than 46 percent from the field (or 36 percent from beyond the arc) with the T-Wolves while also struggling on the defensive end.

Wiggins' arrival in the Bay Area was a breath of fresh air, the Warriors said, because of their hole on the wing after signing-and-trading Kevin Durant and outright trading Andre Iguodala last summer. Warriors assistant coach Ron Adams was pleased with Wiggins' defense, and the 1.3 steals per game Wiggins averaged with Golden State before the shutdown would've, if sustained over the course of a full season, been his career high.

The forward's role will look much different next season, as it's difficult to imagine Wiggins averaging 15-plus field-goal attempts per game while playing alongside a healthy Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Coach Steve Kerr isn't expecting Wiggins to be a star once Curry and Thompson return, and Lee said Wiggins' versatility will allow him to thrive in a reduced role.

"He can shoot it, can make plays, can create," Lee continued. "He had a game where he had 10 assists (against the Denver Nuggets on March 3), I think he had another game where he had 10 rebounds (against the New Orleans Pelicans on Feb. 23). He has it, and obviously once the whole band is back together ... and everyone's healthy, I feel like Wiggs' role will be carved out and he'll be able to excel to the best of his ability."

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Wiggins has had big nights before, but he hasn't sustained them into stardom. His per-game averages with the Warriors this season didn't look all that different from his Timberwolves career (19.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game), but the former No. 1 pick isn't going to carry the same offensive load next season.

The Warriors are counting on that fact bringing out the best in him.