Warriors

Wiggins' defensive improvement summed up in stunning stat

Warriors
Andrew Wiggins playing defense

A day after the Warriors traded for Andrew Wiggins in a deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves last February, Golden State coach Steve Kerr made his expectations known to the former No. 1 overall draft pick.

"Defensively, we will ask him to take on the challenge of what that position entails," Kerr told reporters at the Warriors' San Francisco practice facility on Feb. 7, 2020. "Guarding some of the best players in the league and adapting to our schemes and terminology."

Skepticism was warranted, considering Wiggins' well-earned reputation as a subpar defender during his time in the Twin Cities. That didn't stop Kerr from placing All-Defensive expectations on Wiggins heading into the 2020-21 NBA season, and the 25-year-old has risen to the occasion.

Wiggins' defended field-goal percentage -- that is, his opponents' shooting percentage with him as their defender -- is among the best out of players who see the most action on defense, as the Warriors Subreddit observed on Twitter on Tuesday.

That mark is not only among the league's elite, but it's easily the best mark of his career. Prior to this season, Wiggins' opponents had shot no worse than 45.0 percent from the field, according to NBA Advanced Stats. Opponents shot better against him than other defenders in each of his previous six NBA seasons, too.

This season, opposing shooters' overall field-goal percentage is 7.8 percentage points worse (38.5 percent) when guarded by Wiggins, and the same is true at every spot on the floor. Players guarded by Wiggins have a 3-point shooting clip that's 8.2 percentage points worse (30.0 percent) and shoot 5.7 percentage points worse within six feet of the basket (53.1 percent).

 

Among the 163 players who defended at least 200 field-goal attempts entering Tuesday, only San Antonio Spurs Jakub Poeltl had held opponents to a greater field goal percentage-points difference (minus-8.4) than Wiggins.

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The Warriors entered Tuesday with the NBA's sixth-best defensive rating (109.0), exceeding Kerr's preseason goal of Golden State having a top-10 defense. Draymond Green remains the driving force of that unit, but Wiggins is playing like one, too.

Kerr's expectations the day after Wiggins' trade set a high bar for a player who hadn't been a dynamic defender up to that point in his NBA career, but Wiggins has cleared it so far this season.

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