Andrew Wiggins grew up with the nickname "Maple Jordan" as a prep star in Canada, but it's a different Chicago Bulls legend, along with MJ's heir apparent, who the Warriors wing emulates his game after on the defensive side of the ball.
"Kobe," Wiggins said to reporters after the Warriors' 130-108 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night. "He was always into it defensively. Me and one of the coaches here, Aaron Miles, we watched some film on [Scottie] Pippen -- just how he would defend. How he would defend bigs, or guards that are smaller than him. How he would pick up full court. Pippen was ... he was different."
Wiggins has been a perfect fit for the Warriors this season after being acquired in a blockbuster trade with the T-Wolves last season. He showed off his two-way ability perfectly Monday against his former team when he scored 23 points to go along with six offensive rebounds, three steals and three blocks. His plus-22 in plus-minus was a game-high for both sides.
That's why he has earned a new nickname: "Two-way Wiggs."
Wiggins now is averaging a career-high 1.6 blocks per game. He leads all non-big men in blocks per game and total blocks this season with 28. His previous career-high in blocks per game is 1.0 last season, but a big reason why he even reached that mark is that he averaged 1.4 blocks over his 12 games with Golden State.
Bryant was a 12-time All-Defensive player. Pippen made the All-Defensive Team 10 times. Steve Kerr, who was a longtime teammate of Pippen, challenged Wiggins to be an All-Defensive selection this season, and believes he could be well on his way to doing so.
"We talked over the summer about him being an All-Defensive Team member and I don't know if it's going to happen. I think he should absolutely be in consideration," Kerr said after the win.
"The numbers are going to show up pretty well for him. The main thing for us is that he is providing the length and athleticism and energy we desperately needed on the wing. He's doing a hell of a job."
Wiggins no longer has to be a No. 1 scoring option. That's Steph Curry's lane. He still is getting his points while becoming a better defensive player every game.
The Warriors will keep feeding him film of Kobe and Pippen, finding the perfect version of Wiggins that everyone always envisioned of him.