Andrew Wiggins trade producing glowing results for Warriors early on

Andrew Wiggins trade producing glowing results for Warriors early on

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.

Just for a second, imagine Andrew Wiggins was an unknown player coming up from the G League. His monster contract did not exist, and the years of underwhelming defense and inefficient scoring were unknown. With the slate wiped clean, how would an unbiased analysis of Wiggins' first three games as a Warrior look? Simply fantastic.

But the reality is that three games is a very small sample size, and his history and contract do exist. There is reason to have skepticism and doubt about his early Warriors returns. But president of basketball operations Bob Myers, head coach Steve Kerr and the whole organization also must be thrilled by what they have seen from Wiggins, so far.

Keep in mind that Wiggins has had many flashes of brilliance throughout his career. Take, for example, November of this season. He was sensational in that month, scoring 27.1 points per game, while shooting a highly efficient 48.3 percent from the field and 39.5 percent from 3-point range. He also added 5.3 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.4 blocks per game during that stretch. Those impressive numbers were over an 11-game period in which many thought Wiggins finally had turned a corner and was becoming the player who once was destined to be the NBA's next great superstar.

But the next 11 games were much different. His shooting became inefficient, and his percentages plummeted to 41.7 from the field and 28.9 from long-range. respectively. Defensively he was unimpressive and the skeptics rightfully returned to their preconceived notions about his game. Unfortunately for Wiggins, this pattern has defined his six-season career and made many vocally question the Warriors' risky move to acquire him and his large contract for D'Angelo Russell.

But Golden State has faith that their culture, system, coaching staff and star players can help mold Wiggins into their ideal starting wing, and the last three games have, at the very least, given a glimpse of their greatest hopes.

In his first week as a Warrior, Wiggins is averaging 23 points per game on an incredibly efficient 57.5 percent from the field and 53.3 percent from deep. His 23 points have come on 13.3 field goal attempts per game, rather than the 22.4 points on 18.8 field goal attempts he put up in the first 42 games this season with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

He has shown an impressive ability to make quick moves off the dribble to attack the hoop, and slash through the lane off the ball. Unlike his days with the Timberwolves, Wiggins is buying into Kerr's free-flowing, ball movement offense, and avoiding unnecessary dribbling and stagnant iso-ball. Per Kerr's wishes, he also is sprinting in transition and using his athleticism and size to beat his defender down the court.

But perhaps more important than his offensive numbers, Wiggins is buying in on defense and showing his real potential to be a piece of a title-contending team next season when Steph Curry and Klay Thompson return. In his first game with the Warriors, Wiggins racked up five steals, the second-highest total of his career, and then against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday, he set a career-high with four blocked shots. His hands have been active in passing lanes and he has used his strength and long physique to hound opponents in man-on-man situations.

There have been a few examples of Wiggins appearing confused in the defensive sets and getting beat backdoor for easy buckets, but that is partly because he is learning a completely new defensive system with brand new teammates who he must create chemistry with.

It is important to yet again caution Warriors fans. It only has been three games thus far. The team will get to see Wiggins play alongside Curry sometime in March, which will be a highly scrutinized and examined stretch of games. Myers and Kerr are using these last few months of the season to integrate Wiggins into the system and have him learn their style and culture, while at the same time, learning Wiggins' strengths and weaknesses up close.

This whole project will be a work in progress. But the very early, too-soon-to-really-tell results are in, and they are glowing.

How new NBA draft rules affect Warriors' ability to evaluate prospects

How new NBA draft rules affect Warriors' ability to evaluate prospects

The global coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the world, affecting how businesses function. For the NBA, the COVID-19 virus has the league's season in peril.

In the latest twist, the league is adjusting how team personnel can evaluate NBA draft prospects, and it could have a direct impact on what the Warriors do with one of the top overall picks.

The latest rule changes, reported by The Athletic and ESPN on Monday, will affect teams' preparation for the 2020 NBA Draft, which is scheduled to be held June 25 in Brooklyn, New York. Under the new structure, which adheres to social distancing guidelines, teams will be permitted to spend up to four hours in virtual meetings with a prospect during the pre-draft process. Of that time, teams can only spend two hours per week talking to each prospect.

In-person workouts or requesting that a player workout via live video have been prohibited by the league, The Athletic's Shams Charania reported.

While the rule change hurts most prospects, players like center James Wiseman and guard LaMelo Ball are greatly hindered by the development.

And the Warriors' ability to properly evaluate Wiseman and Ball is equally affected.

In just 12 games in his lone season in Australia's NBL, Ball averaged 17.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 6.8 assists before a foot injury cut his season short. Despite averaging double digits, he shot just 37 percent from the field against inferior competition. Ball hasn't played in a game since late November.

Meanwhile, Wiseman averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds in just three college appearances before withdrawing from Memphis amid recruiting violations. His last game was on Nov. 12.

There just isn't a lot of recent video of either player for teams to evaluate.

Each player will be subjected to digital video chats featuring general managers, coaches and front office staff. The setup isn't ideal for either side.

Players -- especially those with something to prove like Wiseman -- where hoping to make an impression on teams who have limited film. In Ball's case, he wanted a chance to show he has improved his weaknesses

For teams, it strips away the ability to evaluate a player in person, which helps get a better grasp of the human element, similar to the final step of a job interview.

[RELATED: Warriors not high on Wiseman, Ball]

The first test case of this practice is the NFL, who will hold the first virtual draft in its history later this month. Only the NFL has been able to hold its combine last month, giving teams a chance to interview players in person, providing an advantage NBA team personnel do not have. 

The Warriors personnel, along with the rest of the league, will have their work cut out for them as the coronavirus timeline continues to define a new normal for sports.

Chris Paul hilariously explains why he fake laughed at Steve Kerr joke

Chris Paul hilariously explains why he fake laughed at Steve Kerr joke

Chris Paul can laugh at some, but not all, of his history with the Warriors.

The hyper-competitive Oklahoma City Thunder point guard joked in an Instagram Live session Monday with Steph Curry about the two-time MVP's ankle-breaking crossover on Paul when he was a member of the Los Angeles Clippers. But Paul said Monday that his often-GIF'd fake laugh from an on-court conversation with Steve Kerr is, well, no laughing matter.

Kerr cracked wise with Paul, by then a member of the Houston Rockets, during the Warriors' 116-108 loss in Houston on Jan. 20, 2018. Paul hadn't forgotten the bad blood of the Clippers-Warriors rivalry from his LA days, carrying that tension to a team that the Warriors had eliminated in two of the preceding three postseasons.

The Warriors would bounce the Rockets in the 2018 Western Conference finals and again in the second round the following year. Golden State overcame a three-games-to-two series deficit in 2018 and then eliminated the Rockets in 2019 despite injuries to Kevin Durant and Andrew Bogut.

Both of Paul's playoff runs in Houston ended on the Rockets' home court at the Warriors' hands, and the Game 6 loss in last year's second round marked the final time he suited up for Houston. Paul was traded to the Thunder in exchange for Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook the following season.

[RELATED: Warriors' Paschall explains why he became two-foot jumper]

He wouldn't have had to worry about facing the Warriors this postseason, and Golden State was eliminated from playoff contention prior to the NBA suspending its season last month after Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Despite that, something tells me Paul won't laugh about his fake laugh any time soon.