Warriors

Warriors have a Wiggins conundrum in rebuilding contender

Warriors
Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins proved this season that he is a lot more than the player he was -- and wasn't -- during his time with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The one thing he had been lacking for the majority of his career was consistency, whether it was in his shooting efficiency or his defensive effort. He was supposed to be the primary scorer and leader for a team that traded its former face of the franchise, Kevin Love, to acquire him. But Wiggins never became that, and likely never will.

With a fresh start with the Warriors, Wiggins found his consistency by becoming the player he was meant to be: A long, rangy supplementary scorer who can refocus all the extra effort he used to expend on the offense end to his defensive prowess. He became a lockdown defender at the wing position, typically matching up against the opposition's best scorer. Add in a consistent 18.6 points per game on a career-high 38.0 percent shooting from 3-point range, and suddenly, his contract -- which previously was viewed as heavily bloated -- now seems a lot more reasonable. 

Because of that progression, Wiggins could have a bright future with the Warriors as they refocus their efforts to put together a title-contending roster. Or, he could be the centerpiece of a trade that will bring them there.

First, let's take a look at the most likely situation, in which Wiggins remains with Golden State. 

 

Plenty of question marks surround the return of Klay Thompson, and what he will be able to bring to the team when he returns from his two-year absence. Wiggins can play a major role in helping ease Thompson back by taking on the burden of defending the opponents that Klay used to be responsible for and using his great athleticism to slash to the rim and give Klay more room to operate on the outside. In return, Thompson's sharpshooting will create more spacing for Wiggins to succeed, thus making them a pretty ideal pairing. 

Wiggins has the right personality for his role with Golden State. He is quiet and laid back and well-liked within the locker room. There are no unnecessary expectations for Wiggins to be the vocal leader, and the coaching staff doesn't have to worry about him demanding the ball or competing against his teammates for shot attempts. 

A core of Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Thompson and Wiggins could be the perfect mixture of scoring, playmaking and defense that the Warriors could build a reinforced roster around. Factor in the familiarity and chemistry that Curry and Green developed with Wiggins this past season, and the combination could grow even more potent with more time. 

The Warriors value Wiggins very highly, and they would be ecstatic to keep him around for the foreseeable future. But if a star becomes available, Golden State surely will be involved, and Wiggins -- and his contract -- most likely would be involved in any deal.

The big question, of course, is whether or not a star actually will be available on the trade market, and if so, at which position? The Warriors won't be compelled to trade away their best wing for a center or a backup guard. However, if they feel like there is a compliment to Steph, Klay and Draymond that could take them to another level, then that piece most likely will have a salary that will require the Warriors to part with equal money in the form of Wiggins and his $30 million-plus contract.

When the Warriors acquired Wiggins from Minnesota, he was the player with the matching salary that allowed Golden State to trade away D'Angelo Russell and get back the T-Wolves' very valuable top-three protected 2021 first-round pick. In taking on Wiggins, the Warriors were taking a flier on a guy who had a reputation for underachieving. His trade value has improved immensely since then. And while teams typically demand a package of several draft picks as the main return for a star, Wiggins wouldn't be a salary throw-in. Rather, he would be a key asset.

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Due to this development, the Warriors currently are in a better position to compete for any available star than they have been in recent years.

The gap between the potential benefits of acquiring another star and keeping Wiggins for the future has narrowed considerably, however.  And given the growth and improvement the Warriors displayed during their strong finish to the regular season, holding onto Wiggins and keeping the core intact might very well be the best course of action.

 

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