NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh

Warriors' trade for Andrew Wiggins makes little sense

NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh

Andrew Wiggins is a lot of things, but he is not Andre Iguodala. On some level, that’s an unfair comparison considering Iguodala is, in my book, a future Hall of Famer and, as Steve Kerr calls it, one of the best amplifiers in NBA history. Unfortunately for Wiggins, he doesn’t have much of a choice after Thursday’s trade deadline.

In an alternate world, the Warriors would’ve kept Iguodala last July rather than trading him to Memphis, along with a protected 2024 first-round pick, to clear up the cap space to acquire D'Angelo Russell. Instead, they pivoted and took a chance on Russell and insisted he wasn’t a rental. Turns out, he was. After four months and 33 games, the Warriors sent the former All-Star guard to the Timberwolves for Minnesota’s 2021 first-round pick (top-3 protected), a 2021 second round pick and Wiggins.

That seems a lot of work to acquire a player that struggled to live up to the hype of being the No. 1 pick and has since struggled to live up to his massive contract. 

Wiggins does fill a position of need on the wing, but I think the Warriors could have done better, either by holding onto Russell this season and dealing him this summer in a shallow free agency, or by finding another wing player to swap for Russell. If I’m dealing Russell to Minnesota, I would’ve much rather had Robert Covington and Gorgui Dieng than Wiggins. At least Covington has shown a long track record of filling the role that Wiggins is about to play.

 

I just don’t see how Wiggins fits next to the Warriors’ core of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Statistically, Wiggins is one of the least capable 3-and-D players in the NBA. 

On the defensive end in particular, it’s not pretty. He ranks 430th among 481 players in ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus. If you don’t like that metric, you can point to the fact that he averages just 0.9 steals per 100 possessions, tied for the second-lowest rating among all small forwards, according to Basketball Reference. Over at Synergy Sports tracking, Wiggins ranks in the eighth percentile among defenders in points-per-play allowed. I repeat: it’s not pretty.

Wiggins has carried a reputation that he doesn’t put in enough effort defensively, but maybe the numbers were missing something. I asked a longtime NBA scout for his opinion on Wiggins’ defensive play. The response: “Poor. One-way player.”

Turning Wiggins into even a passable defensive player will be an enormous challenge. Maybe the light comes on for Wiggins in Golden State. Maybe Green’s fire-breathing intensity and brilliant basketball IQ will rub off on the former No. 1 overall pick. Maybe Wiggins will bust his tail defensively now that he’s in a winning organization.

But you know who had a worse defensive RPM than Wiggins this season? Russell. He ranked 466th out of 481. The light certainly didn’t come on for him in Golden State. The same sort of “change of scenery” hope didn’t work for Russell, who struggled defensively to make an impact just as he did in Brooklyn.

But Russell was at least efficient on the offensive end. Wiggins hasn’t shown the ability to consistently shoot the 3-ball in Minnesota. In six seasons, he’s a career 33.2-percent shooter from downtown. This season, he’s shooting 33.1 percent on 6.1 attempts per game. It’s true that Wiggins is shooting 36 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s, which is better and more aligned to what he’ll do in Golden State, but he still ranks 107th among 158 players with at least 100 catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts this season. 

In November, I wrote a deep dive looking at how the remodeled Minnesota organization was trying to improve Wiggins’ efficiency and his attention to detail. But after a strong start, Wiggins’ efficiency fell back down to Earth and the team went into a tailspin, rattling off two double-digit losing streaks. After thirteen straight losses, the Wolves decided it was time to move on. The Warriors will now try their hand.

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