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Andrew Wiggins' reps once feared the Warriors were going to trade the young star. Now he's thriving in the Finals

Scott Davis   

Andrew Wiggins' reps once feared the Warriors were going to trade the young star. Now he's thriving in the Finals
  • The Warriors traded for Andrew Wiggins in 2020.
  • Wiggins' agent reportedly asked the Warriors if the struggling young star was in the team's long-term plans.

The Golden State Warriors' gamble on Andrew Wiggins is paying off.

The 26-year-old, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft, has been the Warriors' savior in these NBA Finals. Through five games, he is second on the team in scoring (18.4), first in rebounding (9.4), first in minutes per game (38.3), and he's doing it while hounding Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum on defense.

Wiggins was undoubtedly the best player on the floor during a series-turning Game 5 win for Golden State, leading the way with 26 points and 13 rebounds.

The performances goes to show how much can change in two years. When the Warriors flipped All-Star guard D'Angelo Russell to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Wiggins and a 2022 first-round pick in 2020, it was a bet that they could revive the adrift then-24-year-old. After a promising rookie season in Minnesota, Wiggins began regressing and struggling to live up to the hype that follows a No. 1 pick.

According to ESPN's Zach Lowe, as the Warriors were making the deal for Wiggins, even Wiggins' agent was asking Warriors GM Bob Myers if his client was really in the team's long-term plans.

Lowe recently wrote: "Wiggins' agents pressed Myers behind the scenes, sources say: Were the Warriors interested in Wiggins as a player, or was he salary fodder for the next trade?"

According to Lowe, both Myers and Warriors head coach Steve Kerr were legitimately interested in Wiggins, the player.

"We desperately needed length and athleticism on the wing," Kerr told Lowe. "For me, it wasn't so much about how [Wiggins] might fit the way we play. It was, 'Man we need a body like that.'"

Indeed, at 6-foot-8, with long arms and natural bounce, Wiggins always oozed potential. In Minnesota, however, he often sought out less-efficient jump shots over threes and shots at the rim. He had only a passive interest in playmaking and his defensive intensity waned.

At the time of the deal, Wiggins was also in the second year of a five-year, $148 million deal. It was an open question in the NBA world if the Warriors had just burdened themselves with an unproductive player who would also be tough to move because of his contract.

In Golden State, however, Wiggins has grown more comfortable with a lesser role. He is rarely tasked with being the No. 1 scoring option. Wiggins gets easier scoring opportunities by playing alongside Curry, and he has upped his defensive intensity, a prerequisite for playing on the Kerr-led Warriors.

But in Game 5 on Monday, Wiggins took over, hunting mismatches on offense, hitting the glass, and harassing Boston's top scorers.

Wiggins scored 10 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, relentlessly attacking the basket against Boston's stout defense.

After the game, Wiggins chalked up his performance to being aggressive and doing whatever it takes to help the team win.

Kerr, however, admitted that he didn't imagine Wiggins having this type of impact on the game.

"We knew we needed his athleticism and defense and his versatility," Kerr said. "We had no idea that he would make this kind of contribution. But I think it's a reminder that for almost every player in the NBA, circumstances are everything. You kind of need to find the right place, the right teammates, that kind of stuff. Wiggs has been a great fit."


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