Andrew Wiggins’ critics all the time focused on what they thought he wasn’t.
Not driven enough to be the No. 1 pick within the draft, they said. Just not adequate to be an All-Star starter, they argued.
Yet another victory by the Golden State Warriors and all that can matter is what Wiggins is: an NBA champion.
“He’s shining on the brightest of stages within the playoffs. You may tell how much he’s having fun with it,” fellow All-Star Stephen Curry said Wednesday. “It’s just amazing to see things figuring out in his favor by way of type of dispelling all of the narratives around him and who he’s as a basketball player right in front of your eyes.”
The Warriors have won two straight games to take a 3-2 lead into Game 6 on Thursday, and Wiggins is as big a reason as any. The forward from Canada had 17 points and a career-high 16 rebounds in Game 4, then followed that with 26 points and 13 boards.
Wiggins had recorded consecutive double-doubles only once in his profession before doing it within the two biggest games he’s ever played.
“It’s all the time great with the ability to showcase what you may do, what you worked for,” Wiggins said. “So I’m just blissful to give you the option to be here on the largest stage and help my team win.”
Even those that desired to dismiss Wiggins needed to concede he could rating. The No. 1 pick within the 2014 draft averaged 16.9 points when he won Rookie of the Yr honors, and he never scored fewer than 17 per game again. But that rarely translated to winning, with Minnesota only making one playoff appearance while he was there, and it was easy to wonder what there was to Wiggins’ game besides the points.
Seems, there’s so much.
Coach Steve Kerr is surprised by how well Wiggins rebounds. On defense, the 6-foot-7 Wiggins has taken on the tough assignments, doing his best to contain Dallas All-Star Luka Doncic within the Western Conference finals and now taking his activates Celtics swingmen Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
It is a versatility the Warriors say they knew was there, regardless of how much it went unnoticed by others.
“He’s taken on every challenge that we now have thrown in front of him, and that’s been huge,” Draymond Green said. “And we want him to do this for another win.”
Skepticism about Wiggins followed him to the NBA after he managed just 4 points in his final college game, when Kansas was upset by Stanford within the 2014 NCAA Tournament. He took only six shots, a lackluster effort that created questions on how hard he was willing to work when things weren’t coming easily.
But Green said he was assured by Tom Thibodeau, the present Knicks coach who guided the Timberwolves to the lone postseason appearance with Wiggins, that the Warriors would love how hard Wiggins defends and competes.
For the primary time in these NBA Finals, the Dubs are leading the series, and Dub Nation is fired up! With impressive performances by Warriors veterans and rookies alike, Celtics fans were left shaking their heads after Game 5, and Warriors fans were outside the Chase Center screaming their heads off.
They’d acquired Wiggins in February 2020 together with a first-round pick once they dealt D’Angelo Russell to Minnesota. Wiggins played well enough to be voted to begin his first All-Star Game this season, though even that did not earn him accolades that had been missing. Wiggins was viewed as a player who had been miscast as a No. 1 option in Minnesota, and the explanation he was playing well for Golden State was because he did not have that burden on a team led by Curry.
Yet when Curry struggled in Game 5, missing all nine 3-point attempts, Wiggins looked every bit the a part of major man.
Curry will likely still be the NBA Finals MVP if the Warriors win the series. But Wiggins has at the very least made it a discussion as an alternative of a foregone conclusion.
“It’s amazing what you do with opportunity,” Curry said. “Take away the comparisons, the narratives around him as a No. 1 pick, what everybody wanted him to be, his first six years within the league looked like. There’s a reason we wanted him here. There’s a reason that trade made sense for us. There was a high hope that he would give you the option to figure it out at this level by way of taking his scoring ability, his athleticism, his defensive potential, just taking it to a different notch.”