Warriors

Wiggins Getting Wiggy With It

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Take yourself back in time.

It’s February 6th, 2020.

You just woke up, a Warriors fan, to another morning in the midst of the worst season in recent memory. Steph and Klay are sidelined, Kevin Durant is gone, and new star D’Angelo Russell is struggling.

For the first time since 2011, you’re starting to think about the draft before the season even ends.

Then your phone lights up. It’s your Woj Twitter notifications, alerting you of an incoming trade missile. D’Angelo Russell is no longer a Warrior, but Andrew Wiggins is. The season has been officially punted, and now Wiggs is on the squad.

As if the season couldn’t get worse, now you have to watch the butt of countless NBA jokes play for your favorite team.

Wiggins is approaching 100 games played in his Warriors career, and you have almost certainly changed your opinion on him in some way. The man that endured endless abuse during losing Timberwolves seasons is a key cog in the NBA’s best squad.

You could argue he’s playing the best basketball of his career on both ends of the floor right now. How have the Warriors managed to squeeze such incredible play out of a player that seemed incapable of change?

The Shot Diet

The most eye-popping adjustment for Wiggins, both on film and in stats, is where he’s getting his shots up. He’s posted a career-high .364 three-point rate, and most importantly, 31% of his threes come from the corners, where he’s right on making his career average of 41%. Wiggins has taken the fewest percentage of shots from the midrange so far in his career at 29%, while a career-high 12% of field goals have been dunks. It’s a beautiful thing to see on his shot chart:

Not surprisingly, the best shot quality of Wiggins’ career has turned into new highs in efficiency for the former No. 1 overall pick. He’s hitting 56% of his twos, including a fantastic 73% of his looks at the rim. Though 35% is a middling three-point percentage, it’s the third-best of his career, and the volume of corner threes can likely raise this number when his shots above the break begin falling at his typically average clip.

What’s most important is Wiggins is working himself open for these shots, not working on the ball, leading to 70% of his shots coming off an assist. He’s increased his points and shot attempts per 100 possessions from last season despite spending far less time as an on-ball playmaker. This coaching staff and group of veterans is making him work off the ball, using his strength, athleticism and wingspan to become a better off-ball scorer.

Here’s an example of the coaches creating easy looks for Wiggins at the rim, and the veterans (Andre and Steph) being able to execute:

He’s still been a solid driver on the whole, pressing advantage situations against smaller defenders when given the opportunity. The volume of drives is down as his on-ball reps decrease, but he’s still effective:

This shift from needing on-ball possessions to score to being primarily an off-ball threat has been a welcome adjustment for a Warriors squad that has no room for ball-dominant wings. He’s long and dangerous cutting around the floor with Steph and Draymond’s court vision around. The extra dimensions of Jordan Poole‘s playmaking and eventually Klay’s spacing can keep this engine running.

As long as he’s dunking like this, he’ll keep the team happy on offense.

His Perimeter Defense is Outstanding

As Wiggins has learned to cut down on his lapses in judgment and attention on the perimeter, his excellent defense has really stood out in his time with the Warriors. His length, quickness and spring are in sync with his surprisingly good awareness.

Here’s two good sequences showing multiple strengths (and a couple of weaknesses) of his:

Reaction time and footwork have never been the biggest strengths of his, but Wiggins’ superior length and athleticism often make up for it. His verticality in tight spaces contributes to his prolific shot contesting: he’s first among all small forwards in total contested threes, with 53 in 14 games. Last season he was second among ALL players to the Knicks’ R.J. Barrett with 297 three-point contests. Hard work, length and athleticism mean few shots around him are clean.

Though Wiggins is almost 27, he was an overall question mark coming into this season as to whether or not his decision-making and commitment on defense could be consistent. This contributed to the Warriors bringing in plenty of veterans to supplement the big three. Now Wiggins is putting out a lot more good than bad on both ends of the floor and starting to fit into the Warriors’ identity and culture.

Can He Keep This Up?

On the defensive end, I have no doubts he can keep up his level of play. He’s continued to show improvement on that end and there’s no reason to think that should stop. The night-to-night inconsistencies might keep him from approaching All-Defense. But he’s still All-Very Good At Defense at worst.

He also seems to be a good fit with this Warriors culture and group of veterans. He’s pretty quiet publicly and not very expressive on the floor, but the veterans seem to take it on themselves to pump him up.

I’m curious to see if he can keep up this kind of offensive performance. Staying dangerous and effective while working into a new rhythm has been impressive. Will he keep working off the ball for easier baskets or go back to iso ball? Can the jump shots keep turning into drives and dunks? The reincorporation of James Wiseman and Klay Thompson will change this offense even further, and Wiggins will have to adjust again.

Only time will tell if Wiggins has turned into a strong nightly contributor. It’s easy to feel good about the season outlook with all these players in the fold. A lot can happen with injuries and changes in play.

Knowing your healthiest player is playing winning basketball on a nightly basis only adds to the chances of contending.

Follow us on Twitter @DubsLead for the latest Warriors news and insight. 

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About Charlie Cummings

Warriors writer born and raised in the Bay Area. University of Denver graduate currently living in Denver

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