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Golden State Warriors

Inside the transformation of Andrew Wiggins with the Golden State Warriors

wiggins-warriors.jpg
Andrew Wiggins, Golden State Warriors (NBA Canada Illustrations)

Andrew Wiggins has now played in 11 games with the Golden State Warriors.

How has he looked? As always with Wiggins, it isn't the easiest question to answer.

He's won only three games in a Warriors uniform and his scoring is down to 19.3 points per game, which is slightly below his career average. The combination would be cause for concern if he were in just about any other situation considering the amount he's being owed between now and when his contract expires in 2023, but the way in which Wiggins is playing bodes well for his future on this team, specifically when both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson return.

The biggest knock on Wiggins to this point of his career has been his affinity for long 2s and his overreliance on pull-up 3s. Not that there isn't a place for either of those shots in today's NBA, but Wiggins hasn't been particularly good at them. The long 2s have come at the expense of drives to the basket, where he's always shined athletically, whereas the pull-ups have been the source of some shaky 3-point shooting numbers throughout his career.

This, of course, isn't a groundbreaking revelation, and it's something I touched on after he was traded to the Warriors. The hope was that being the third or fourth banana in Golden State would alleviate some of those problems, as it would simplify his options by putting less pressure on Wiggins to lead an offence, allowing him to play more to his strengths.

Even without Curry and Thompson, Wiggins has started to make those necessary adjustments. He's still taking more pull-up 2s than he probably should - it's the one part of his game that hasn't changed since joining the Warriors - but the vast majority of his 3-point attempts have been catch-and-shoot. He's taking a higher portion of his shots in and around the paint as well.

The result: Wiggins is shooting just shy of his career-best from the field (.453). It being a small sample size has something to do with that - it's one thing to score efficiently over 11 games, it's another to do it over an entire season - but he has looked like a different player under Warriors head coach Steve Kerr.

MORE: Can the Warriors unlock Wiggins' defensive potential?

There's a chance his shot selection will become even more refined when he plays with Curry and Thompson, too.

Another notable difference in his game in Golden State is that Wiggins has been more reliant on his teammates to create scoring opportunities for him. According to NBA.com, 60.3 percent of his made field goals with the Warriors have been assisted.

As you can see in the table below, that's up quite a bit from any season in Minnesota and significantly higher than where he was at earlier this season with the Timberwolves.

Andrew Wiggins isn't creating as much offence for himself in Golden State
Season Games Percentage of FGs assisted
2014-15 (MIN) 82 51.9
2015-16 (MIN) 81 54.0
2016-17 (MIN) 82 46.4
2017-18 (MIN) 82 54.5
2018-19 (MIN) 73 53.6
2019-20 (MIN) 42 46.2
2019-20 (GSW) 11 60.3

Could this also be a product of small sample size? Sure. But it's noteworthy because Wiggins is going to have to become more of an off-ball threat to thrive with the Warriors. Context is everything, and he's going from being a team's primary creator on the wing to being behind two players in the pecking order in Curry and Thompson.

While we have only seen Wiggins alongside Curry once, and have yet to see him play with Thompson, we have received a glimpse of how he looks playing alongside Draymond Green. Green isn't the scorer that Curry and Thompson are, but the Warriors run a lot of their offence through him to maximize his passing ability. It's resulted in few forwards having the ball in their hands as much as Green does on a game-to-game basis, both this season and in previous years.

For Wiggins to stick in Golden State, it's a pairing that needs to work, and the burden of proof is on Wiggins and Wiggins alone. Green isn't going anywhere.

MORE: How Warriors should handle return of Curry

There is hope. Turning the pull-up 3s he's struggled to make consistently throughout his career into catch-and-shoot 3s is the first step towards Wiggins becoming a more effective off-ball player, but he also has room to grow as a cutter. While he has long been one of the league's most efficient cutters - the lowest he's ranked in efficiency on those plays is the 68th percentile - it's never been a big part of his game.

Why could that change in Golden State? There are two reasons:

  1. Kerr's system is predicated on player movement and ball movement. The Warriors have led the league in scoring off of cuts and assists in four of the last five seasons, so it's on Wiggins to adapt to their system, not on them to adapt to him. And he should be motivated to adapt to their system because the Warriors are giving him a golden opportunity to change the narrative surrounding his career.
  2. Wiggins has never played with so much talent. Curry and Thompson, specifically, as they are two of the biggest gravity suckers in the NBA. Playing with them will give Wiggins far more room to work with in Golden State than he ever did in Minnesota, and Green is the type of facilitator who will reward him if he becomes a more willing cutter.

That's why it helps that Wiggins has already played in four games with Green.

Despite not having the benefit of Curry and Thompson drawing the attention of the defence, the two have established some chemistry. According to NBA.com, Green set Wiggins up for 11 baskets in those four games, a number of which came on sequences in which Green rewarded him for making a smart and timely cut.

These are the sorts of plays that could happen often if Wiggins embraces being a cutter:

The next step for Wiggins is getting some more reps Curry, who returned for one game but has since been sidelined with an illness.

Even though Thompson has been ruled out for the entire season, the Warriors will be in good shape to hit the ground running next season if they can get Wiggins, Curry and Green on the same page. There's still no guarantee that will actually happen, but Wiggins is setting himself up for future success in Golden State if he continues to play the way he has so far.

"When we plug Steph back in, we're starting to put the puzzle back together," Kerr said recently. "It will be good to have Steph, Andrew and Draymond in place. Next year we'll add Klay to that. We're starting to feel what our team will actually look like."

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