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Golden State Warriors

Can the Golden State Warriors unlock Andrew Wiggins' defensive potential?

Andrew Wiggins' arrival in Golden State has been met with praise and excitement of all kinds.

The hype and at times hyperbole flying around Wiggins and the Warriors has felt as if the Canadian was just picked up in a draft. But with Wiggins now finding a new beginning with a franchise that has been the class of the NBA for the past six or seven seasons, there's certainly a lot to look forward to.

At this point, we know what Wiggins is ... right? A walking bucket who, when motivated, has the tools to be a potential All-Star. The problem is the potential has never truly been unlocked for us to see it.

MORE: Fact or Fiction: Four questions facing Wiggins and new-look Warriors

His new head coach Steve Kerr actually called Wiggins underrated in a post-game press conference, feeling that the narrative surrounding the Canadian had gone too far in the other direction.

"He's one of those guys who people have said he's overrated now for a couple of years and he's become underrated because you look at what he does, you look at his size, you look at the way he defends ... the guy is a damn good NBA player.

"It seems like people have forgotten that."

His great potential certainly can be unlocked with the Warriors. There really aren't any excuses even the biggest Wiggins supporters can make if it doesn't pan out in Oakland.

NBA.com's Scott Rafferty took a look at how the 25-year-old can fit with the Warriors prior to his first game. Rafferty made great points about the ways Wiggins can fit right into Golden State's system offensively, and we truly won't know what that looks like until the team is fully healthy.

But since his arrival to the Warriors, none of his teammates or coaches seem to be fixated solely on his offence. Everyone seems to be going out of their way to compliment his defensive ability.

And in only a handful of games, Wiggins' defensive impact and potential have shone through.

You can ask many coaches what goes into great defence and you may get a million different answers, but the principles for most great defenders come from three key components: effort, anticipation and trust.

Effort

You don't have to spend a ton of time watching film to see a lack of effort defensively from Wiggins in far too many occurrences in Minnesota.

Most of that was on him and that defensive apathy is something he's going to have to eliminate from his game in Golden State. But being around veterans like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green will also assure that he doesn't have as many lapses defensively.

Even without Curry and Thompson, Wiggins has already shown more effort on the defensive end of the floor on a more consistent basis with the Warriors.

In a game where he had a career-high four blocks against the Phoenix Suns, Wiggins showed that effort defensively on multiple possessions.

This block was more effort than we've seen from Wiggins throughout most of his time in Minnesota. From guarding the inbounder, to switching and fighting through the pick-and-roll, to recovering from the initial mistake of falling for Devin Booker's pump fake, to hustling back in a position to contest the shot. It's a small clip, but that's the sort of effort that will keep Wiggins on the floor in Golden State and the type of effort that can turn him from a disappointing defender to a reliable one.

Anticipation

Wiggins has the size, length and athleticism that should lend to him being an elite defender. Again, we haven't seen it on a consistent enough basis to put him in the class of the great defenders the league has to offer. But there's been some encouraging signs already in his time in a Warriors uniform to show that he's not only using his athleticism to defend, but also his smarts.

The clip above is again from his four-block game against the Suns. We saw the effort before, now here's the anticipation.

Wiggins passes off Booker in the screen-and-pop scenario and picks up Rubio, who's driving hard toward the rim. Wiggins couldn't cut him off but knew the only way Rubio was going to be able to get a good look off at the pace he was coming in at was to go for the reserve layup attempt. Instead of giving up the easy hoop, look how Wiggins was able to anticipate the shot and beat Rubio to the punch, pinning his layup attempt against the glass.

The great shot blockers in the league all have elite anticipation. When he matches his athleticism with anticipation, Wiggins is tough to score against.

Trust

It was clear by the end of his tenure in Minnesota that there was a lack of trust developing between Wiggins and his teammates on the defensive end.

Trae Young had 29 points at that point in the game and had been red hot from three.

In the freeze-frame, take a look as the other Timberwolves defenders stand no man's land as Wiggins tries his hardest to fight over the screen.

On the flip side, Wiggins can trust that his help will come when he's on the floor with great defenders like Green and Thompson in Golden State.

Wiggins does a great job here of cutting off the driving Derrick Jones Jr. and while he was busy focusing on stopping Jones Jr., a lurking Green comes in with the poke away. Again, a small possession, but it's something that Wiggins hasn't yet had the ability to play with in his NBA career - the trust that an All-NBA defender in Green and eventually Thompson will be there to have his back when he's locked in defensively.

"I think he can be an All-Defensive player," Draymond Green told reporters just after the All-Star break. "That's one of my goals for him. As a leader of this team, one of my things that I really want to push him on.

"He has all the tools he has the athleticism - reminds me a lot of Kevin [Durant] as a defender where they're both long and lanky, but agile and can move - very skinny guys, but not weak.

"From that aspect, he reminds me a lot of Kevin - Kevin is a great defender."

Some of the great defenders we've seen in the league history have been able to stand on the shoulders of great team defence. Now Wiggins gets the benefit of experiencing that.

It's only been a handful of games with his new team but the numbers support Wiggins' defensive impact on the perimeter. Opposing players are shooting just 29.8% from 15-feet and beyond when Wiggins is defending them and just 29.3% from 3-point range, according to NBA Stats. It's a small sample size of six games, but that's an encouraging start, especially considering he's yet to play with Curry and Thompson.

Does that mean Wiggins is destined to win Defensive Player of the Year? Probably not.

But with all the talk about what he can bring to this team defensively, his biggest gift to the Warriors may be his value on defence.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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