The sixth chapter of Andrew Wiggins' NBA career has come to a close as the Golden State Warriors are not among the 22 teams that will finish the season in Orlando.
His sixth NBA season saw his time come to an end in Minnesota as the Canadian was flipped to the Warriors in a blockbuster trade for D'Angelo Russell. With the change in scenery came a change in expectations for Wiggins who never quite lived up to the burden of stardom that came after being selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft.
Now in the Bay Area and free from the weight of carrying a franchise, Wiggins flashed some promise that he may be able to help accelerate the Warriors' dreams of once again contending for a title. But will it be enough? And more importantly, will he be consistent enough to get Golden State back to that level in the tough Western Conference?
2020-21 is shaping up to be a big year for the former top pick.
For the sake of candidness, the past five offseasons have hinged on the one main question surrounding Wiggins - is this the year he lives up to the potential? The bar may have moved on what Wiggins can be, but the talent is still apparent on a night to night basis.
To start the 2019-20 season, it felt like the light bulb finally went out for the 2015 Rookie of the Year. In his first 11 games of the season, Wiggins averaged 25.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists shooting 36.1 percent from three. Ryan Saunders' plan to put the ball in Wiggins' hands more worked, and with the injuries to an already thin backcourt throughout the season, Wiggins not only had the opportunity to show he could be a playmaker, but he also had the chance to make mistakes.
In November, our Scott Rafferty highlighted Wiggins' playmaking after creating 15 potential assists in a game against the Warriors. Rafferty later teamed up with our Micah Adams to discuss Wiggins' All-Star potential. It almost felt like we were in a twilight zone, falling in love with the Wiggy-hype all over again - dangerous for those who had been burned time and again.
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Though he cooled off some after the hot start, he still managed to produce to the tune of 22.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game over 42 games with the Timberwolves. Scoring was never an issue for the 25-year-old, it was always a question of what he could bring to the table beyond that. This season we finally found out.
Despite what many assumed to be an untradeable contract - one that will see him making $33 million in 2022-23 - he played well enough to convince the Warriors to trade for him.
Wiggins proved he could be more than a passive scorer and now he was being put into a situation that most dream of. A chance to win and a chance to play with some of the most unselfish stars in the NBA.
The Warriors knew what they were getting in Wiggins, but it didn't take long for Wiggins to know what he was getting in Golden State. As Rafferty wrote 11 games into Wiggins' time with the Warriors, the Canadian was finding life easier on the offensive end in Steve Kerr's system. No longer did he have to create offensives opportunities for himself, he was becoming the recipient of great passes.
Defensively he showed promise which was standing out to his teammates. Rookie Eric Paschall gushed about Wiggins' defensive potential.
It's been a small sample size with the Warriors but the path seems positive for Wiggins to be a positive contributor to the team, especially once Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are fully healthy.
So now what?
It feels like we've been here before, right?
Where we feel like this is the year for Andrew Wiggins to live up to the hype. Where the most staunch of Wiggins' supporters preach patience and assure the basketball world that the former number one overall pick will be an All-Star someday.
Here's the thing... they may be finally able to puff they chests out in 2020-21 and unlike previous years, this feels like the proverbial fork in the road moment where there will be no lingering doubt one way or the other. There are no more excuses. Everything is in place in Golden State with a system, coach and teammates that should squeeze out every last ounce of potential. Wiggins will waltz into next season with crystal clear expectations and a defined role that shouldn't weigh too heavily.
All the excuses are out the window.
It's the perfect scenario for Wiggins to be in, one he probably couldn't have dreamed of. Wiggins was never one for the spotlight shying away from any media hype or burden of being Canadian's best player. He won't have to deal with the pressure of being the team's first or second option. He won't have to try and be something he's not.
All Andrew Wiggins has to do in 2020-21 is play basketball. And that's all he's ever wanted to do.
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