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Why Golden State Was the Perfect Fit for Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins was at a low point in his career when he was traded to Golden State, but the former No. 1 pick soon found himself in the perfect situation.

As of June 17, Andrew Wiggins is the top-trending player on Spotrac.com, the site that touts itself as “the largest sports team and player contract resource on the internet.”

Wiggins averaged 18-and-9 in the 2022 NBA Playoffs over 39 minutes per game — eight more minutes than he averaged in the regular season. While guys like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Jordan Poole make the majority of the headlines, Wiggins played a key role in this championship run.

And people want to know what he’s paid.

It’s wild to think about that now, considering the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft had such an average first seven years in the league. It took a trade to Golden State — something he had no control over — to remake his image.

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Golden State Warriors: Restoration Center

Wiggins is not the first player restoration project that the Warriors have taken on. Before joining Golden State, center JaVale McGee was best known as a frequent subject of “Shaqtin’ A Fool.” McGee’s on-court mistakes were magnified, and they had been since he was drafted by the Washington Wizards in 2008.

After quietly signing with Golden State in 2017, McGee proved he was more than a walking on-court blunder, providing interior defense for the Warriors’ previous two championship teams in 2017 and 2018. Since then, he’s been viewed as a solid interior presence for other contenders, even winning a third ring in 2020 with the Lakers.

Wiggins, being a former No. 1 overall pick, has had to deal with the burden of expectations. Being traded to Golden State in February 2020 proved to be the best move of his career — and it was one he could not control. He could have been traded to any team, but to go to a place that has a history of helping castaway-type players rebuild their public perceptions was a blessing to his career.

Making the Money Work

Wiggins just completed the fourth year of a five-year, fully-guaranteed, $147 million contract and made over $31 million this season alone. At the time he signed that rookie extension, it was viewed as a bad contract. It appeared that the Minnesota Timberwolves were locked into having to pay such a young talent, even if he hadn’t lived up to expectations yet.

Value is a subjective concept. A contract is only too expensive if it’s seen as a hindrance to the team that has to pay it. As of now, the Warriors have the second-largest luxury tax bill in the NBA at over $22 million, behind only the Los Angeles Clippers. Their front office isn’t afraid to sign important players to lengthy contracts or, in this case, take on a big contract if it’s believed that player will help the team remain championship contenders. Wiggins’ salary number did not stop them from trading for him, thus confirming that maybe Golden State saw value in Wiggins where others didn’t.

Opportunity Without Pressure

Look closer at when Wiggins was traded. On Feb. 7, 2020, Golden State was last in the Western Conference at 12-40, far below their recent standards. There was no winning product for fans to root for in the Chase Center’s inaugural season. Trading D’Angelo Russell for Wiggins and the pick that eventually became rookie Jonathan Kuminga was a move for the future, based around if and when the Warriors’ core of Curry, Thompson, and Green became healthy and productive again. But at that point, Wiggins was able to just play basketball. There was no expectation to lead the team to the playoffs. The rest came later.

Another Iggy

Wiggins was already in a good situation with the Warriors. Then, a player returned to the team that was able to help him navigate this next act of his career. Andre Iguodala is praised for his intangibles and it’s the reason why he reunited with Golden State this season. While in the rotation, he brings defense, playmaking, and good decision-making — filling in the smaller necessities while the scorers score. He regularly shows up and is not a detriment to the team while on the floor, no matter what they ask him to do.

As Tracy McGrady said during Gilbert Arenas’s Game 6 NBA Finals watch party for FuboTV, Wiggins is “another Iggy.” The comparisons aren’t totally apt, given Wiggins is a better scorer and Iguodala is a better and more willing passer. But on this iteration of the Warriors, Wiggins’ scoring and slashing is needed. There won’t be many plays run for him, so his shots will come as a result of what Steph and Draymond do. But he takes the toughest perimeter defensive assignments, making effort plays such as snagging double-digit rebounds in multiple games during the Finals. The transition from high draft pick to role player can be tough, but the Warriors having Iguodala there made that much more seamless, being the consistent complementary piece needed for this Warriors’ dynasty to win its fourth championship.

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