Stories from the Golden State over the past couple of years promoting change in Andrew Wiggins’ game have always felt like a strange mixture of fact and fiction.
Take an objective look at Wiggins’ numbers since the February 2020 seismic trade from wolves to Golden State — more on that in a moment, with Zack Lowe’s excellent look back at how that was the catalyst — and see that he’s become a better version of himself. No longer required to be a star, Wiggins ceased to be an incompetent scorer and at least became a mid-range winger in the league offensively with sportsmanship and size to get a rising defensive side.
You can also take a sarcastic look at any “Wiggins has changed!” The story as a story was planted by warriors in the hope of enhancing its value in another final trade.
It’s absolutely true: whether they were simply washing up his image in hopes of dealing with him again or they really believed he was a better player who could help them, there was an upside in both cases in amplifying Wiggins.
And this season—particularly Wiggins’ moments in the playoffs where Golden State reached the Finals and now sits 1-1 against Boston—is a good example of how they can achieve both at the same time.
For at least another week, as Lowe’s piece hints, Wiggins is a great fit for the Golden State.
His contract is on the same schedule and in about the same amount as Russell, with one year and $30 million-plus remaining after this season. It is the time when players are extended or traded.
Once these Finals are over, Golden State will have to ask itself the same question Wolves ask Russell, albeit on a different winning scale: Is it wise to retain a useful player who is important (not vital) to your success but who earns more than they’re worth?
Backing up a bit, though, Lowe does have some interesting details about Wiggins and how the trade was carried out.
Former Wolverhampton coach Ryan Saunders apparently shouted at Wiggins a lot in the first half of the January 22, 2020 loss to the Bulls – their seventh in a row for Wolves en route to 13 in a row resulting in a Wiggins trade finally happening before the deadline – Lowe wrote that there was Worried that he might have heart problems. Instead, it was determined that Saunders had pulled a muscle in his chest.
Speaking of chest pains, wolves fans might also feel daggers in their hearts when they read that “some within the Golden State Brains trust could have done the bargain straightforward,” just Russell from Wiggins.
Instead, months of intense bargaining led to Wolves including the three best protected teams in the first round and a selection for the second round.
The protected selection turned into a No. 7 overall in 2021, which was used by Jonathan Kuminga’s Warriors – still only 19 but promising enough and similar enough to Wiggins in size, skill and shape that he could be Wiggins’ low-cost heir should they ever be. It was the warriors decided to move forward.
Having said that, many of us were thrilled that the wolves got out of Wiggins’ necklace and snagged Russell at the same time, even with the footage included. This is not so much a litigation of the past as it is a look at the present and near future for Wiggins.
He has at least three matches left in his Warriors career. Next, we’ll find out how much the Golden State really likes it.