No. 1 picks are just different.
Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins knows that fact well. As a former top pick in the NBA Draft, he’s well aware that heavy expectations remain attached to a player, even if they’ve carved out a nice NBA career for themselves.
As well as Wiggins did in Minnesota, his first NBA home, it was never enough. And it’s understandable. Wiggins has obvious physical talent, earning the Canadian his “Maple Jordan” nickname.
But could it be that Wiggins is best suited to play a complimentary role, as he is now for Golden State? As consistently solid as Wiggins has been thus far in 2021, that may be the case.
The Athletic’s Ethan Strauss makes that argument in one of his latest articles, and he also got a nice quote from Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, who used to coach Wiggins with the Timberwolves and spent time with the Warriors organization when he was in between jobs.
“Huge difference. He’s grown. I think this environment is perfect for him. I think the job that Steve (Kerr) and his staff has done, they’ve challenged him to grow. His defense is vastly improved. His all-around play, too, and it will get better and better. Playing with guys like Steph and Draymond (Green) and when Klay (Thompson)’s back, that’s going to be a big bonus for him. Andrew is a great guy. He’s very talented and gifted and that’s the thing you can’t lose sight of, what the Warriors have done. The obvious is Steph, Klay and Draymond, but adding these young pieces that are so talented. They’re going to be good for a long time.”The Athletic/Ethan Strauss
Wiggins all-around play has improved because he’s essentially a role player, a top-fight role player, but he’s not the lead player any longer, as he was in Minnesota. That’s for certain. And some of the pressure has been lifted off Wiggins’ shoulders.
Of course, Wiggins is being paid like he’s a lead player, with a $30 million salary. But that’s for the book-keepers (and ownership) to worry about. It appears Wiggins may have found his comfort level in the NBA. It’s not as the best player on a team, but rather a supporting role in which he can contribute to a proven organization.
Wiggins and the rest of the team will look to stay on the playoff track as they face the Jazz on Saturday night.
(Photo credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)