Andrew Wiggins is thriving on the Warriors. Call it the JaVale McGee effect.
McGee, who plays center in Cleveland with the Cavaliers, possibly wouldn’t be in the NBA if it wasn’t for his stint in Golden State. He played for coach Steve Kerr and the Warriors for two seasons, helping the franchise win championships in 2017 and 2018. He was on his way out of the NBA at the time — appearing regularly on Shaquille O’Neal’s “Shaqtin’ a Fool” segment on TNT.
In fact, O’Neal made an entire film reel of McGee’s on-court blunders, which led to mild feud between McGee and Shaq. The Warriors had just acquired superstar Kevin Durant, however, and general manager Bob Myers needed players on the cheap. McGee fit the bill, though it was still considered a risk.
Well, McGee experienced the Warriors’ culture, led by Kerr and superstars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, and he flourished, re-establishing himself as an NBA player and putting his old rep for actin’ a fool to rest.
McGee didn’t have to carry the load by any stretch, because the team was packed with talent. He could concentrate on doing what he did best and let the rest of his game come along naturally.
That’s what’s happened to Wiggins. In Minnesota, he had to carry the franchise. In Golden State, he can lean on Curry to bear the brunt of the responsibility to score. The result has been a career revival for Wiggins in all facets of his game, inducing defense, which he was notorious for barely playing at all.
Team owner Joe Lacob loves what he’s seeing, according to what he told The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson III. Wiggins’ salary is large, at roughly $30 million this season alone, but Lacob says he expects the former No. 1 overall pick in the draft to remain a Warrior next season.
“I would be surprised,” he said, “if we … if for any reason he would not be on this team next year. I mean, I really, I just don’t see how we could replace him defensively. He’s a two-way player. He’s got the prototypical size. He’s a walking 20 points. And the only question is whether he does the other things. And he’s certainly doing that. So, you know, I think early returns are looking good. You can make your own judgment. Certainly, you have a right to do that. As to whether he fits long term, I think he’s a great fit. Now, is his salary high? Sure. Yes. But we knew that and, you tell me, where would we do better?”The Athletic
It’s hard to imagine a player of Wiggins’ caliber suddenly becoming available, as Lacob alluded to. He can still score as he did previously, and he’s shooting an impressive 47% from the field, including 40% from 3-point distance. His defense has been an incredible surprise, too, as he’s taken the challenge from the coaching staff to be an All-Defensive player.
So get ready for more Wiggins in 2022, when Thompson returns from his injury. But he’s playing extremely consistent now, and at a high level. Watch to see if he can continue to impress ownership when the Warriors take on the Celtics on Tuesday night. If all goes according to Lacob’s plan, it will be another step toward a championship, and Wiggins can enjoy the same feeling McGee had — total career vindication.
(Photo credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)