It’s not everyday we see a young player receive so much criticism at an early stage in their career the way 19 year old Andrew Wiggins did in Minnesota. A former number 1 pick back in 2014, he’s shown glimpses of star caliber basketball since being in the league. However I feel Minnesota misused Wiggins trying to make him a superhero from the jump, when in reality he needed a little more time to grow and flourish.
Fast-forward to 2021 where Wiggins finds himself on the Golden State Warriors as one of the best defenders in the league. Now 26 years of age Wiggins has certainly matured from being a flashy slasher & shooter to being a pure Small Forward. This season however I’ve noticed a significant increase to his defensive playstyle. It can be noted that when Wiggins was traded GSW Head Coach Steve Kerr said in a press conference that Wiggins will be “guarding some of the best players in the league and adapting to our schemes and terminology” and boy has he ever.
Playing on the same team as a former DPOY & leader like Draymond Green will certainly shape your defense as we’ve seen with other young players on GSW. However in Wiggins' case it was only a matter of time before he grew into the player we all knew he could be. Wiggins is certainly a “sponge” like player soaking up all the knowledge and film he can as he’s said in interviews and press conferences. Currently with 23 steals and 39 blocks his length has certainly come into play when needed most against tougher opponents. Just to name a few high caliber players Wiggins has defended this season we have Kawhi Leonard, Jayson Tatum, Demar DeRozan, Jimmy Butler, and the list goes on and will probably grow.
Now for the fans of numbers, let’s just take a look at how some of the league's best have made their way onto Wiggins island. Not counting Joe Ingles because Wiggins was only able to guard him for a total of 6 seconds during their matchup.
(11 Min) Kawhi Leonard: 4 PTS, 5 TO, and 2-12 on FG’s
(14 Min) Demar Derozan: 11 PTS, 3 TO, and 3-13 on FG’s
(4 Min) Jaylen Brown: 2 PTS, 1 TO, and 1-5 on FG’s
(5 Min) Jayson Tatum: 5 PTS, 2 TO, and 2-6 on FG’s
(11 Min) Jeremy Grant: 16 PTS, 1 TO, and 5-12 on FG’s.
(1 Min) Fred VanVleet: 4 PTS, 0-2 3P, and 2-5 on FG’s
(7 Min) Jimmy Butler: 2 PTS, 1-5 on FG’s
It’s clear to see Wiggins has definitely been putting the work in to become this elite defender in the league. Now we’ll just have to wait and see who ends up on Wiggins Island next.