The 23 points Andrew Wiggins logged in the Warriors’ win over Minnesota on Monday night in San Francisco were familiar to Timberwolves’ fans. It was the rest of the box score that was so unusual.
Six rebounds. Three blocks. Three steals.
“That’s the goal. Every day I’m going out there I’m just focused on doing the things I have to do to help the team win,” Wiggins said. “It doesn’t have to be scoring every night. Sometimes it’s just trying to shut down the other team’s best player, grabbing rebounds and trying to make it hard for the opponent. I’m just trying to do everything I can to help the team win.”
Wiggins’ play was scrutinized on a nightly basis during his five-plus seasons in Minnesota. He scored, but not efficiently enough. His energy wasn’t consistent enough. His impact wasn’t great enough.
So, when the Wolves dealt the wing to Golden State last February, most Wolves fans rejoiced. Now, Warriors fans are doing the same.
Take a peek at Wiggins’ overall stats and you may not understand why. So many of the numbers are so similar. That wasn’t enough when he was in Minnesota.
But it is in San Francisco.
“We’re asking him to score with consistency, which he does, but we don’t have to have him carry our franchise. We’ve got Steph Curry doing that,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Most players are subject to circumstance, and I think we have a really good situation for Andrew. It’s not easy being the No. 1 pick and trying to carry a franchise. That’s a job only a select few in this league can really take on. I just think Andrew is in a good place. He’s doing everything we’ve asked.”
And that is to be active, score and defend. He’s doing all of those things well in Kerr’s estimation. When Golden State acquired Wiggins, along with Minnesota’s top-3 protected 2021 first-round draft pick, in the trade that brought D’Angelo Russell to the Wolves, the Warriors were in desperate need of length and athleticism on the wing.
Wiggins’ 6-foot-8 frame and insane bounce more than sufficed. He’s putting that to use on the defensive end. After Monday’s block party, Wiggins ranked seventh in the NBA in blocked shots (28). Some are starting to use the nickname “2-way Wiggins” to honor the wing’s ability to contribute on both ends.
“He’s really competing on that (defensive) end,” Golden State forward Draymond Green said. “I think, since he’s been here, he’s shown that he’s a very capable defender, and he’s taken that up a couple of notches this year, which has been great for us,. He’s really changing the game on that end for us.”
After a rough first few games of the season, in his last 15, Wiggins is averaging 18.5 points a game while shooting 49 percent from the field and 43 percent from deep. That’s not a gaudy scoring number, but it’s efficient. No longer does Wiggins need 30 points for his team to win. Instead, he can focus more of his time and efforts on the defensive end, where he’s making his presence felt. Wiggins said he models his defensive game after a pair of the game’s greats: Kobe Bryant and Scottie Pippen.
“I think they have him in a great role, and I think that some of the things he’s been able to show here are things that will continue to carry over years with guys like Steph, guys like Draymond,” said Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders, who was with Wiggins throughout his career in Minnesota. “His ability to be active defensively, get deflections, turn defense into offense … I’m always happy to see whenever Wigg has a good game, because he deserves that.”
Wiggins expressed no ill-will toward Minnesota. He acknowledged getting traded is “part of the business” and said “it’s all love” for the people in the Wolves organization. But that’s not to say he isn’t happier where he is now.
Wiggins said Monday he would love to spend the remainder of his career with the Warriors for a variety of reasons. They treat him and his family well, and it’s a championship organization. Wiggins has touted the organization’s culture previously, and was asked Monday how it differs from Minnesota’s.
“It’s very positive over here, very positive. Everyone is getting along. No egos, nothing like that. Everyone just wants to win. Just a winning attitude, winning culture,” Wiggins said. “We all want to get better. Everyone is lifting each other up, cheering for each other. So it’s all love over here.”
If you think that makes Minnesota sound bad, just wait. Wiggins also lauded the Warriors’ “perfect” communication. Noting you always know where you stand and are prepared for what’s coming.
“Everything they do, there’s a purpose behind it for the better good of everything,” he said.
One of the differences, Wiggins noted, between the Wolves and Warriors is that everything with Golden State is “organized.” You know the rotation, how many minutes you’re going to play and what you’re doing.
“There was a couple years like that in Minnesota where everything, you know everything,” Wiggins said.
When was that, exactly?
“That was with Coach Thibs. Thibs was very organized,” Wiggins said of Minnesota’s former head coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau. “Thibs was very clear, he was very straightforward. That’s one thing they do here. They’re very straightforward. They’re not going to sugarcoat nothing. There’s no trick questions, so it’s good.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the current Wolves regime, which was responsible for trading the forward.
One thing Wiggins is doing at the moment is contributing on a consistent basis. That wasn’t the case during his years in Minnesota. The activity level, Kerr said, “is really key.”
“I don’t know that it comes naturally to him,” Kerr said.
Wolves fans would confirm as much. But that’s not so evident this season. Wiggins has embraced his duties in Golden State. Over the summer, Kerr talked extensively with Wiggins about the wing earning NBA All-Defense status.
“I don’t know if it’s going to happen. I think he should absolutely be in consideration,” Kerr said. “His numbers are going to show up pretty well for him.”
Kerr noted Wiggins isn’t an “emotional guy.” He’s not going to display the same fire and passion that other players wear on their sleeves. Kerr said he doesn’t give many Knute Rockne speeches as a coach, and he doesn’t think those would have any effect on Wiggins, anyway. Thus far, any additional motivation hasn’t been necessary. The 25-year-old is giving the Warriors exactly what they need.
“He just sort of methodically does his job. He’s done that in a really consistent manner for us,” Kerr said. “Andrew is Andrew. He’s going to go out there and do his job, and nothing much is going to bother him. And for us, and what we need, it’s really the perfect fit. … He’s doing everything we’ve asked. Defensively, he’s been fantastic, he’s a joy to coach, he’s in a good rhythm on offense, and just a great, great addition to our team.”