When Andrew Wiggins was named an All-Star starter last season, the conversation around him got a little icky. He was a superb player for the Warriors, but the moment he landed what many thought was an unwarranted slot normally reserved for the game’s elite, the conversation shifted, at least for a minute, from Wiggins’ legitimate merit to whether he is the worst starter in All-Star history.
Wiggins drowned out that noise with his brilliant performance in the playoffs and finals. He was the Golden State’s second-best player behind Stephen Curry on his way to the championship. Wiggins has been even better this season than last. It’s breaking records all over the venue, including from 3rd, where it pairs with a 44 percent clip with “Glass Cleaning.”
Wiggins has been scorching lately, throwing out 18 of his last 33 triples. In November, he shoots 48% from behind the arc, making over seven attempts per game. He averages 19 high-performance points per game; his 121.9 points on 100 CTG shots is by far a career high.
Here’s something: 73 percent of Wiggins’ shots this season have been hits, including 95 percent of his three-point shots, a career high. Wiggins remains a solid option for building his own shot. He selectively goes one-on-one when the offense stalls or he has a match he likes, but for the most part, he’s fully integrated into Golden State’s read-and-react system. It’s been a wonderful evolutionary story, from a guy in Minnesota who lived off bad shots to a guy who almost never makes a mistake again.
In last year’s playoffs, Wiggins had an epiphany: NBA players generally don’t box. As a perimeter player, if you break glass with a jet of steam, you will have a lot of boards; indeed, he got the offensive rebound after nearly eight percent misses by Golden State, a huge number for a winger.
This year, he’s stabilized that at 5.1 percent, the highest of a career regular season, setting the tone with Curry for a Warriors team forced to play alongside their defensemen due to a lack of traditional sizing. And what Clay Thompson used to be as a quarterback is now Wiggins. He’s the Golden State’s best perimeter stopper.
When Curry was recently asked if Wiggins should be an All-Star again this season, he playfully deigned to even dignify the question. What is this debate? Curry replied.
The thing is, this is more than a debate. Most likely without anotherWiggins will be watching the All-Star weekend from home this season even though he has never played better basketball in his life. There are too many guys to win, and at the moment, the Golden State game doesn’t guarantee two picks if one of them is a minor guy like Wiggins.
This may change. The Warriors have won five in a row and are starting. In the meantime, let’s think about injury-free bans to fill the 12-man Western Conference all-star pool.
- Guards: Curry, Luka Doncic, Ja Morant, Devin Booker, Damian Lillard, Shai Gilges-Alexander
- Front yard: Nikola Jokic, Anthony Davis, LeBron James
Now listen, the chances are pretty high that there will be a couple of injuries that open up a couple of places. But based on what we have at the moment, these eight castles leave only four open spaces. But here’s the catch: if Curry and Luca are the starting guards, and at this point they almost certainly will be, then the only way to bring the other four guards (Morant, Booker, Lillard, and SGA) into play would be to use two non-positional wildcards.
This removes two possible front-court reserves (Wiggins forward), leaving the total at six (three reserves and three starting). Again, Jokic, LeBron and AD are locked down for now. This means that only three of the following players can make it to the final cut: Zion Williamson, Paul George, Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert, Jerami Grant, Mikal Bridges, Lauri Markkanen, Domantas Sabonis, Brandon Ingram and Wiggins.
From these names, you can pretty much list Williamson and George. There is only one spot left between Towns, Gobert, Grant, Markkanen, Sabonis, Ingram and Wiggins, and that is unless the NBA finds a way to squeeze in De’Aaron Fox and/or Desmond Bain by putting one of the defensemen as a forward.
If that happens, which is certainly possible, especially given how well Fox plays for the amazingly tight-knit and very fun Kings team, there will only be two reserve front court spots left, which, again, will likely go to Williamson and George. , because the score statistics are usually still crucial.
There’s also the possibility that Kawhi Leonard will come back and actually play enough to get through a two-month run worthy of an All-Star selection, which I would doubt, but it’s certainly possible.
If the fringe guy was going to hit Zion or PG, Grant was probably better than Wiggins. If you haven’t watched Grant, he was great for the Blazers. He scores 21 goals per game on 48 percent three-point shooting and he fills all the gaps; he looks like he’s been in that system and uniform his entire career.
Ingram scores more than Wiggins and scores 47 percent out of three. Sabonis is one of only three players to average at least 16 points and 11 boards (the other two are Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis, both of whom were All-Stars without injury).
If it came down to a coin toss, Bridges, with my money, would also oust Wiggins. Bridges is hitting more than ever, missing 47 percent of his 3-pointers and making more plays from the rebound while continuing to be one of the best defensemen in the league. Plus, the Suns were better than the Warriors, and Booker can’t be the only All-Star if they stay at the top of the West.
All of which suggests that Wiggins is unlikely to win a debate that Curry believes is a no-brainer. That doesn’t mean he’s not an All-Star. He. Seats are few and far between, and the NBA has never had so many collective talent. Wiggins is great. He’s a hundred times better than what the Warriors hoped for, and they had pretty high hopes for him.
Gone is all the talk of Wiggins being part of whatever trade package Bob Myers may or may not put together to play a big player. Wiggins isn’t going anywhere. I would bet a lot of money on this. He’s too good a player, fits too well into this particular ecosystem, and he continues to be one of the greatest career turnaround stories in recent memory.