The 2021-22 season has been a redemption arc for Andrew Wiggins’ career. Since Golden State traded for Wiggins in February 2020, Maple Jordan has averaged 18.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game, thriving as a second and even third option on a Warriors roster featuring a couple of sharpshooting future Hall-of-Famers in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
On Monday, Wiggins didn’t need to be the alpha dog to save the Warriors from a dismal performance from Curry. The 2015 Rookie of the Year finished Game 5 with 26 points, 13 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and one block. It was the type of performance that reminds you why Wiggins was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Most importantly, it gave the Warriors a 3-2 series lead and pushed them to within one win of a title.
“We knew we needed his athleticism and defense and his versatility,” Kerr said per Sports Illustrated. “We had no idea that he would make this kind of contribution. But I think it’s a reminder that for almost every player in the NBA, circumstances are everything. You kind of need to find the right place, the right teammates, that kind of stuff. Wiggs has been a great fit.”
HOW’S THE AIR UP THERE WIGGS? (via @NBA) pic.twitter.com/dR3ehMFnft— SLAM (@SLAMonline) June 14, 2022
After Wiggins helped lead the Warriors to a pivotal win, his teammates gave him his flowers. Draymond Green gave Wiggins particular kudos with an enthralling story he told reporters about the 2022 All-Star. Green said the Warriors knew that they could trust Wiggins to deliver in big moments based on the belief the notoriously demanding Knicks Coach Tom Thibodeau had in Wiggins.
What really punctuated the moment was the fact that the equally demanding Jimmy Butler raved about Wiggins despite his ugly and infamous departure from Minnesota in 2018.
“I mean that trust has been building for two and a half years now since he got here. A lot of people looked at the trade as it’s another piece that they can move,” Green told reporters. “And we looked at the trade from the very beginning like that is a guy who can fit next to a healthy group absolutely well. When he first came here, and I’ll never forget, it’s when Thibs wasn’t with the Knicks, and Thibs was like, ‘you guys are going to love him. He competes, he defends’ — and he was telling us Jimmy (Butler) loved him, and we all know how Jimmy Butler is, if you got any softness to you Jimmy don’t like you. That’s just how Jimmy is cut, and he’s continued to show that, he’s continued to get better, he’s taken on every challenge that we’ve thrown in front of him, and it’s huge, and we need him to do it for one more win.”
Draymond Green on the trust they have in Andrew Wiggins. Some great perspective, and even something Tom Thibodeau told the Warriors after the trade happened: pic.twitter.com/imd2iWZDB7— Shane Young (@YoungNBA) June 14, 2022
Wiggins has averaged 16.4 points and 7.6 rebounds per game on 47.4 percent shooting from the field in 20 games this postseason. Wiggins has thrived as a two-way player in Golden State’s vaunted system and will play a key role in guarding Tatum and being a security blanket late in the shot clock as a capable off-the-bounce bucket.
The Finals shifts to Boston for Thursday’s Game 6, and the Celtics will likely play with force and urgency to tie the series back and force a do-or-die Game 7 back in San Francisco.