Golden State is one win away from reaching the Finals due to an innovative trade that the team made two years two years ago.
The dunk is sure to draw the most media’s attention. At the end of fourth quarter Andrew Wiggins received a kickout on the right side from a speedy Stephen Curry, blew by an opponent who was closing out, saw the rim ahead of him, and slammed it into an powerful tomahawk dunk that was a direct hit on Luka Doncic. Although the slam was amazing–with the majority of Warriors saying after the game that it was their top dunk of Wiggins’s highlight. The slam was an exclamation mark. Golden State, after an 109-100 victory over the Mavs and is now nearing returning to the NBA Finals, their first since the start of 2019. The rise of Wiggins, first not a success, then a role player who was overpaid, and now in a best position in the world–is one of the reasons the reason.
“I can tell you everybody in the organization is happy he’s here,” Klay Thompson said about Wiggins following Game 3. “Without him we would not be where we’re at.”
He was the former no. first overall selection is leading the best playoff run of his career in the most significant ever playoff series. Wiggins averages 20.7 scores, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game during his first ever conference finals. On Sunday the postseason, he scored a record-setting 27 points and 11 rebounds over the course of 40 minutes. He led the team with the plus-minus category, and also played the role of protecting the world-class player Doncic for a large portion in the match.
“He’s just having a great run,” Kerr declared in the postgame. “He has been an All-Star because of an reason. He’s an excellent two-way player. It’s impossible to win the playoffs without players such as Wiggs.”
It’s not been the most romantic journey for Wiggins until now. He was selected by Cleveland and was then sent to Cleveland without even playing for a team who did not think he was in a win-now-now-now-now-now-team. He played more time playing in Minnesota (six) that the Wolves in playoff games. The Wolves (five). Then there was a perception of him as a player not being the player he could be even when his numbers seemed impressive from afar. Then, he was a part of an Warriors team that required two years of time to fully recover following a defeat in the 2019 Finals which resulted in the exile from Kevin Durant and the first of two season-ending injuries for Thompson.
In a team that is in a position to compete for the title, Wiggins is proving he is able to be able to, as Curry stated is expected of Wiggins, “impact winning.” In the playoffs, there’s not a better than a player who can be aspired to. Simply stated it, in a situation where the stakes may be most high, will your presence provide your team with an increased chance of winning? For Wiggins the answer has been an overwhelming yes.
In the game against Dallas, Kerr is mostly reflecting Wiggins’s play in Doncic’s because of his defense. As per NBA.com’s (albeit incomplete) matchup statistics, Wiggins has been in a 29-minute and 51 seconds playing Doncic over the course of three games. In 134.2 incomplete possessions during which Wiggins has been a guard for Luka, Dallas has scored just 133, or 0.99 points per game.
On the offensive side, Wiggins is shooting 41.5 percentage from three. He’s also is now adept at drawing the defensive focus on the Dubs shooters, allowing him open spots or cuts at the hoop or even lanes towards an offensive rebound. (He scored seven offensive boards during Game 3 and a smooth putback dunk just a few minutes following that Doncic posters.)
While nobody is comparing Wiggins to Kevin Durant, his play is a bit more dynamism for the Warriors. Wiggins is more than an athlete with three and a half feet. While he’s definitely in a position of privilege (many players are likely to be better off playing alongside Steph, Klay, and Dray) Wiggins’s acceptance of his position allows him to flourish in a way that others couldn’t as a no. 1 option.
It’s exactly what the Warriors need as they begin the new phase of their career. Sure, the core team is one of the most talented teams the sport has ever had. However, the players who supported them were mostly in doubt heading into the season, and especially after a string of injuries put the team unstable heading into playoffs. As the season has been played out and the stakes been raised Certain individuals (Wiggins, Kevon Looney, Jordan Poole) have proven that they are crucial to the team’s success. They’ve also contributed to the Warriors regardless of their sometimes uncomfortable mix of the old and the new to beat rivals and old rivals as they try to make their sixth Final since the 2015.
“It’s just a testament to the vision of the fit that he was going to be when the trade happened,” Curry stated about Wiggins following the game. “We know we needed everybody to step up for us to get back to this stage, and for us to win one playoff series let alone to where we are now.”
Wiggins might never attain the heights of the Maple Jordan nickname bestowed upon Wiggins when he first entered the NBA. The Warriors certainly haven’t yet achieved their no. 1 goal quite yet. However, both teams are the same as they were in the year that Wiggins was brought into the squad in of 2020. Golden State is on the edge of another Finals. It’s also worth noting that Wiggins is the undisputed factor in the team’s recent achievement.
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