Remove the ‘bust’ label attached to Andrew Wiggins

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Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group

The Warriors have their hero. His name is Andrew Wiggins. He’s the one we’ve been waiting for, the one who was supposed to quickly climb the ranks to become a superstar and lift the Timberwolves into the national conversation. The way he’s playing now, Wiggins looks like an NBA Finals MVP.

When the former No. 1 overall pick reminded everybody what a weapon he can be, it’s hard not to think of what he’s still capable of being with the Warriors. Wiggins’ Game 5 performance on Monday night was a work of art, the Warriors’ unsung hero finishing off a nice masterpiece with dagger jumpers and acrobatic layups and a soaring dunk. He has the talent and the drive to put his fingerprints all over the game.

It was an MVP-level performance from a guy who scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, capping his legendary night with an emphatic dunk in the final minutes of the game. He was recognized on this particular night for his efforts and for stepping up when his heroic play was desperately needed to lead the Warriors to a 104-94 victory. Astoundingly, he delivered when his team needed it the most to help the Warriors keep the momentum going.

Wiggins’ future before arriving to Golden State in a trade with the Timberwolves couldn’t have been unclearer. He has been nothing short of spectacular and will remain a part of the team as the Warriors build on their foundation and should find themselves back in the winner circle. With a change of scenery, a fresh start, a new city, a new team, he found his way as a role player, reasserted himself as a deft scorer in the playoffs, finishing with 26 points and 13 rebounds on this particular night. To watch him put on a show in a legendary Game 5 was to be inspired by this man’s recent resurgence. 

For now, Wiggins recognizes his role as not only a scorer but a plus-level wing defender. He has tellingly found a way to step up in big moments on either side of the floor. And to see him elevate his game in these finals and revive his career with the Warriors, those are magical moments. Wiggins’ individual play won’t be forgotten. It meets the definition of a career comeback for him. Finally, there was this breakout moment where he has finally proved to the masses that he can play a pivotal role on a championship-caliber team. This improbable thing happened where he has finally developed his game and earned himself the status of a bonafide playoff hero.

Chase Center was lit when Wiggins scored off cuts under the basket and in transition, single-handedly fueling a fourth-quarter explosion. Golden State fans were rocking and rolling when he cashed in with insane swooping layups, showcasing his ridiculous handles and speed off the dribble that have made him one of the hardest players to defend. 

The Warriors can kindly thank Wiggins for carrying a lot of weight on his shoulders. They can show their appreciation for him after putting on a jaw-dropping highlight show as they now stand on the verge of a fourth title in eight years. If the Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson especially become proud owners of a fourth championship ring, they can thank Wiggins for taking the pressure off Curry and company and delivering the biggest game in his eight-year career. 

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that, after coming into this Warriors system, Wiggins has found a way to fit in perfectly while performing to the best of his abilities. This is enough to believe in him as another option off the bench for the Warriors, right? Different situations mean different production, as we can see. Playing for the Warriors is hugely important because he’s able to maximize his potential with an organization that brings the best out of their players. The book on him is clear now that he has shown a great progression from years past since Golden State acquired him in a trade in February.

He’s not a bust, as it would be unfair to label him that when he had a vintage night and single-handedly finished off the Celtics with his signature performance, a double-double effort never to be forgotten. One of the brightest spots for the Warriors in these Finals is their complementary player stepping up at various points of this series when necessary. He doesn’t have a shelf of trophies but he’s been fantastic on the court and could sneak in and steal the Finals MVP from Curry. 

There is now a championship awaiting Wiggins after providing scoring relief for a struggling and frustrated Curry. He was 0-for-9 from 3-point range, his first game since November 2018 without a 3-pointer and the first postseason game of his dazzling career without a 3-pointer. The Celtics denied him shots by double-teaming him and running him off the three-point line. Then Green fouled out for the third time in this series after a better offensive night. He had eight points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Jordan Poole created a splash after hitting another buzzer-beating triple from a few steps inside midcourt to end the third quarter. He finished the game with 14 off the bench. 

But Wiggins, who was the stable for a cold-shooting offense, has made incremental improvements and tremendous strides entering the playoffs with the Warriors. They have a much better feel for what he can do, what his strengths are, and know what they’re getting from him. 

His speed, athleticism and ability to guard multiple positions makes him a pesky defender. Those qualities he possess enables him to be a stabilizing force on that end of the floor where he is most effective. The Warriors transformed Wiggins into this glorified two-way wing. And now he looks like a new player poised to take that next step on a team where he can actually be the best he can be. An excellent complementary player like Wiggins has given the team a bit of a jolt with his ability to score and defend. 

We owe him an apology for the “bust” slander. That was a false narrative.

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