In a season critical to determining his future with the team, WarriorsWorld is spending the first few games of the 2020-21 NBA campaign watching Andrew Wiggins. As part of The Wiggins Watch series, writer Jesse Taylor is watching Wiggins, and only Wiggins, for an entire game on both ends of the floor and writing about his observations. Up first is the season opener against the Brooklyn Nets on December 22.
Why focus on Andrew Wiggins, the 25-year-old starting his 7th NBA season? The former #1 overall pick of the 2014 NBA draft is making $25.9 million in year three of a 5-year max contract. With Klay Thompson out for the season due to injury, the Warriors are looking to Wiggins to pick up the scoring (and hopefully some of the defensive) slack. While James Wiseman is the most interesting player on the Warriors not named Steph Curry, The Watch will give the rookie a few games to get used to the NBA before observing his game closely.
So up first it’s Wiggins, who at one point had a story like an ideal Hollywood sports movie script. Or, at worst, “A Very Special ABC Afterschool Special.”
The story? A father, Mitchell Wiggins, who played in the NBA. Had a promising career alongside Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson. Averaged 10 points during a playoff run that helped his team reach the 1986 NBA Finals before losing to the legendary Boston Celtics featuring Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale. Was banned the very next season for drug abuse due to an addiction to cocaine. With the help of his 2-time Olympic Track & Field Silver Medalist wife, fought addiction, got clean and trained alongside his wife to get back in the league, immediately having his best season as a pro upon his return. He then created a sports Brady Bunch family, with three boys and three girls. One son, Golden Boy Andrew, was the top high school basketball player in the country before attending one year at Kansas and being selected #1 overall in the NBA Draft.
It was a feel-good version of “He Got Game” where the father redeems himself and Rosario Dawson doesn’t sell out the star of the movie.
Except, Andrew’s story since entering the NBA has been … boring. Sure, he won Rookie of the Year and has averaged nearly 20 points in six seasons. But his career to this point is best described as an inefficient and disappointing player who lacks intensity and can sometimes be forgotten on the floor in games. He’s mainly played for losing teams, making it to the playoffs once in 2018, where he lost in the first round to the Rockets as an 8thseed and underperformed, averaging just 15 points in five games. He and his brother, Nick, lost a rather embarrassing social media feud with ex-Timberwolves teammate Jimmy Butler and the retired Stephen Jackson, with Jackson claiming Wiggins had no heart or passion for the game.
Few disagreed with Jackson.
Minnesota gave up on Wiggins and traded him to the Warriors for D’Angelo Russel during the 2019-20 season, even tossing a valuable first round draft pick to the Warriors in the deal. After 12 games with the Warriors in 2020, during a season cut short due to a pandemic, we are now at Game 1 of The Andrew Wiggins Watch.
If you didn’t watch the opening night game, just Google or search Andrew’s name on Twitter, and you’ll know it was a pretty horrendous start. On paper, he didn’t have the worst performance on the team. Kelly Oubre Jr.shot 3-14 from the field and missed all six of his threes. But Oubre’s game will be remembered for his energy, tenacity and the way he played with a sense of urgency. More than the misses, we’ll remember the sequence where Oubre went up for a powerful dunk that missed (likely due to a non-foul call), but followed it up with a thunderous one-handed put-back dunk off a Kent Bazemore missed three, and then quickly stole the ball from Kevin Durant leading to a fast break dunk. Three exciting dunks attempts in 40 seconds.
Wiggins, on the other hand, will be remembered for opening the season looking hesitant, being fairly nonexistent, not helping much on defense and coming off as nervous.
But first … let’s start with something good.
In the NBA, there’s always another game coming up quickly on the schedule. For Wiggins, the best thing about Game 1 of the 2020-21 NBA season is there will be a Game 2 of the 2020-21 NBA season. And for Wiggins, that’s Christmas Day against the Bucks.
He began the game guarding Kevin Durant while being guarded by Spencer Dinwiddie.
Within the first minute, he makes a nice play, dribbling into the lane and, seeing the help come from DeAndre Jordan, makes a sharp pass to the cutting Wiseman for an easy dunk and a 4-2 Warriors lead.
But on defense he inexplicably sags off Durant, who drains an open three from the top of the key. Wiggins follows by bricking a wide-open corner three off the back of the rim.
Later, after a Curry missed three, Wiggins nonchalantly jogs back on defense and is late in picking up Joe Harris in transition. Harris hits an open three to give the Nets a 10-4 lead.
On the next possession, the Nets defense collapses on Curry, who kicks to Wiggins for his second wide-open corner three and his second back-iron brick.
Quick observation that will continue throughout the game – the Warriors offense has Wiggins run into the corner a lot. And he doesn’t do much but stand there waiting for the ball, and then casually jogs back on defense.
Durant starts hot, but only one of his shots was on Wiggins (his opening three).
At the 8:30 mark, Wiggins is isolated with the ball in his hands against Kyrie Irving. He drives right and goes passed Irving, slashes left by Jordan and is fouled. He hits both FTs for his first points of the game.
He plays strong defense on Durant during the next possession, and with some help from Oubre, forces a miss.
On defense, and down 13-8, he softly starts to leak out too early after a Nets shot, allowing Brooklyn to get an offensive rebound which results in an Irving three and a 16-8 Nets lead.
Shortly thereafter, he fights through a screen to bother Durant into a fading baseline jumper that misses.
At the 7:35 mark, the defense again collapses on Curry, who dishes to a cutting Wiggins who misses an easy layup. This leads to an easy Durant dunk. Nets up 18-8.
Wiggins checks out with six minutes left in the first and the Warriors down 23-9.
He checks back in at the 2:29 mark with the Warriors down 36-17.
He quickly gets the ball on a set play and misses an easy turnaround hook in the paint over the shorter Caris LeVert.
At the 1-minute mark, Wiggins is playing defense off the ball near the baseline. LeVert drives by Bazemore and Wiggins is late to step into the lane to help, giving up a wide-open layup to LeVert. Nets lead 40-19.
Wiggins ends the opening quarter of the season with two points (0-4 FG, 0-2 3FG, 2-2 FT), 0 rebounds and one assist in 8:29 of play.
Wiggins opens the quarter as the leader of the second unit with Curry on the bench. Guarding Taurean Prince off the ball, Wiggins again doesn’t offer the needed help as LeVert hits an easy FT-line jumper that Wiggins could have collapsed on and bothered. Nets up 42-25.
On the next possession, Wiggins makes a nice back-door cut and Brad Wanamaker finds him for what could have been a pretty alley-oop. But the pass is a bit behind Wiggins, who snatches it mid-air and wisely brings it back down. When he takes it back up, he misses a layup and claims to be fouled. But he has now missed his first five shots of the game.
At the 10:50 mark, Wiggins takes a pass from Jordan Poole at the top of the key, dribbles once, picks the ball up unnecessarily, hesitates, then throws it to LeVert for an easy steal and transition layup for the Nets as Wiggins jogs back on defense and barely contests the play. Nets lead 44-25.
On the next possession, he makes a nice baseline drive and is fouled. He hits 1-2 FTs and now has three points, all off FTs.
At the 9:34 mark, he has the ball in triple-threat position, gets ready to attack, moves his foot back to start his drive and … travels. Turnover #2.
Later, after Marv Albert calls him “Marquese Chriss” (because Marv Albert sadly can’t seem to comprehend much about anything related to the NBA these days), Wiggins fittingly makes his first bucket off camera on a drive as Chris Webber pontificates about absolutely nothing meaningful. Warriors cut the lead to 14.
At the 8:25 mark, Wiggins leaves LeVert to help on Jared Allen. This leaves LeVert wide open for a three, which he hits and gives the Nets a 47-30 lead.
About 30 seconds later, Wiggins misses badly on a one-handed floating jumper inside the FT line. He’s now 1-7 from the field.
Later, he drives into the lane and misses badly again, this time a turnaround jumper at the FT line. 1-8 from the field.
At the 7-minute mark, he posts up Landry Shamet and Jordan comes over to help, leaving Wiseman open. Wiggins throws a sloppy one-handed pass to Wiseman that bangs off the rim into Poole’s hands, turning an easy Wiseman dunk into an off-balance Poole missed jumper. Curry subs in for Wiggins with the Warriors down 50-30.
Wiggins returns with 3:18 left and the Warriors down 56-37.
He is quickly posted up by Durant, who hits an easy jumper over him. 58-39 Nets.
Wiggins has a good possession on the next trip down, making a nice pass out of the double team to a cutting Oubre, who gets his own rebound off a miss and passes to Wiggins who hits a three. Wiggins has 8 points. 58-42 Nets.
In transition, Wiggins picks up Irving, who passes the ball to LeVert. Wiggins drifts off Irving and doesn’t block him out on a missed shot. Irving gets the rebound that should have been Wiggins’ ball and Wiggins fouls him with 1:49 left in the half.
With 90 seconds left in the first half, Wiggins stands alone in the corner. Curry finds him only to have Wiggins step out of bounds on what should have been an easy baseline dunk. Turnover #3 for Wiggins with the Nets up 58-42.
With a chance to cut it to 13, Wiggins nearly air balls a wide-open corner three. Out of bounds to the Nets.
He finishes the half with good defense on Durant, forcing a missed shot.
At halftime, the Warriors are down 63-45. Wiggins has 8 points on 2-10 FG and 1-4 3FG, one rebound, one assist and three turnovers.
On a set play to open the second half, Wiggins spins into the lane, goes up for a shot on Durant and is rejected badly. Nets ball.
Defending Dinwiddie, Wiggins is forced to foul as he goes right by him. Dinwiddie hits both FTs for a 67-45 Nets lead.
Failing to collapse in the lane yet again on what should have been his help assignment, Wiggins leaves Jordan open for an alley-oop dunk from Durant as Wiseman shifted over to help off his man. 71-49 Nets with 10:00 left in the third.
Wiggins finds himself one-on-one against Harris, but takes an extra step and makes it a step-back-step-back jumper and is called for travelling. Turnover #4.
At the 9:01 mark, Curry is guarding Harris, and is screened by Wiggins’ man. Wiggins offers no help as Harris cuts back-door for an easy layup. As Curry takes the ball in, he gives Wiggins “a look.” If Draymond Green was playing, by this point in the game, he would have been much more vocal about Wiggins’ lack of help defense. 75-49 Nets.
On the next possession, Wiggins drives by Harris but misses an easy layup. But he gets back on defense and knocks the ball away from Durant. It goes to Irving and he goes up for a layup that Wiggins blocks all in one continuous motion.
Wiggins later hits a wide-open three off a pass from a Curry offensive rebound. It’s the 7:06 mark of the third and Wiggins has 11 points on 3-11 shooting (2-5 3FG).
At the 6:22 mark, Dinwiddie easily drives by Wiggins for a layup. 82-54 Nets.
Wiggins checks out at the 5:35 mark with the score 84-57.
It’s 95-66 when he checks back in with 1:57 left. He switches onto the taller Jarrett Allen and blocks him out to keep him from grabbing an offensive rebound.
As the quarter winds down, he grabs a rebound off a missed FT, takes Allen 1×1 and hits a turnaround step-back jumper. He finishes the quarter shooting 2-4 FG, making his only three attrempt.
With the game over, Wiggins leads the second unit again as Curry sits. He misses a wide-open three-pointer at the 9:41 mark and an easy turnaround jumper at the rim on the smaller LeVert at the 7:32 mark.
He ends his night on a fitting note, fouling LeVert at the 6:36 mark, leading to two made FTs.
To end this article with a semi-positive comment: it (probably) can’t get any worse for Wiggins. And we’ll quickly find out on Christmas Day how he bounces back.