Andrew Wiggins’ First All-Star Trip Shows The Importance Of Finding One’s Place

If you had told NBA fans in 2014 that Andrew Wiggins would be headed to the 2022 NBA All-Star Game, no one would’ve batted an eye. The former No. 1 overall pick out of Kansas was expected to reach these heights in his career, but after seeing his career stagnate in Minnesota, seen as a scorer but little more, his first All-Star appearance as a member of the Warriors comes as a rather stunning turn of events in his eighth season in the NBA.

Wiggins was dealt to the Warriors alongside a first round pick (which became Jonathan Kuminga) for D’Angelo Russell at the 2020 trade deadline as Golden State was desperately trying to figure out their future and had recognized that Russell wasn’t a longterm fit alongside Stephen Curry. Most anticipated Wiggins would eventually be moved again, as his max contract would help the Warriors package picks to go get a disgruntled star once Klay Thompson was back in the fold. Instead, Wiggins has become a key cog in the Warriors starting lineup alongside Curry and Thompson, as Golden State has managed to tap into his potential on both ends of the floor and both the team and Wiggins are thriving because of it.

Wiggins’ stat line isn’t gaudy, as he’s averaging 18.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.0 steals per game this season, but it’s his leap in efficiency and impact on the defensive end that’s been most impressive and earned him the All-Star nod from the fans. He’s posting the best shooting splits of his career at 48.3 percent from the field and 41.6 percent from three (on 5.5 attempts per game), the latter of which is truly unbelievable considering his best three-point shooting season in Minnesota came in 2016-17 when he hit 35.6 percent of his threes on 3.5 attempts per game. His leap in efficiency from deep is a combination of considerable work he’s put in to make his three-point stroke more consistent, as well as the types of shots he’s getting on the Warriors compared to Minnesota.

By being off the ball far more in Golden State, Wiggins is able to space the floor as a corner shooter more than he ever did with the Wolves. On average, just 15.4 percent of Wiggins’ threes came from the corner while in Minnesota, as the vast majority of his shots came from above the break where, around the league, shooting percentages are lower. With the Warriors this season, 28.3 percent of Wiggins’ three-point attempts are coming from the corners where he’s shooting a lights out 48.1 percent (up from an average of 40.5 percent from the corners in Minnesota). He’s also getting more catch-and-shoot looks, with 89 percent of his threes being assisted, up from 80.6 percent during his time with the Wolves, as he’s embraced his role in an admirable way playing alongside Curry (and now Thompson as well).

What’s maybe most impressive is the buy-in from Wiggins on the defensive end. He has always had the physical profile of someone who should be an above-average wing defender, with great length as someone who moves very well, but in Minnesota the flashes of brilliance on that end rarely aligned with consistency in effort and attention to detail. That’s changed in Golden State, where Draymond Green and company demand those things, and Wiggins has become a key piece of the Warriors’ league-leading defense thanks to his switchability and physicality on the wing.

Wiggins’ All-Star appearance is, in a number of ways, a matter of a player capitalizing on circumstance. There are certainly some things that were working in Wiggins advantage to make this a perfect storm to get him into the All-Star lineup. It’s been a year in which some of the mainstays on the Western Conference All-Star roster in the frontcourt missed significant time, and Wiggins has been a consistent producer on one of the NBA’s best teams. He got plenty of assistance from a Warriors fanbase that has a rabid following — plus some assistance from a surprising source: K-Pop Twitter — elevating him to third in the West fan voting. Those undeniably played a major role in getting him to Cleveland, but he also deserves ample credit for adapting his game to a new situation and recognizing the opportunity that had presented itself for him to change the narrative about himself as a player.

For a player thought to be stubborn during his time in Minnesota, he’s been incredibly adaptable in Golden State on both ends of the floor, embracing his new team and the ideals that have guided them to championships in the past. The result is the best season of his career, a walking example of the importance of fit and circumstance to a player’s success.