By now, the Golden State Warriors are hardly breaking new ground. Whereas their offense felt radical when it was unveiled in 2015, it’s now an institution unto itself. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson running through split actions together, Draymond Green ricocheting around the court to guard all five guys on the other team at once, the face-melting scoring sprees that end the game by the first media timeout of the third quarter: this is just what springtime basketball has looked like for most of the last eight years. It’s this constancy that not simply allowed the Warriors to withstand the roster attrition and churn that naturally occurs over eight years, but what has turned Andrew Wiggins from a churlish gunner into an all-purpose dynamo.
In the Warriors’ 112-87 dog-walking of the Dallas Mavericks in game one of the Western Conference Finals, Wiggins was the primary Luka Doncic-stopper. He acquitted himself well—Doncic easily had his worst postseason performance of his career, with just 20 points (on 6-18 shooting) and four assists. While the Warriors mixed in their usual array of blitzes and switches and pre-rotations to unsteady the Mavs, their defensive gameplan was predicated on the belief that Wiggins had the right cocktail of strength and quickness to bother Doncic.
Unlike the Suns who let Doncic window-shop for his preferred matchup, the Warriors labored to prevent Doncic from dictating the terms of engagement. Instead of simply granting the switch, the Warriors hedged Doncic into oblivion, forcing him to retreat while Wiggins scrambled back into position. In total, Wiggins matched-up with Doncic for about 10 minutes of game time, holding Doncic to 12 points and forcing three turnovers. On a larger, more impactful level, the Mavs were able to squeeze just 39 points from the 43 possessions that Wiggins spent on Doncic—after averaging 1.14 points per possession in the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Mavs could only muster .906 points per possession when Wiggins was sicced on Doncic.
During the Warriors’ playoff run, Wiggins has been the unseen suture that’s held the team together. Although Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson are the offensive engines and Green is a one-man defensive game-breaker, the team has thrived because of the way that Wiggins can toggle between different matchup-specific roles. In the Western Conference Finals, Wiggins cosplays as a perimeter stopper; against Memphis, he attacked the offensive glass with never-before-seen vigor, grabbing 3.33 offensive rebounds per game despite averaging just 1.2 offensive rebounds for his career; for the Warriors’ first-round romp against the Nuggets, Wiggins was a capable floor-spacer and shot nearly 54 percent from beyond the arc.
As a Minnesota Timberwolf, Wiggins was derided as a glory-boy monotasker who had internalized the shot selection of Kobe Bryant without any of Kobe’s competitive sicko-ness. People only cared about the delta between what he could’ve been—an epoch-defining superstar—and what he actually was (i.e. something far short of an epoch-defining superstar). But now, on a Warriors’ roster that’s devoid of much depth, Wiggins is so valuable because of his malleability; he can plug whatever gap pops open. Even if there was some initial consternation about how Wiggins would fit within the Warriors’ incredibly specific ecosystem, his fit now is clear: Andrew Wiggins is whatever you want him to be.