Wiggins future with the Warriors?

Updated: March 17, 2022


This article was crafted and completed prior to the loss at the hands of the Boston Celtics, along with the derailing injury to Steph Curry at the hands of Marcus Smart. Although in the short term, aspects of Wiggins’ tenure with the Warriors becomes even more obscure, the opportunity Curry’s absence will create for Poole may even further validate the consideration of what their 3 guard lineup could be moving forward, considering the +96 metrics it has produced in its small sample since Klay’s return. Though the Celtics may be the worst team to showcase a Wiggins-less Warriors’ rotation, I would argue it was their lack of size at the 5 that dictated to tone and pace of the loss at home, with Time Lord aka Robert Williams the III effortlessly dominated both ends of the floor. The article below assumes that the recent reports that Curry should be back by the playoffs healthy is not yet another Golden State fable about the health of their players.

Offseason Considerations

Out from the depths of midseason depression, the Warriors have swung themselves back into form just in time to ramp up for the playoffs. Even prior to the return of Draymond Green, the Dubs collected W’s against oversized squads who had in previous weeks had proven to be too much in the paint for their 6’9” and under rotation. After two blowout-loses to Giannis and Jokic, Golden State returned the favor with a barrage of dynamic ball movement, slashes to the basket, and snipers from distance. One key variable in the changed equation from Steve Kerr and the coaching staff is the full acknowledgment of what Jordan Poole is becoming.

His role from the offseason until recently has been consistently set as their microwave 6th man off the bench—aka the Bay Area version of Jordan Clarkson. Although early in the season he was slotted in at the 2 in their starting lineup, it was widely known only to be temporary. Upon the eve of Klay Thompson’s much-anticipated return from a 2-year hiatus, Poole was moved to the bench to supplement the lack of scoring in the non-Steph Curry minutes. As a young 3rd year guard, armed with as deep of bag as anyone outside of the likes of Kyrie Irving, but prone to youthful mental mishaps, Kerr often leaned on vet guards in his place down the stretch of 4th quarters. But with the evolution of his court vision and facilitation and a knack for big shot-making in crunch time, he has now solidified his role in Kerr’s closing lineup.

The combination of Curry, Klay, and Poole has proven as of late to simply be too much firepower to handle. With the gravitational pull continuously created by Klay and Curry’s off-ball migration, wide-open practice jumpers from distance perpetually are manifested for Jordan to take and make. Running 3 guard lineups tend to be problematic, however, though Klay Thompson has in the past been responsible for handling lead guards on the defensive end, he stands at 6’7” and habitually punishes undersized guards on the mismatch in the post. After his two catastrophic lower-body injuries, and visually carrying more weight than the 2019 version we had seen back in Toronto for the Finals, his physique is far more suited to cover the 3/4 rather than the 1/2.

Recently, with Andrew Wiggins out with a non-Covid illness, Golden State has had a small window to experiment with this 3 “guard” lineup to start and end their rotation in his absence. Although Wiggins has proven to have rim protection skills for a small-forward and when engaged can be an excellent rebounder on both sides of the floor, an engaged and motivated Andrew is not always guaranteed. Despite his recent first All-Star appearance, Wiggins’ motor and level of aggression tends waiver on a scale between absolutely lethal to mildly pedestrian. Considering the Warriors’ lack of athletic wing depth, he will be a pivotal piece for their upcoming playoff push.

However, if they fail to make the finals, it will most likely be due to their lack of size. Sophomore James Wisemen still looks like a giant fetus who is probably going to take a handful of years in the league to ripen as so many bigs do—and as well as Kevon Looney has played, at 6’9” and possibly the least athletic starting center on any of the contenders, an upgrade at the 4/5 would be ideal in the offseason if they fail to reach the top of the mountain this summer. Now, if they win the finals riding Draymond heavily at the 5, and the newly evolved death lineup of Poole, Curry, Klay, Wiggins, Green simply outmatch their opponents for 16 wins, it is highly unlikely any of their core pieces get moved in the offseason.

Though, with the emergence of not only Poole but Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga, and an impending costly extension for Andrew Wiggins, Golden State may consider moving off their schizophrenic scorer in search of size. Below are two options with Eastern Conference trade partners that would have mutual interests in exchanging bigs for the most prized commodity around the league…a two-way 3-and-D wing. On the most recent ESPN podcast with Zach Lowe, he stated a rule of never trading a wing for a big and he may be correct in such an assumption. However, this scenario would follow an early exit in the playoffs due to a lack of size, like a first round knockout against the Nuggets.

Big Ben in Brooklyn

If Simmons closes games next to KD and Irving as the ideal small-ball 5 everyone has wished him to be for years, you can scratch this proposition off the table now. As there is obviously a world where Ben is a perfect fit in Brooklyn next to Durant and Kyrie as his lack of jumper should be no issue standing next to two of the most elite ISO scorers in the history of basketball. However, no one would be overwhelmingly surprised if Simmons’ return in the playoffs is lukewarm, especially if Ben is forced to play a series in Philly in front of a Sixers crowd…who if allowed, would publicly crucify him for his complete disappearance in last year’s implosion against Atlanta. With Brooklyn’s lack of depth and top-heavy roster, they need Ben to be a 4th quarter contributor and not the mental midget we’ve seen in the past.

The Warriors on the other hand, with a surplus of depth, would not need Simmons to play during crunch time, especially if coming from behind. Kuminga has consistently shown to not be phased by the big moments as a rookie, hitting not only wide-open 3’s but 4 quarter free throws. All the noise around a Ben Simmons trade to Golden State was polluted with the narrative that he could never play next to Draymond Green in the frontcourt, yet Green has had reemergence as a scorer this season, and willingness to take easy drives to the basket when Curry’s gravity creates a red carpet to the rim. They also have shown to be successful with Looney + Green lineups, and as poor of shooter Simmons is, Looney has hit less than a dozen jumpers outside of 5 feet in his entire career.

If Simmons could embrace being an innings eater, absorbing the non-Curry minutes, and running the 2nd unit with Steph on the sidelines, Golden State would have 2 elite approaches to dismantling the defense. He would obviously start, but only finish if his free throw percentage would allow him to do so. The Warriors would also be salivating at their future post-Splash brothers starting lineup of Poole, Moody, Kuminga, Simmons, Wisemen. It is hard to tell with Simmons still out with back stiffness of his value on the open market, but there is a possibility the Warriors would need to add in their 2022 first to balance out the exchange.

For Brooklyn, the same reason theoretically Simmons would fit next to KD and Irving is the same reason why it is guaranteed Wiggins would mesh perfectly next to the two Alphas. Nash could ride Wiggins’ 2nd quarter scoring in the resting minutes for Durant and depend on his newly formed defensive versatility at the 3, a position they simply don’t have outside of Kevin. Unlike Simmons who is essentially an anti-gravity machine, Wiggins has shot over 40% for the season from distance and has been an iron man his entire career. Simmons’ long-term ceiling is obviously leaps and bounds above Wiggins’, but their floor is incomparable. Brooklyn and their superstars have zero interest in the future of the franchise and are looking for answers to the now. Depending on the outcome of these upcoming playoffs, they might find out that Ben is not part of that equation.

Mobley @ the 5

 As cute as the Cav’s three 7-foot lineup has been this year, Evan Mobley’s future is not as a tag team partner in a twin-towers combo but as the modern big of the Eastern Conference. Although Jarrett Allen has been a pivotal part of their unexpected success this season, making his first All-Star appearance, he will likely miss the rest of the season due to injury. If the Cavaliers in this sample find that Mobley at the 5 is the future of their franchise, in the offseason they should be looking to fill the void at the wing as their current rotation at the 3 is essentially non-existent.

For all the hate attached to Andrew Wiggins and the gap between his production and god-given talent, it is simply impossible that Cleveland would ever sign a wing at his caliber in free agency. In the development of a possible top 10 talent in Evan Mobley, it is important to have level-headed vets who can elevate the ecosystem, especially within the realms of the defense. They would presumably plan to hand Wiggins a max extension, despite the fact that the league would consider it an overpay. At only 27, and his prime coinciding with the development of Garland and Mobley, an elite wing defender would be a far more ideal fit rather than the twin towers lineup with Lauri Markkanen at the 3.

For the Warriors, the addition of Jarrett Allen would completely eliminate their issue with their lack of size at center. Looney would be moved to his more suited role as a backup big and with the development of Kuminga at the 4, Draymond would still close games at the 5 when the situation calls for their small-ball attack. Wisemen would be able to be brought along slowly and would be used against second units. Once he would fully blossom, and his stock value rises (or falls), one of them most likely would be moved down the road closer to his rookie extension. The additional draft capital added, is due to the favorable contract Allen is on at 20 per.

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