Warriors’ Andrew Wiggins playing best basketball of his career, but he’ll have an uphill All-Star climb

When Andrew Wiggins was named an All-Star starter last season, the discourse around him turned a bit ugly. He was a superb player for the Warriors, but the moment he received what many believed to be an unwarranted slot typically reserved for the game’s elite, all the talk, at least for a minute, shifted from Wiggins’ legitimate merits to whether he ranked as the worst starter in All-Star history. 

Wiggins put that noise to bed with his brilliant play in the postseason and Finals. He was Golden State’s second-best player next to Stephen Curry as it marched to a championship. This season, Wiggins has been even better than last. He’s shooting career-highs all over the court, including from 3, where he’s connecting at a 44-percent clip via Cleaning the Glass. 

Wiggins has been scorching of late, splashing 18 of his last 33 triples. He’s shooting 48 percent from beyond the arc for the month of November on over seven attempts per game. He’s averaging 19 highly efficient points per game; his 121.9 points per 100 shots, per CTG, is by far a career-high. 

Here’s something: 73 percent of Wiggins’ made shots this season have been assisted, including 95 percent of his 3s, both career-high marks. Wiggins remains a reliable end-of-clock option to create his own shot. He selectively goes one on one when the offense stalls or he has a matchup he likes, but for the most part, he has integrated himself fully into Golden State’s read-and-react system. It’s been a remarkable tale of development, from a guy in Minnesota who lived on bad shots to a guy who almost never takes a bad shot anymore. 

Wiggins had a rebounding epiphany during last year’s playoffs: NBA players, as a rule, don’t box out. As a perimeter player, if you crash the glass with a head of steam, there are a lot of boards to be had; indeed, he secured an offensive rebound on nearly eight percent of Golden State’s misses, a huge number for a wing. 

This year he has steadied that O-board rate at 5.1 percent, by far a career regular-season high, setting the tone, along with Curry, for a Warriors team that has to gang rebound with its guards for a lack of conventional size. And what Klay Thompson used to be as a defender, Wiggins has become. He’s Golden State’s most premium perimeter stopper. 

When Curry was recently asked whether Wiggins should be an All-Star again this season, he deigned, playfully, to even dignify the question. “What kind of debate is that?” Curry responded. 

Thing is, it’s more than a debate. Chances are, without another Bam-Bam bump, Wiggins will be watching All-Star weekend from home this season even though he’s never played better basketball in his life. There are just too many guys to beat out, and at the moment, Golden State’s play hasn’t warranted two selections if one of them is a fringe guy, as Wiggins is. 

That could change. The Warriors have won five straight and are starting to find their stride. Until then, let’s consider the locks, barring injury, to fill out the Western Conference’s 12-man All-Star pool.

Now listen, chances are pretty good that there will be a couple of injuries that open up a couple of spots. But going off where things stand at the moment, those eight locks leave just four open spots. But here’s the catch: If Curry and Luka are the starting guards, which at this point they almost certainly would be, then the only way to get those other four guards in (Morant, Booker, Lillard and SGA) would be to use the two non-positional wild cards. 

That takes away two possible reserve front-court spots (Wiggins is a forward), leaving the total number at six (three reserves and three starters). Again, Jokic, LeBron and AD are locks as of now. That means just three of the following players can make the final cut: Zion Williamson, Paul George, Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert, Jerami Grant, Mikal Bridges, Lauri Markkanen, Domantas Sabonis, Brandon Ingram and Wiggins. 

Of those names, you can pretty much pencil in Williamson and George. That leaves just one spot between Towns, Gobert, Grant, Markkanen, Sabonis, Ingram and Wiggins, and that’s if the NBA doesn’t find a way to squeeze in De’Aaron Fox and/or Desmond Bane by positioning one of the guards as a forward. 

If that happens, which is definitely possible, particularly with how well Fox is playing for a surprisingly solid and ultra-fun Kings team, there would only be two reserve front-court spots available — which, again, would probably go to Williamson and George because scoring statistics tend to still rule. 

There’s also the possibility that Kawhi Leonard comes back and actually plays enough to go on a two-month run worthy of an All-Star selection, which I would doubt, but it’s certainly possible. 

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If a fringe guy was going to bump Zion or PG, Grant has probably been better than Wiggins. If you haven’t watched much of Grant, he’s been awesome for the Blazers. He’s scoring 21 a night on 48-percent 3-point shooting, and he’s filling all the right cracks; he looks like he’s been in that system and uniform his whole career. 

Ingram is scoring more than Wiggins and shooting 47 percent from 3. Sabonis is one of just three players averaging at least 16 points and 11 boards (the other two are Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis, both All-Star locks barring injury). 

If it came down to a coin flip, Bridges, for my money, would also edge out Wiggins. Bridges is scoring more than he ever has, draining 47 percent of his 3s and making more plays off the bounce while continuing to be one of the premier defenders in the league. Plus, the Suns have been better than the Warriors and Booker can’t be the only All-Star if they remain at the top of the West.

All of this is to say, Wiggins isn’t likely to win the debate that Curry thinks is a no-brainer. That doesn’t mean he’s not an All-Star player. He is. There are only so many spots available and there has never been this much collective talent in the NBA. Wiggins is fantastic. He’s a hundred times better than the Warriors hoped he could be for them, and they had pretty high hopes. 

Gone are all the conversations about Wiggins being a part of whatever trade package Bob Myers may or may not put together for a run at a major player. Wiggins isn’t going anywhere. I would bet a lot of money on that. He’s too good of a player, too great of a fit in this particular ecosystem, and he continues to be one of the great career-narrative turnaround stories in recent memory. 


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