Andrew Wiggins of the Warriors is having his greatest season as a pro, but he still has a tough road to the All-Star Game

NBA | Andrew Wiggins of the Warriors is having his greatest season as a pro, but he still has a tough road to the All-Star Game

Last year, when Andrew Wiggins was selected as a starter for the All-Star team, the conversation around him became heated at times. Wiggins was a great player for the Warriors, but when he was given a starting spot at the All-Star Game, many people thought it was unfairly given to him and the conversation quickly moved to whether or not he was the worst starter in All-Star history.

The spectacular performance of Wiggins in the playoffs and Finals silenced the critics. He was the team’s second best player behind Stephen Curry as the Warriors cruised to the NBA Finals and a title. Wiggins has surpassed his own high standards this season. According to Cleaning the Glass, he is now averaging a career-high in shooting percentage from all areas of the floor.

Wiggins has been on fire recently, draining 18 of his past 33 three-point attempts. In the month of November, he averaged over seven three-point tries per game and hit on 48 percent of them. He is scoring at a career-high 121.9 points per 100 shots, and he is averaging 19 points a game.

The following is a bit: This season, Wiggins has a career-high 73% assist rate, and his 95% 3-point assist rate is also a record. Wiggins is still a viable option to generate his own shot at the buzzer. When the offense slows or he sees a matchup he likes, he sometimes goes one-on-one, but otherwise he operates almost exclusively inside Golden State’s read-and-react framework. A man from Minnesota who made a living off of terrible shots has undergone a miraculous transformation, and he now seldom makes a bad shot.

Wiggins realized something crucial about rebounding in last year’s playoffs: NBA players often don’t box out. He grabbed an offensive rebound on over eight percent of Golden State’s misses, which is quite high for a wing player.

This year, he has maintained an offensive rebounding percentage of 5.1%, a career regular season best that has helped set the tone for a Warriors team that has had to rely on a gang rebounding strategy with its guards to compensate for its lack of traditional size. And Wiggins is now the same kind of defender that Klay Thompson was in his prime. Among perimeter defenders, he is the best that Golden State has.

In lighthearted fashion, Curry recently answered a question on whether Wiggins should be an All-Star again this season. “That’s not a discussion,” you could ask. In this case, Curry answered.

It’s more than just an argument, however. Wiggins has never played better basketball, but he probably won’t be able to watch All-Star weekend from home this year if he doesn’t get another Bam-Bam boost. There are just too many other players to consider, and Golden State’s recent brilliance hasn’t merited two picks if one of them is a borderline player like Andrew Wiggins.

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Obviously, that is subject to change. The Warriors have found their rhythm with five consecutive victories. For the time being, these are the players we can safely assume will round out the Western Conference’s 12-man All-Star roster in the absence of serious injury.

Now hear this: there is a fair likelihood that a few injuries will clear up a few roster places. However, based on the current state of affairs, those eight locks leave just four available slots. However, if Curry and Luka are the starting guards, which seems likely at this stage, then the other four guards (Morant, Booker, Lillard, and SGA) can only be included in the starting lineup by using the two non-positional wild cards.

Since Wiggins is a forward, this eliminates two potential bench players for the front court, reducing the available bench players to six (three reserves and three starters). As I’ve said before, Jokic, LeBron, and AD are all but certain of making the team. It implies that just three of Zion Williamson, Paul George, Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert, Jerami Grant, Mikal Bridges, Lauri Markkanen, Domantas Sabonis, Brandon Ingram, and Andrew Wiggins will make the team.

Williamson and George are two of the names that may be written down with confidence. Only one player can join Towns, Gobert, Grant, Markkanen, Sabonis, Ingram, and Wiggins, and that’s only if the NBA doesn’t re-position one of the guards to forward to make room for De’Aaron Fox and/or Desmond Bane.

If that were to happen, which is not out of the question given how well Fox is performing for a surprisingly solid and ultra-fun Kings team, that would leave only two reserve front-court spots, which would again likely go to Williamson and George due to the fact that scoring statistics tend to still rule.

It’s also conceivable, though I have my doubts, that Kawhi Leonard returns and performs well enough over the next two months to warrant All-Star consideration.

Grant has probably been better than Wiggins if a bench player was going to be the one to replace Zion or PG. Grant has been fantastic for the Blazers, if you haven’t seen much of him. He’s averaging 21 points per game on 48 percent 3-point shooting and thriving in his new role; it’s as if he’s always played in this system and with these teammates.

Ingram has been more productive than Wiggins offensively, scoring more points while making 47 percent of his 3-point attempts. Only three players, including Sabonis, have averages of at least 16 points and 11 rebounds (the other two are Giannis Antetokounmpo and Anthony Davis, both All-Star locks barring injury).

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For my money, Bridges would also win out over Wiggins in a coin toss. As one of the best defenders in the NBA, Bridges is also scoring more than ever before, making more plays off the dribble and sinking 47 percent of his 3-point attempts. Furthermore, the Suns have been superior than the Warriors, and they need more than just Booker to make the All-Star team.

Therefore, the argument that Curry considers settled is not one that Wiggins is likely to win. That doesn’t exclude him from becoming an All-Star. He is. There has never been as much combined skill in the NBA as there is right now, but there are only so many roster places available. I think Wiggins is great. The Warriors had great expectations for him, but he has exceeded them by a factor of a hundred.

The speculation that Bob Myers might include Andrew Wiggins in a trade deal to get a star player has faded away. Not even Wiggins can make him go. That is something I would put a lot of money on. He is too talented a player, too well suited to our system, and he still represents one of the most remarkable career comebacks of recent times.

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