Andrew Wiggins played a key role in the Golden State Warriors’ run to the NBA Finals and had some of his career-best performances as he developed into one of the most important players on the team’s small-ball roster.
But while Wiggins’ game has the Warriors in contention for their fourth title in eight seasons, his rise could raise new and difficult roster composition questions in the longer term. As ESPN’s Zach Lowe noted, this could mean an earlier-than-planned exit for one of the best shooters in franchise history whose name isn’t Steph Curry.
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As Lowe noted, there had long been an expectation in the league that the Warriors would let Wiggins’ deal expire after next season as the franchise couldn’t afford to keep every part of its core – Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and up-and-coming Jordan Poole.
As it already stands, the Warriors are on the hook for a historic payroll just to keep the current roster intact.
“Poole applied for an extension this summer. Thompson and Green’s contracts expire after the 2023-24 season, although Green could opt out a year early,” Lowe wrote. “Taking into account realistic submax estimates for those five players — plus Gary Payton II and Kevon Looney — Golden State’s payroll could reach the $475 million mark, including luxury tax penalties, according to analysis by ESPN’s Bobby Marks. This is unprecedented.”
Lowe noted that the situation will force the Warriors to ask some “awkward questions” that could include an investigation into whether to keep Wiggins over Thompson.
“Depending on the team’s appetite for this type of spending, it could raise awkward questions: Do the Warriors have to choose between Wiggins and Poole?” Lowe wrote. “Or worse, will the choice between Wiggins, Green and Thompson be two?”
There might be some help along the way, Lowe noted, as the Warriors and owner Joe Lacob have been lobbying for some luxury tax breaks on contracts with “homegrown players” like Thompson, who led the Warriors with their 11th overall win of the year Was drafted in 2011. While he wrote that it’s hard to imagine Green or Thompson playing anywhere but the Golden State, Wiggins has grown beyond his supporting role and could take on an even bigger role if Curry begins to decline.
The start of the NBA playoffs brought the Warriors an unprecedented opportunity. After a season filled with a string of long-term injuries, it was the first time Curry, Thompson, Green, Poole and Wiggins stepped onto the pitch together. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr unleashed the small-ball lineup at the Denver Nuggets with great success, thanks in large part to Wiggins’ ability to defend all positions and serve as the primary rebounder.
The results were excellent. After averaging 4.7 rebounds per game throughout his career, Wiggins is averaging 7.3 boards per game in the playoffs. When the Warriors won Game 4 of the NBA Finals to level the series, he grabbed a career-best 16 rebounds.
After Friday’s win, Wiggins said he was ready to do whatever it takes to lead the Warriors to a title.
“We all have to do our part. We have a lot of people that can go into the game and affect the game in different ways and everything is needed right now,” Wiggins said via SI.com. “Whatever anybody has to give, you don’t want to look back in a few weeks and say I should have done that, I should have done that. You have to keep everything on the ground.”
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