What Warriors fans can expect from Wiggins next season originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
It took three months for Andrew Wiggins to puncture the reputation that haunted him for seven years, only for it to resurface over the next three months. Two-way Wiggs, the Warriors All-Star, crept back toward the image he never wanted.
Rather than accept it, Wiggins spun toward the playoffs, setting his jaw and planting his feet and leaping into a mission to crush it for good.
Wiggins used the stage of the Western Conference finals and the NBA Finals to kill the underachiever image he helped create. The passivity that defined him withered under a barrage of angry drives to the rim, ferocious dunks, forceful rebounds and snarling defense under the hottest of spotlights.
In Game 5, the longest of nights for Finals MVP Stephen Curry, it was Wiggins coming to the rescue, with 26 points, 13 rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block.
The only member of the Warriors with a more impressive Finals was Curry, who earned the MVP award.
Wiggins’ postseason performance, particularly in the last two rounds, raised his personal bar. He unveiled himself, setting a standard that will challenge every corner of his body, mind and heart.
He can’t be merely good, for that would resuscitate old ghosts. He has to be very good, worthy of a second consecutive trip to the All-Star Game.
It’s reasonable to expect Wiggins to bump up his scoring average, 17.2 last season, closer to 20 per game. It’s reasonable, after seeing him average 7.2 rebounds in the postseason, to believe he can go from 4.5 to around 6.0. It’s reasonable to believe he can continue to play solid defense; it will be necessary for the Warriors to make another deep postseason run.
Wiggins will have plenty of motivation to be his best self. He’s entering the final season of the five-year, $148 million contract he signed with the Timberwolves in 2017. In his prime at 27, facing the prospect of unrestricted free agency next June, he could position himself for one more massive haul.
Coming off a strong postseason -- where reputations are made, or remade -- with an expiring contract, this is the season that can reveal all that Wiggins has.
For as tremendous as he was in the first half of last season, before a submitting an ordinary second half and recovering in the playoffs, Wiggins will toil under the strongest magnifying glass of his career.
If he can take the heat, he’ll produce. If not, well, it will be costly.
It’s not the numbers that the Warriors will dwell on. It’s the effort and determination. The will. Wiggins says he loves being a member of the Warriors and would love to remain so. Put up a terrific season, and the franchise has a decision to make.
The Warriors loved what they saw in May and June. Starring in the biggest moments of his career, Wiggins performed as projected in 2014, when he was the No. 1 pick in the draft, ahead of Joel Embiid, Zach LaVine and a full 40 picks ahead of Nikola Jokic.
Two-Wiggs finally proved what so many justifiably doubted. That there is a beast within. Now he has the formidable task of feeding it.