Wiggins' future with Warriors looking tenuous after frustrating season

Wiggins' future with Warriors looking tenuous after frustrating season originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO – Of the things that felt apparent after general manager Mike Dunleavy’s 28-minute news conference, followed by a 46-minute session with coach Steve Kerr, one is that the Warriors do not seem solidly committed to keeping Andrew Wiggins.

Dunleavy and Kerr talked of re-signing Klay Thompson to keep him with longtime teammates Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. They commented on the futures of Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, both of whom are eligible for contract extensions. Both said they’d welcome another year with Chris Paul.

There was, however, scant mention, of the man who spent the last three-plus seasons as Golden State’s starting small forward.

This likely was not necessarily by design, but it was nonetheless glaring – particularly when Kerr discussed Kuminga.

“Can he be a 3?” Kerr asked rhetorically. “That's a big question. And I don't know the answer to it. I’ll know that if we continue to help him and he continues to learn how to create spacing and get his shot off a little quicker and be more comfortable catch and shooting, but also making the right reads. Because as a 3 you handle the ball more. Can he become a better passer? I think he sees the floor pretty well, but his fundamentals in terms of passing have to improve if he's going to play the 3.

“We need him to play the 3 if we want to have Trayce [Jackson-Davis] out there at the 5 and Draymond [Green], at the 4. That, ideally, would be a great defensive lineup, athletically and length. But we're not ready for that yet as a team.”

In short, Kerr believes Kuminga and the Warriors are best served if he can refine his small-forward skills.

Kerr’s comments take on considerable significance when added to the context of Kuminga’s comments during his season-ending news conference on Wednesday.

“It's just all going to depend on how I take this summer,” Kuminga said of making another leap toward his potential and possibly becoming an All-Star. “It's just going to come down to how I go through this summer. Because anything is possible. And I feel like I could do it, going through next year, it just all comes down to what type of summer I'm going to have.”

This was minutes after Kuminga had met with Kerr. The coach expressed his desires for the player. Kuminga heard the message and realized he must continue to hone his game.

“JK had a really good year, a breakthrough year, for sure,” Kerr said. “I think he got more and more confident with his play. One thing that was interesting for us is that when we made the shift in the starting lineup midseason and had Draymond at the 5 and Wiggs and JK at the 4 combined, it was very helpful for JK to get the ball with more space, get downhill.”

Though Kuminga played both forward positions during the season, he started at power forward when Wiggins was at small forward. When Kerr started Jackson-Davis at center for the stretch run, Green slid to power forward and Kuminga came off the bench.

Let’s be clear: Kuminga is not long for the bench.

Warriors CEO Joe Lacob, having already lost one high lottery pick – James Wiseman – undoubtedly wants Kuminga, 21, to become a key player. Probably as a small forward.

Wiggins has been entrenched at the 3 since arriving via trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2020. He has played 299 games (playoffs included) with the Warriors, with 287 starts.

Not until this season had Wiggins come off the bench for Golden State. He struggled through most of the first half and along the way took a brief leave of absence for personal reasons.

Wiggins has three seasons and $84.7 million remaining on his contract, with a player option in Year 3. It’s a team-friendly deal when he is playing well, an overpay when he is not. And his excellent games are outnumbered by those best described as ordinary.

Wiggins’ name has been mentioned in trade talks several times since he came to Golden State in February 2020. There was speculation as the Warriors stumbled toward the trade deadline two months ago.

Lacob and Dunleavy made no major changes then, but they almost certainly will in the coming months. And Wiggins almost certainly will be part of the conversation.

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