An energetic, powerful and furious dunk. A symbolic action which acts as an exclamation point to conclude the decisive performance of Andrew Wiggins and the victory of the Warriors over the Celtics in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, played on the night of Monday to Tuesday. Spectacular actions of this caliber, the Canadian has accumulated a package since the beginning of his career.
But it still retains a truly unique flavor. Due to the context, of course, the issue, but also the change in status of the young man since his arrival in the Californian franchise a little over two years ago. Steve Kerr often repeats it: “We wouldn’t be in this position [de jouer à nouveau le titre] without him.”
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From superstar in the making to wasted talent
Wiggins, a key man in a formation which is only a small victory away from winning the trophy? Still unthinkable four years back, when he stagnated at the Timberwolves. And yet, that is typically what was intended for him. The Toronto native arrived in the NBA in 2014 with the label of a superstar of the future. A first draft pick sent from Cleveland to Minneapolis before even playing his first game with the pros. He then had all the assets to go far: size, exceptional athletic qualities, a body cut to dominate at this level but also a good technical background.
Except he lacked the attitude. Passion. Perhaps even the urge to meet the enormous expectations placed on him. Connected to alternating current, he has continued to disappoint supporters, his leaders and even his own supporters within the staff. Journalist Zach Lowe says Ryan Saunders, one of Wiggins’ staunchest supporters, puffed up by the player’s selfish and flippant attitude, couldn’t help but go off the rails one day.
It was halftime of a game in January 2020. Saunders yelled at Wiggins, to the point of having heart palpitations and being examined by franchise doctors. The latter concluded that he had simply torn a muscle in his chest while yelling at his foal. A few weeks later, Wolves preferred to part with the talented but too irregular winger. Direction Golden State.
Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Jordan Poole, and Stephen Curry on the bench for the Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals
Credit: Getty Images
Golden State wanted a ‘handyman’
“We desperately needed size on the wings. I thought we needed a body like his“, testifies Steve Kerr. “I think the transfer was the key to getting us back to being a playoff team. Andrew Wiggins allowed us to rebuild our defense.” He is effectively the Warriors’ designated stopper on the outside positions.
Wiggins takes care of the opposing top scorers. Ja Morant, Luka Doncic, and now Jayson Tatum. He was very good again in his duel with the Celtics superstar last night. Tatum scored 27 points but suffered in money-time. His vis-à-vis notably pushed him to swing a three-point air ball in the last minutes. Moments later, Wiggins killed the match with his peppy dunk.
Having a third or fourth offensive option like him is quite a luxury given the talent and ability of the guy. But he has been more than that for a few matches. He is downright the second best player on his team in his finals. Stephen Curry’s first offensive support. It was precisely when his leader took the hit that he raised his level of play to take over. With 26 points and 13 rebounds, he was the engine of this decisive victory and the hero of a Game 5 traditionally considered decisive.
A decisive metamorphosis in this final
A saving metamorphosis. Andrew Wiggins is no longer the same player as in the past. He is no longer in charge of a team. But he takes care of the dirty work, he plays with intensity and relentlessness from the first to the last minute, he is involved, etc. Nothing to do with the face he showed in Minnesota.
“I have always said that nobody talks about the teams and the organizations in which the players evolve. Nobody ever talks about it, it’s always the player’s fault. Andrew shows that I’m not far (from reality) when I say that“, added Green.
Indeed, put in another environment, the 27-year-old basketball player flourished by gaining maturity and learning alongside future Hall Of Famers. “There is a winning culture here. When I got here they put me in a position to succeed“, underlines for his part the interested party after his heroic performance. The DNA of the champion has impregnated him. Except that he always runs towards his first ring. Given the speed and the aggressiveness with which he goes up to the circle, this should be arriving soon.
Wiggins and Curry
Credit: Getty Images
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