The return of greatness is impossible. Golden State is paying the price for a fatal mistake
The Golden State Warriors have been a mediocre team for the past two years. The Warriors failed to make the playoffs. Between 2015 and 2019, the Californian club played some of the most dominant basketball in NBA history. Things fell apart after Kevin Durant left for the Brooklyn Nets in 2019.
Durant clashed with Draymond Green , which was one of the main reasons for leaving. Losing a top-class performer is always unpleasant. The Warriors wanted to stay competitive even after Kevin left. There was every reason for this. Stephen Curry , Draymond Green and Clay Thompson remained in the team, head coach Steve Kerr also did not go anywhere. Yes, without Durant, this is far from such a powerful team, but Stephen, Draymond and Clay, under Kerr, won the title in 2015 without Kevin. And in the 2015/2016 season they showed the historically best result in the regular season – 73-9.
Curry, Thompson and Green could well have fought for the title already in the 2019/2020 season, if not for the injury of Thompson, who was retired for a year. The Warriors did not want to drop out of the championship race for a year, so they made a rash move. Golden State could have let Durant leave for free and not burdened the payment, but the front office decided to conduct a sign-and-trade deal with the Nets. It was a fatal mistake. In exchange for Durant, the Warriors received point guard D’Angelo Russell and his $ 117 million 4-year contract.
Russell is a member of the 2019 NBA All-Star Game. It seems to be logical to get at least some quality player instead of Durant, even if less status than KD. However, Russell did nothing to help Golden State. D’Angelo can show good statistics in a weak team, but does not pull in the role of a key performer in a contender. Kerr’s team dug in at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
Russell was decided to fold almost immediately. But D’Angelo could be exchanged for a similar bloated and bad contract. As a result, Golden State dropped Russell to Minnesota, having received in return another ballast on the payroll – forward Andrew Wiggins. The first issue of the 2014 draft did not live up to expectations. His contract, with an average salary of $ 30+ million a year, was considered non-exchangeable until Golden State took over.
As expected, Wiggins did not affect the competitiveness of the Warriors at all, but took a lot of place in the payment. The 2019/2020 season was successfully leaked by Golden State, which allowed them to get the second pick of the draft and select James Wiseman. The 2020/2021 season ended with yet another miss in the playoffs. The Warriors looked very dull in the regular season, having resolved the issue of getting into the play-in tournament in the most recent matches. In a duel for the right to play in the playoffs, Kerr’s team lost to the Los Angeles Lakers. Curry pulled as best he could and became the best scorer in the NBA, but he could not count on the help of the second star option. Wiggins didn’t even come close to becoming a Clay Thompson-level partner. And now the 2021/2022 season is approaching, and Andrew brings with him a new problem in addition to a weak level of play and a bloated contract.
Wiggins runs the risk of being banned from training and home matches. All the fault is his refusal to be vaccinated against coronavirus. The absence of a player could be a serious problem for the Warriors, who are already extremely expensive for Wiggins.
San Francisco officials require that unvaccinated players will not be able to attend home games at the Chase Center or train at local gyms. An exception will be made only for those whose refusal to vaccinate is justified by medical or religious reasons. Moreover, similar restrictions will not apply to guest players – unvaccinated guest players in the city will be given some kind of freedom.
According to insider Anthony Slater, nearly all Warriors players have already received their dose of the vaccine. And only the issue with Wiggins remains unresolved. The club has no right to oblige the player to be vaccinated. But, according to the rules of the NBA, the management can fine or remove those who do not meet the requirements for the prevention of coronavirus. Last season, the fine for violating the medical protocol was $ 50 thousand. But for missed matches, the amount of penalty can be much more impressive. For example, Kyrie Irving, who violated protocol in January, was quarantined and lost $ 800,000 for two missed meetings. In New York, by the way, the same restrictions now apply as in San Francisco.
Wiggins announced his decision to give up the vaccine back in March: “I’m not going to get vaccinated anytime soon, unless they force me to somehow.” Then his position was shared by teammate Kent Basemore. But he moved to the Lakers this summer, where it doesn’t concern him yet. So Wiggins alone adds to the hassle of the Warriors.
But Wiggins’ principled position on vaccination is not his only problem. And we are, of course, talking about the unreasonably high salary of a player in a Californian club. For the two years remaining under the contract, he is entitled to another $ 65 million. The Warriors already have the largest payment in the NBA ($ 177 million), and only stars Stephen Curry and Clay Thompson receive more than Andrew at the club. Wiggins does not yet justify such investments, even despite the relatively acceptable statistics in the regular season.
He played 72 games in which he averaged 18.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists. Wiggins has added noticeably, especially in terms of defensive play. On the defensive, he plowed throughout the season, which is why Warriors head coach Steve Kerr called him the Double Wiggs. On the offensive side, Andrew was the second offensive option after Curry. And it helped to reduce the workload on Stef a little. In addition, the striker pulled up a three-point mark, showing the best conversion rate in his career – 38. In general, he began to issue more high-quality shots, thanks to which he finished the season with the best percentage of hits from the field. Unfortunately, Wiggins is unstable. Quite often there are moments when he is simply lost on the court. He certainly brings some benefit, but he doesn’t play for his $ 31-33 million a year.
Wiggins is clearly overpaid. And in the event that a big exchange looms on the horizon, he will be the first to go to the exit. It was rumored this summer that he, along with James Wiseman and a few first-round picks, could be included in a potential deal over Bradley Beale or Damien Lillard. On the same terms, the Sixers wanted to trade Ben Simmons to Golden State , but were refused. However, these transfers remained in the category of potential, Wiggins retained his place in the Warriors. No one wants to take on Andrew’s bloated contract, even though Simmons has a more expensive and long-term deal.
In the offseason, the Warriors barely improved – they got two young prospectuses and three free agents on the “minimum wage”. Now all hope is solely for the successful return of Clay Thompson, the remaining fuse of Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, as well as the fuse of the youth. Wiggins has a lot to give too, since his agreement takes up almost 20% of the payment. If he continues to progress and manages to at least partially justify the lump sum in his contract, it will be great luck. But in the situation surrounding his refusal to vaccinate, he may lose training time, or even start missing home games. And this is not beneficial to anyone. But Wiggins’s position is principled, although he has nowhere to go. Either you get vaccinated, or you lose your own funds. Let’s see if his principles are more important than money.
In any case, Andrew Wiggins is a player who does not provide anything useful. It just takes precious money in payment and does not allow to somehow increase the depth of the composition around Curry, Green and Thompson, who is returning to service after two missed years.