Andrew Wiggins got his own back this week after a prominent ESPN analyst had some disparaging words for the Golden State Warriors forward.
First Take’s Stephen A. Smith appeared on ESPN’s SportsCenter last Wednesday, April 28, during which the prominent television personality reiterated the insulting offer he has claimed he would accept in order to get Wiggins out of the Warriors front court.
I’d give Andrew Wiggins away for a box of cookies.
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) April 28, 2021
“I’d give Wiggins away for a box of cookies,” Smith said. “For every one game he’s significant, there’s 20 games where it ain’t there. The numbers are there. But in terms of impact, this is a former No. 1 overall pick, and you just don’t get much. And that’s how I look at it.
“That would not be the case if Klay Thompson was there,” Smith continued.
Wiggins Takes the High Road in Response to Harsh Criticism by Stephen A. Smith
Wiggins did not come out of the box swinging at Smith for the insult. Instead, he took the high road in an interview with Mark Medina, basketball reporter for USA Today. In his response, Wiggins chose not even to acknowledge Smith directly by name.
Andrew Wiggins on Stephen A Smith saying he would trade him for cookies: “There’s always going to be people that are going to say negative things, constructive criticism or not. Some things are positive. Some things are negative. But I’m going to keep pushing either way.”
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) April 29, 2021
“There’s always going to be people that are going to say negative things, constructive criticism or not,” Wiggins told Medina. “Some things are positive. Some things are negative. But I’m going to keep pushing either way.”
Though his response was far less theatrical than Smith’s original antagonistic commentary, Wiggins perhaps showed himself better suited for the more prominent role.
The 26-year-old Warrior exhibited maturity and restraint in the face of bombastic, attention-seeking comments crafted more for the subsequent reaction of the audience rather than its immediate edification — and made by an analyst more than twice Wiggins’ age.
Wiggins and the Golden State Warriors
In just Wiggins’ second season as a member of the Warriors, the forward has been asked to fill in for missing Splash Brother Klay Thompson. By all accounts, Wiggins has held his own.
He is averaging 18.1 points this season on 47% shooting from the field, including a career-best 38% from behind the three-point arc. Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is an advanced statistic that measures in concert a wide variety of a player’s contributions (or detriments) to his team. The average PER in the NBA is approximately 15. Wiggins’ PER during his first two campaigns with the Warriors is 15.2, per Basketball Reference.
Smith has a point that such a PER, while technically above average, is below the standard that should be set for former overall No. 1 draft picks. And Wiggins has been accused by several analysts, not just Smith, of being an empty bucket, both in Golden State and during his tenure with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
However, Wiggins has also started all 75 games for the Warriors since arriving to the Bay Area. He has been a reliable source of much-needed scoring for the three-time champions who have suffered through the departure of Kevin Durant to Brooklyn, two devastating injuries to Thompson, and the gradual offensive demise of Draymond Green — all in the span of less than two full seasons since Golden State’s last NBA Finals appearance.
The Warriors stood at 31-32 as of Saturday afternoon, May 1 — good enough for 10th in the Western Conference and the final postseason berth in the league’s new play-in format.
Golden State remains three games up on the 11th-seeded New Orleans Pelicans and, based on current positioning, is more likely to move up in the standings than down over the season’s final nine games.
While not the type of production the Warriors’ faithful are used to receiving from their team, Wiggins deserves some credit for helping keep the ship afloat while Golden State treads water in anticipation of Thompson’s return. And if the Warriors hope to accomplish anything of note in the upcoming postseason, they’ll need Wiggins to show up then, as well.
The 26-year-old forward is not likely to ever live up to the hype of a No. 1 pick, but the Warriors will need him regardless before the season’s end — considerably more than they’ll need Stephen A. Smith’s box of cookies.