Through Ric Bucher
FOX Sports NBA Writer
From a talent perspective, the only surprise left Andrew Wiggins The fact that he became a starter in the 2022 NBA All-Star Game this weekend is that it took so long — eight years into his career — to happen. All-Star accolades are what you would expect from someone who is the No. 1 talent coming out of high school and becoming No. 1 in the NBA Draft a year later.
Considering what it really comes down to when a player is called an All-Star starter, it wouldn’t have been surprising at all if Wiggins had never received All-Star recognition. And as an appetizer? He had no chance.
Why? Because it is no more a measure of pure talent than the value of a house over its construction. In both cases, it’s about location, location, location. And timing, timing, timing. What makes Wiggins’ selection even more remarkable is that no one predicted at the start of the season that this would be the place and time for him to do it.
Including Wiggins. “I’m in a completely different position than I was,” he said with a smile.
For anyone who may have forgotten, Wiggins was initially reluctant to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus; had he not conceded, at best he would have been in the same situation as Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving, a seven-time All-Star who has played 14 games this season and finished ninth in the All-Star voting under Eastern Conference guards.
“I’m still not happy I did it,” Wiggins said. “But I’m happy to be here and to be an All-Star.”
“Here” was an outdoor deck at the back of the Warriors’ Chase Center arena, overlooking the sun-kissed waters of San Francisco Bay. “Here” is also on a Warriors squad ideally suited to repair and improve the profile that Wiggins brought with him after five and a half seasons in Minnesota, namely: an extraordinarily talented player who had no idea how to use his talent effectively. and wasn’t particularly interested in finding out.
It’s one thing to have teammates who stand up for your work ethic and attention to detail; it’s another when those teammates are Draymond Green, a perennial contender for Defensive Player of the Year, and Andre Iguodala, a Finals MVP with one of the league’s highest basketball IQs. Iguodala inspired a profound shift in perspective on Wiggins by stating that when Iguodala was with the Miami Heat last year, Jimmy Butler, who played with Wiggins in Minnesota and at one point insinuated that he was both soft and overpaid, praised the young star despite those reproaches.
“Jimmy doesn’t like anyone,” Iguodala said. “So when Jimmy said he liked Wiggs, I kind of started looking at… [him] different.”
Green, meanwhile, changed the image of Wiggins as a one-dimensional player who only cared about his offense. “Since he’s been here, he’s shown that he’s a very capable defender, and he’s made it a few steps… which is great for us,” said Green. “He really changes the game for us.”
A few other factors also worked in Wiggins’ favor, starting with the Warriors’ strong start despite the absence of All-Star shooting guard Klay Thompson, who made his return after a more than two-year absence through injury in January. . 9, 39 games into the season, and has yet to find a consistent rhythm or appear consistently in the Golden State lineup. Green has also struggled with a problem since December that forced him to miss the previous 19 games.
Add to that the fact that the Western Conference frontcourt is missing perpetual All-Stars like Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Anthony Davis due to injuries, and an opening that would have been unlikely in almost any other season appeared.
That may have been enough for Wiggins to be selected by the league’s Western Conference coaches for one of seven All-Star reserve spots, along with Green. Being picked as a starter isn’t just about how well a player and his team perform, though. It’s also about fan popularity and respect among players and media members, who all vote for the game’s 10 starters, with the fans’ votes accounting for 50% and players and media members sharing the other 50%.
Wiggins has never tried to build a good relationship with the media. It’s another reason why the Warriors were such an ideal match for him. As a No. 1 pick and one of Timberwolves’ top two players, along with Karl Anthony-Towns, Wiggins was expected to be the leader, team spokesperson and face of the franchise. He has little interest in any of those tasks.
“I like to hoop. I like to play basketball,” he said. “The media side, I think, is something that comes with it at this level. I was never huge into it.”
Full disclosure: I did not vote for Wiggins. My three frontcourt picks in the Western Conference were LeBron James, Nikola Jokic and Rudy Gobert. The vast majority of players and other media members also did not vote for him: just four out of 98 media members and 46 out of 171 players. If things had been decided by votes from players and media, Gobert and Green would have been chosen for Wiggins.
But Wiggins was by far the most popular of the three in the fan poll, with over 3.4 million votes. Green had just over 2.4 million, and Gobert had a paltry 767,505. The credit for that also goes to something other than Wiggins’ talent.
First, there’s how the NBA voting app works, which defaults to All-Star candidates ranked by their scoring averages. That gave Wiggins a distinct advantage over Green and Gobert, whose All-Star qualifiers are based on traits other than scoring.
Then there is the general popularity. The Warriors will play 41 games on national television this season; the Jazz have 26.
Finally, there is the business knowledge of the Warriors. They hired South Korean K-Pop star, Warriors fan and social media influencer BamBam as a global ambassador. BamBam’s posts to his more than 15 million Instagram followers and nine million Twitter followers received more attention than any other post recommending a player for All-Star consideration, according to SF Gate. It didn’t hurt that the Warriors had a BamBam post on January 7, one of the days when the NBA counted every vote twice.
On January 6, Wiggins was behind George by nearly 140,000 votes for third and last spot in the fan poll. By January 7, he had taken more than 56,000 lead.
I asked Wiggins to give me three reasons why he thought he was an All-Star for the first time. “I’m a winner, I’m one of the best defenders in the league, and I’m the second leading scorer on the team with the second best record in the NBA,” he said.
All new and real reasons, which undoubtedly contributed to his selection. They just weren’t alone.
Ric Bucher is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He has previously written for Bleacher Report, ESPN The Magazine and The Washington Post and has authored two books, “Rebound,” the story of NBA forward Brian Grant’s struggle with young Parkinson’s, and “Yao: A Life In Two Worlds.” , the story of NBA center Yao Ming. He also has a daily podcast, “On The Ball with Ric Bucher.” Follow him on Twitter @Rick Bucher†
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