The first half of the 2021-2022 NBA season is coming to a close and after an invigorating four months of basketball, players and fans alike are excited for the upcoming All-Star Break. This week the starters for both conferences’ All-Star Teams were announced. The starters from the Eastern Conference include Nets forward captain Kevin Durant who will not play due to injury, Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, 76ers Center Joel Embiid, Bulls guard DeMar DeRozan, and Hawks guard Trae Young. As for the Western Conference, Lakers forward Lebron James will make his record-tying 18th All-Star Game appearance captaining the team followed by Warriors guard Stephen Curry, Grizzlies guard Ja Morant, Nuggets center Nikola Jokić, and Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins.
When reading through this list the name that seems out of place is Andrew Wiggins. The first overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft is in his eighth NBA season and to this point, his only accolade has been his 2014 Rookie of the Year win. With this being his first All-Star selection, there has been some backlash from fans claiming other contenders for the starting spot were “snubbed.” All-Star snubs have become commonplace in recent years, one of the most notable being Devin Booker who, before his selection in the 2019-2020 season, many believed had been snubbed the prior three seasons.
But to fully understand how these snubs happen we must first address how voting for All-Star Starters is conducted. The starters for the NBA All-Star Game are determined by a vote split between the fans at 50% value, the media at 25% value, and the players at a 25% value. This is how Andrew Wiggins earned his All-Star Starter nod. With 3.4 million votes, third only behind fellow starters Lebron James and Nikola Jokić, the media and players’ votes could not make up enough ground to dethrone Wiggins’ spot. The closest being his Warrior teammate Draymond Green but the fan vote margin was a million votes more in favor of Wiggins. So, the question remains: does Wiggins deserve his starting spot?
An All-Star in terms of play is determined by statistical production, impact, and team success. Andrew Wiggins this season is averaging 18.2 points per game, 4.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1 steal, and 0.7 blocks. On these statistics alone he appears an above-average player but not All-Star Starter caliber.
Even if you compare these numbers to his own in previous years, Wiggins appears worse. In each of the past 2 seasons, he averaged more points, assists, and rebounds per game and was never given the All-Star nod. However, the situation holds value in Wiggins’ production. In the 2019-2020 season, Wiggins played for the Timberwolves, a team that had been rebuilding and struggling to reach the potential that Minnesota had envisioned when they drafted him and Karl Anthony-Towns with the first pick in back-to-back drafts. With Towns being the only other player to take the ball out of Wiggins’ hands, he had many more opportunities to put up statistics.
The same holds when he was traded to the Warriors midway through the 2019 season. The Warriors were coming off their dominant run to the Finals their past five years, having won three championships. In addition, superstar Kevin Durant was departing for the Brooklyn Nets, superstar Klay Thompson tore his ACL in the 2019 Finals, and superstar Stephen Curry was riddled with different injuries throughout the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Wiggins once again had the ball in his hands all the time. So, as you can see these great statistics mean nothing if you are on a bottom-feeding team in which you are the only option for production. That is the difference this season for Andrew Wiggins.
Stephen Curry returned at the beginning of the season and Klay Thompson just returned to action this month. The addition of these two superstars puts the Warriors at a record of 37-13, currently sitting at second place in the Western Conference only behind the Phoenix Suns. A trend throughout All-Star voting is that the top-tier teams get multiple All-Star players. The argument could be made that the inevitable All-Star Reserves from the Suns, Devin Booker, and Chris Paul could have taken Wiggins’ starting spot. But what I believe makes Wiggins the correct choice is this trend.
With Thompson returning from injury this month and Draymond Green having a worse statistical season than Wiggins, he is the choice for the Warriors’ second All-Star. Furthermore, he has become a solid third option for Golden State. In games where Wiggins scores more than 20 points this season, the Warriors are 11-3. As mentioned previously, the counting numbers don’t jump off the page, but Wiggins’ efficiency is above league average and the highest of his career, shooting 48% from the field and 41% from three. This to me shows that Wiggins has put it all together:: the statistics, the impact, and the team success finally living up to his expectations and earning himself this All-Star selection.