Some late-season slumpage and free-throw woes notwithstanding, what Andrew Wiggins was able to accomplish for the Golden State Warriors last season was a feat worth remembering. Whether it was helping Steph carry the club offensively during the first half of the campaign or his two-way brilliance in the playoffs, Wiggins’ contributions were integral to what the Dubs ultimately accomplished.
Which is why, even as he benefited from a K-pop bump in the voting, the former No. 1 overall pick’s maiden voyage as an NBA All-Star meant so much. Regardless of how one feels about him having started in the February classic, there’s no doubting that Wiggins shed some labels from his T-Wolves days, owned his role and earned the nod.
Alas, the Warriors wing, along with a handful of other first-timers — Darius Garland, Fred VanVleet, Jarrett Allen, LaMelo Ball and Dejounte Murray — will probably have to fly even higher through the first half of next season to lock up All-Star selections in 2023.
“This group could have its hands full earning a return trip,” Ben Golliver wrote in The Washington Post on Monday.
Return of the Regulars
The reason Wiggins and Co. will have to fight like you-know-what to be All-Stars once more has little to do with them. Rather, it’s all about the ballers who, for various reasons, were forced to take a step back last time around.
“Consider this star-studded 12-man roster of players who missed out last season due to injuries, other absences or slow starts: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard, Jaylen Brown, Zion Williamson, Bradley Beal and Pascal Siakam,” Golliver wrote.
The longtime hoops scribe noted that this group looks like one that might have given the All-Star 2022-winning Team LeBron a run for its money, and he’s not wrong. In other words, if the aforementioned players are healthy and performing to their usual standard, it’s difficult to see any of them not making it again next season.
Meanwhile, the young guns may not be the only ones who get squeezed out as a result.
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Given that his return after a two-plus year absence came in January, Thompson was never making the All-Star cut in 2021-22. But the fact that he finished the year as a 20-point scorer and a key cog to the Dubs’ title run likely means he’s a safe bet to lock up All-Star nod No. 6 next season.
Not only will that make things harder on Wiggins, but Draymond Green could feel the effects as well.
Make no mistake — Green was resurgent last season and his All-Star candidacy was all but impossible to ignore. But his selection was still his first in four years, he’s moving into those dreaded mid-30s and, finally, the Dubs probably aren’t in a position to get three-plus players into the ASG at this point.