Tim Marchman, during that six-month span when The Classical was a vaguely prestigious sports publication and not the unserious and unprofitable blog it was always destined to become, had this bit where he would write about, say, the AL's Gold Glove Award at shortstop by writing about literally anything else. The Classical's archives were vaporized several years ago, so forgive me for not recalling specifics—one entry in the series was definitely a story about Charles Mingus, or maybe it was Miles Davis—but Marchman's message, never directly articulated, was a sort of admonition: I know you came here to read about the Sixth Man of the Year. Please care about this instead. It was snobby and annoying and in execution did not totally work. Yet I remember deeply admiring the effort.
Andrew Wiggins getting selected to the Western Conference All-Star team seems like news but like everything to do with Wiggins since he was drafted first overall and shipped to Minnesota in exchange for Kevin Love, it's shot through with a sense of Not Quite. Wiggins was supposed to be a franchise player, but isn't. He was trending toward bust-dom a couple years ago, but pulled out of his tailspin. This past fall, he was publicly skeptical about getting vaccinated, but lacked the foolish conviction of Jonathan Isaac and Kyrie Irving, and was bullied into taking the jab.
He's playing pretty well this season, in a role not dissimilar to the one his cornball American doppelganger Harrison Barnes featured in when Steph Curry was winning MVPs. He's not an All-Star, not by any sane basketball-watcher's definition, but his selection isn't inexplicable. There have been many unfortunate injuries across the West this season. The Warriors have been the best team in the league. They have lots of fans who will happily vote for the squad's fourth-best player. It's incorrect, in some broader cosmic sense, that Andrew Wiggins has achieved All-Star status, but it's not an outrage. Anyone getting bent out of shape about it is straining their credibility, or else accidentally announcing that they are really, really bored.
For his part, Wiggins has never delivered an interesting quote in his life, and isn't about to start now. “I came a long way,” he told reporters on Sunday. “I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. I come here, I hoop, I go home play with my kids and go to sleep. In that order. I just hoop. I don’t worry about the outside mess. I’m just going to keep getting better. Everyone is going to have something to say, but it’s just motivation to keep doing it, growing and getting better.”
I dare you to draw meaning from that.
The moderately interesting story here, if you can get beyond the most recent detail that has riled a press that needs something to howl about in late January, is that Wiggins has finally arrived in a perfect situation, and shown that he can thrive provided he isn't asked to do too much. The reason this matters, to the extent that it does, is that Wiggins was a gunner on largely terrible Timberwolves squads, undynamic and inefficient but putting up scoring numbers, and the impression any player gives off in that scenario, especially if they're a high draft pick like Wiggins was, is that they don't understand how thoroughly they're failing. Wiggins was posting 18 to 22 points a night over several seasons and he sucked. There were questions when he was traded to Golden State if he knew as much, and could be coaxed into playing a more limited role—and if he could be any good when not given much space to cook.
It turns out that, yeah, if you ask Andrew Wiggins to do nothing more than work hard and shoot standstill jumpers, he can do that. He can excel at it, give you 18 genuinely efficient points each night. Is it impressive, or even fun to watch? Not particularly. But it helps the Warriors win, which they've been doing excellently all season.
What the All-Star bid clouds, and what's too easy to say if you want to work the pro-Wiggins angle on it, is that he's finally coming into his own. This is not remotely true. Andrew Wiggins was number one in his recruiting class and number one in the NBA draft, despite a disappointing freshman season at Kansas. He was such a gifted athlete that fans and media were talking up his two-way potential some five years into his career, which had at that point featured very little serviceable NBA defense. Wiggins has been and probably always will be a gangly vessel of unfulfilled potential. There is a universe where he became some combination of Rudy Gay and Vince Carter, but we are not living in it.
Instead, he has thus far posted a solid year on an exceptional team. This is comfortably the most successful season of his career, and it's been exactly successful enough to get him a piece of recognition he doesn't deserve. Frustration follows Andrew Wiggins around. But hey, he has been through a lot of ups and downs, and he just comes here, and he hoops, and he goes home with his kids and goes to sleep. It is nothing to get upset about. It is something, but you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise.