The Golden State Warriors are excellent in many phases of the game, but foul-drawing is not one of them. This may be why Charles Barkley said a jump-shooting team could never win the title: You don’t get as many free points on jumpers, and going to the hoop gets rewarded by whistles. Enter Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins was already leading the Warriors in fouls drawn, but recently he’s turned it up a notch, particularly with a ten-foul-drawn performance against Detroit last week. Against the 76ers, he drew two quick fouls in the first 73 seconds of the game, a giant advantage that he squandered by bricking all four free throws. Still, the Warriors played in the bonus for the final 7:23 of the first quarter. An advantage they squandered by drawing just one more foul before the second, but that can still change the complexion of the other team’s defense.
How many fouls did Wiggins draw tonight? According to the stat wizards at NBA.com, eight! That’s a lot, and a big reason why the jump-shooting Warriors managed to shoot 24 free throws. Wiggins has turned it up recently, a direct result of his going to the basket more. Look, I am using statistics pretty liberally in this piece, but based on the eye test, Wiggs is simply going to the basket more, and when he does, he’s not settling for stepbacks and fadeaways nearly as often. It’s like at age 26, he’s finally realizing he’s stronger and tougher than almost anyone checking him.
It’s one of the aspects that made Maple Jordan frustrating early in his career. Andrew Wiggins is a player with obvious physical gifts: he’s still one of the fastest players in the league, he’s very strong, he never gets hurt, and seemingly doesn’t get tired either. You’d expect a specimen like Wiggins to live at the line, but for whatever reason - I think it has a lot to do with playing in the NBA equivalent of a backwater banana republic in Minnesota - Wiggins simply didn’t draw fouls. Now he’s embracing a new identity: Maple Harden.
He’s up to drawing 3.6 fouls per game, and it’s only going up. Since the Minnesota game, he’s drawn 4.4 fouls per game, and in the last four, it’s 4.8. The Warriors lack a rim threat who isn’t a 6’3’ backup point guard known as “Young Glove,” but Wiggins can and should be that threat. One great way to counter the relatively low foul rate (for a superstar) of Steph Curry is to get the Warriors into the bonus early, when touch fouls on Curry turn into free throws by the greatest FT shooting in NBA history.
Wiggins on his missed free throws: "It'll even out, as long as I keep getting to the basket."— Joe Viray (@JoeVirayNBA) November 25, 2021
Wiggins scored 19 points tonight, but he was a +25 overall. Even when Klay Thompson comes back to seize many, many wing minutes, the foul-drawing of Wiggins isn’t replicated anywhere else on the roster. Maybe this new foul magnetism is based on a general increase in offensive aggressiveness (see: Draymond Green’s offense; Juan Toscano-Anderson’s newfound rim dominance), but it’s still refreshing. Wiggs should be treating the lane like an NBA bumper cars course, plus he almost never fouls on defense. The Dubs would take a slight uptick in offensive fouls if the Wiggins train kept making extra stops at the foul line. When shots aren’t falling, it’s time to make the defenders fall instead. Or Wiggins - even with the new foul emphasis, I think we know that flops will always be rewarded by NBA refs.
By the way, after his four whiffs, Wiggins knocked down all three of his remaining free throws.