Kurtenbach: The Warriors can’t wait on Andrew Wiggins much longer

Golden State Warriors: The Dubs might be deeper this season, but Steph Curry still needs a No. 2.

Batman needs Robin.

However, the Warriors’ Batman, Stephen Curry, is currently surrounded by a team of Alfreds.

For the rest of the season, this is not a winning formula for the Warriors.

Golden State is on a three-game losing streak, and with all three losses coming to teams with elite big men, the fan base is concerned about the Warriors’ size.

But the Warriors’ biggest problem this season has been players — and, to be honest, one in particular — failing to live up to the size of their role.

While the Warriors are deep, the lack of a clear No. 2 has forced Curry to carry the burden of winning every game on his own.

The two-time MVP continues to play at a superhuman level, but he has limits. I shudder to think what would happen to the Warriors if he wasn’t there.

One statistic encapsulates Curry’s isolation this season: he is the only Warrior to score more than 20 points in a game.

It leaves the Warriors with a strict winning formula that gives them a chance to win every night but leaves little room for error.

Curry must first average at least 30 points per game. (The Warriors take this man’s greatness for granted.)

The Warriors must also play excellent defense, keeping their opponent under 110 points.

Finally, the Warriors must score 75 points or more with quality team basketball — transition buckets and back-cuts off set plays.

You can probably guess where the breakdown occurs most frequently.

Placing the secondary scoring burden on the collective creates far too many failure points.

What Curry needs is someone else in the muck with him late in games — someone who could be the team’s leading scorer on a big night.

Chris Paul has progressed past that point in his career. He’s brought many good things to the Dubs, but he didn’t bring a time machine with him.

Upstart Jonathan Kuminga is not yet prepared for that position. He may never achieve that level.

Klay Thompson was once the No. 2 player. Unfortunately, he does not appear to be capable of doing so after suffering two catastrophic leg injuries. Thompson’s smaller athletic reserve is also being strained by his new defensive responsibilities, which require him to take on opposing big men. (A role he has excelled at.)

But that’s okay because the Warriors thought they were prepared for Thompson’s demise.

After all, Andrew Wiggins was the team’s second-best player.

And, following a bizarre 2022-23 season, the Warriors expected Wiggins to put that behind him and return to his previous level of play this season.

Instead, things continue to be strange.

Where does Wiggins rank in terms of positive impact for the 2023-24 Warriors after 11 games?

He’s not even second.

Is he even in the top five?

Wiggins has appeared in every Warriors game this season, but you’d be forgiven if you haven’t noticed him. The wing averages 10.5 points per game, shoots 41% from the field, and has four three-pointers on the season.

That is half of what the Warriors require of him. Wiggins is the fourth-leading scorer on the team.

I’ve heard several explanations for Wiggins’ poor offensive performance.

His rib injury, sustained in Game 5 of the Warriors’ second-round series against the Lakers last season, has been blamed. Wiggins had a left costal cartilage fracture and was a shell of himself in Game 6 of that series.

Cartilage fractures can take up to a year to heal because the material is so finicky. If his ribs were still bothering him, I wouldn’t be surprised.

At the same time, Wiggins and the Warriors haven’t blamed — or even acknowledged — that injury this season, so can his struggles be attributed to it?

Another explanation I’ve heard is that it’s just bad luck and that he’ll come around soon enough.

I understand your point of view. The season is still in its early stages.

And it’s possible that if it wasn’t Wiggins, it would carry more weight.

Wiggins’ moniker could just as easily be “The Enigma.”

Except for a few weeks in the fall and spring of 2022, this player’s talent has consistently outperformed his performance. Former teammates, coaches, and scouts have all questioned his love of the game, with plenty going on the record about it.

Remember, Wiggins was the player who left the Warriors for two months at the end of last season for reasons that were never fully explained and were deemed unacceptable by the team months later.

He’s a player who received a contract worth slightly more than half of his market value for his outstanding performance in the 2022 playoffs. There are local discounts and then there are odd contracts. Wiggins’ deal was dangerously close to falling into the second category.

It’s all too strange to dismiss his difficulties as the result of bad luck.

Wiggins is not only hitting shots all over the court, but he is also shooting less frequently this season, averaging four fewer field-goal attempts per game. His four games with fewer than ten points are already more than he had in each of the previous two seasons.

Whatever the cause of Wiggins’ slow start is — if there is one — the need is the same: he needs to get out of it quickly.

Nobody else on this team can or will consistently fill the role of No. 2. For the Dubs, it’s Wiggins or bust.

The Warriors will not be juggernauts this season, but they can replicate the model that brought them the title less than a year and a half ago. A strong start to the season was crucial to that team’s success.

I believe they can outperform that team’s performance. This group has more talent.

But all of that roster depth is meaningless if all you have is Curry and a stable of role players.

However, the Warriors had three All-Stars in 2021-22: Curry, Draymond Green (due to his defensive prowess), and Wiggins.

They’re back to one this season, just like last.

Last spring, we saw how well that worked.

Improved team talent can compensate for the loss of a third All-Star, but not for the loss of two.

And without that No. 2, the Warriors will be at best a second-tier team.

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