About three months ago, I wrote on how Andrew Wiggins deserved more recognition. I still stand behind Wiggins and how effective his production has been this season – he’s one of the key players on one of the best team’s in the league and there’s no denying that. Part of the reason Wiggins being named a starter got the reaction it did by some people is due to the negative stigma behind his game that was developed in his time in Minnesota. That’s not fair to Wiggins. He really has blossomed into one of the better two-way players in the league since arriving in the Bay Area in 2020.
Nonetheless, his selection as one of the 10 starters in the 2022 NBA All-Star Game did indeed raise some eyebrows around the league, so let’s dive in.
How It Works
The all-star starting five consists of three frontcourt players and two backcourt players from each conference and the reserves consist of three frontcourt players, two backcourt players, and two wild cards. So, Wiggins has to be one of the 6 best frontcourt players in the Western Conference or be one of the two wild cards.
Breaking Down The Western Conference Front Court
Wiggins should not have been a starter, plain and simple. He got voted in by the fans but let’s be real, he’s not one of the 3 best frontcourt players in his conference. LeBron James and Nikola Jokic, the other two frontcourt starters voted in from the West most definitely deserved it, so who got snubbed from being a starter?
The answer is either Wiggins’ own teammate, Draymond Green, or Utah Jazz center, Rudy Gobert. I personally would lean towards giving the spot to Green – he’s been absolutely lights out in his role for the Warriors this season and he’s undeniably one of, if not the most, valuable defender across the league.
With the three frontcourt players going to James, Jokic, and Green, who deserved to be the three backups?
The three guys who got the nod were Draymond Green, Rudy Gobert, and Karl-Anthony Towns, but since Green bumped up into the starting spot, that leaves one more frontcourt spot open and two wild-card spots. Players like Paul George and Anthony Davis can be eliminated based on the lack of games played due to injuries. It seems that the frontcourt options in the Western Conference were fairly limited – Michael Porter Jr. and Kawhi Leonard are also some notable forwards who have been sidelined this season due to injury.
DeAndre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr, and Brandon Ingram belong in the conversation with Wiggins for the last frontcourt spot. Ayton and Jackson Jr. are a little difficult to evaluate for different reasons.
Ayton can be difficult to evaluate because a lot of his production is a result of playing with other really talented players. He’s having another good year as the third fiddle behind Chris Paul and Devin Booker, averaging 16.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks per game on the season while shooting 63.3% from the field. He put up better raw numbers before CP3’s arrival last season but he’s sacrificed touches for better efficiency. 82.3% of Ayton’s baskets have been assisted this season which is by far the highest number of his four-year career.
Ayton has developed into a solid defensive anchor, but while he’s good on that end, he’s not dominant. Ayton is a good ballplayer but not an all-star just yet.
Jaren Jackson Jr. on the other hand can be a little more difficult to evaluate because everything he brings to the table can’t be counted in the stat sheet. The number of shots he affects just by his presence in the paint is immeasurable. He’s averaging 16.7 points, 6 rebounds, 1.7 3PM, and 2.2 blocks per game making him one of the most versatile bigs in the league. He’s one of the few guys in the league that can truly bang inside with the best of the back-to-the-basket bigs while also being nimble enough to guard out on the perimeter.
The offensive side of the ball is where Jackson Jr. finds himself struggling the most and his raw numbers are solid but he’s not efficient and he’s not a guy that generates much offense himself. He’ll get there one day, but it’s not his time to be an all-star yet.
That leaves us with Brandon Ingram and Andrew Wiggins. Ingram is one of the best young players at any position around the league and he’s having another stellar season averaging 22.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 5.3 assists on the year. But the numbers don’t quite tell the whole story with Ingram. According to statmuse.com, the Pelicans are 2-12 in games without Ingram making them 21-24 when he’s on the floor which still isn’t great by any means but it illustrates how much Ingram positively affects the rest of his team.
Compare Ingram to Wiggins and Ingram has him beat in a lot of the major stat categories. Ingram averages more points, more rebounds, and more assists but Wiggins edges him out in both steals and blocks and he’s also more efficient shooting the ball than Ingram – Wiggins shoots 48.1% from the field and 41.4% from three, while Ingram shoots 44.8% from the field and 33.3% from distance.
Ingram also carries a much heavier load on offense compared to Wiggins which is part of why his scoring and assist numbers are higher, but Wiggins also can’t do everything that Ingram does offensively both from a scoring and distributing standpoint.
Ingram being on a team 13 games under .500 certainly hurt him in his case for an all-star appearance, though I tend to disagree with that way of thinking – an all-star appearance is an individual award and while winning is the objective of the game, one guy doesn’t win games on his own.
With that said, Wiggins deserves this all-star appearance. He gets the nod over Ingram due to his overall efficiency on offense and him being the superior defender in this comparison. Don’t get it twisted – this all-star selection wasn’t a handout by the fans. Wiggins absolutely deserved to be in the all-star conversation, and while the starting spot is up for debate, he has a right to be on that roster.
In the end, the all-star game is for the fans and the fans voted him in the game. Wiggins will come out as an all-star starter on Sunday night and that’s something nobody can ever take away from him, and I, like the voters, will be happy to see him out there.
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