SAN FRANCISCO — Andrew Wiggins is an important part of the defense that has the No. 1 defensive efficiency in the NBA.
That sentence may seem like an impossibility to some of Wiggins' detractors when he was in Minnesota, but with Golden State, Wiggins has become a key component to the defense that has had the strongest start to the season (98.2 points allowed per 100 possessions).
The Warriors were 9-1 entering Wednesday's game against the Timberwolves, and that's in part because of Wiggins' help on the defensive end of the floor, where he guards the opponent's top player or second-best player on a nightly basis.
"I have the mind-set to go out there and make it hard for them," Wiggins said. "And we do it collectively as a team. My teammates back me up, I back my teammates up and we do it together."
A few weeks ago, there was a question of whether Wiggins would suit up this season at all. He held out getting his COVID vaccination and under local San Francisco laws would have been ineligible to enter the Chase Center, the Warriors' home arena, because proof of vaccination for those 12 and older is required for indoor gatherings.
Wiggins, who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine before the season, said he felt "forced" to take the shot despite having reservations about how his body would react to it.
"The only options were to get vaccinated or not play in the NBA," Wiggins said in early October. "It was a tough decision. Hopefully, it works out in the long run and in 10 years I'm still healthy."
On the court, Wiggins has missed few games throughout his career and he's helping the Warriors buy time until Klay Thompson can return from a torn Achilles. Wiggins has not needed to be a focal point of the offense with Stephen Curry running the show. Wiggins' 15.6 points per game average would be the lowest of his career if it holds through the rest of the season.
"Everyone is sharing the ball," Wiggins said. "We're all playing together and it shows. Everyone is in a good rhythm."
Last season Wiggins said there was a little extra competitiveness the first times he played his former team. He also made some remarks after one game lauding the "perfect" culture the Warriors had, and while he didn't mention the Wolves directly, it was hard not to contrast what he was saying about the Warriors with his time in Minnesota, which included front office turnover and multiple coaches.
Some of the strange feeling around playing the Wolves again faded in advance of Monday's game.
"I feel like when I had left a lot of people were gone too," Wiggins said. "So it's basically facing a whole new team."
When the Wolves dealt Wiggins and a first-round pick for D'Angelo Russell in February 2020, several teammates also found new homes at the trade deadline.
"Something had to be done, just the way everything was going, the way things were," Wiggins said. "We knew change was going to happen eventually. I think it worked out for both teams. They're very talented offensively. They have their young core."
A young core that used to include him.
Beverley likes pairing with Russell
Even though Russell was back in the lineup Monday after returning from a sprained right ankle, point guard Patrick Beverley remained in the starting lineup alongside him.
"I was wondering what took them so long," Beverley said with a smile Wednesday.
Beverley said he thought the pairing worked well together.
"Just high-IQ basketball ..." Beverley said. "The ability for me to guard the best offensive player on the other team, for him to do his thing, we complement each other very well and that comes with very little practice too. That's a big positive."