Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr believes that the team can win the NBA title without forward Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins has been out of the lineup for Golden State for over a month, last playing in a game on Feb. 13. He is dealing with a personal matter that has kept him from the team.
“He’s fine; he’s healthy and he’s working out,” Kerr told The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami. “But he has to have the space to do what he needs for his family, and we’re supporting that.”
Kawakami asked Kerr if he believes the Warriors can win the NBA Finals this season — which would be their second straight after last year’s championship — even if Wiggins can’t return to the team.
“I think so; I really believe in this team,” Kerr said. “I think the fact that we traded for Gary [Payton II] and the way that JK (Jonathan Kuminga) has stepped up in Wigs’ absence. If you look at last year’s team, we had the two on-ball defenders in Wigs and Gary. And you plug JK into that Wigs spot now. It’s not as seamless as it was a year ago because we had a whole season together and we had all that rhythm and continuity, but I do feel good about our chances just with the talent that we have and the experience that we have.”
The Warriors are currently the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference, and they have struggled on the road this season, leading to them falling short of the record last season.
Wiggins is an extremely important part of Golden State’s roster, as he is one of the team’s best wing defenders and is averaging 17.1 points and 5.0 rebounds per game this season. Wiggins came up huge in the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics last season, averaging 18.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game in the series.
Kerr clearly believes in the tam’s replacement options for Wiggins, and the addition of Payton at the trade deadline gives Golden State another key defender from last season’s championship team.
Payton lacks some of the offensive firepower that Wiggins has, but he can shut down opposing players.
Golden State is looking to lock up a top six spot in the West and avoid the league’s play-in tournament as it tries to defend its title.
As long as Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are healthy, the Warriors are going to be a lethal offense, but there is no doubt that they are missing something with Wiggins out.
Under Kerr, the Warriors have won four NBA titles. The veteran head coach clearly knows what it takes for a title run, and he believes in his role players to step up when called upon this season.