With Andrew Wiggins refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine, he will have to miss at least half of the season. What are the Golden State Warriors’ options with Wiggins?
On Sep. 1, a memo was sent to all NBA teams that unvaccinated players playing in cities that require vaccination to enter large indoor establishments, namely San Francisco and New York, would have to sit out that team’s home games. That means Andrew Wiggins has nearly had an entire month to decide whether or not he would be a detriment to his team, the Golden State Warriors. He’s chosen not to get vaccinated.
In all of this, the Warriors are caught between a rock in a hard place. What can they do — what will they do with Wiggins, if he continues to be defiant in this?
What does this mean for the Warriors?
For what it’s worth, the Warriors like Wiggins. With 18.6 points last season, he was their second-leading scorer behind Steph Curry. He had his most efficient season and his best ever defensively. Golden State hoped he would be a focal piece this season in their claim back to the top of the West, especially because Klay Thompson and James Wiseman are perceived to return at some point during the season.
But if the Warriors can’t have Wiggins for 41 games at home and two away games, what good is he to the team anymore? There are some decisions to be made.
This has been an ongoing battle throughout the summer that has involved the Warriors pairing Wiggins up with a San Francisco doctor to explain the benefit of the vaccine in hopes to assuage any of Wiggins’s concerns. But to no avail, Wiggins has held his ground and refused to get the vaccine.
“I don’t really see myself getting it any time soon unless I’m forced to somehow,” he said publicly on March 22.
The NBA hasn’t mandated that all players be vaccinated but instances like this display why there’s benefit from everyone in the league having the vaccine. Wiggins, if he remains on Golden State’s roster throughout the season, will miss at least, 43 games, all of the Warriors’ home games as well as the two games in New York against the Nets and the Knicks.
If more cities require vaccinations to enter establishments throughout the course of the season, Wiggins will have to miss those games in those cities as well. Of his $31 million contract, he will forfeit $350,000 for every game he is forced to miss because of his refusal to take the vaccine.
In all of this, Golden State is between a rock in a hard place. What can they do — what will they do with Wiggins, if he continues to be defiant in this.
What are the Warriors’ options?
1. Trade Wiggins
This may actually be the only viable option that won’t hurt Golden State too greatly. It will suck having to lose a piece that they really like and believed in but if he can’t play for half the season and in potentially half of their playoff games, he can’t remain on the roster. He’s taking up cap and personnel space. He has to go.
Warriors owner Joe Lacob was recently fined for comments regarding trading for Ben Simmons. He said that the team liked who they were taking into training camp and weren’t planning on making any changes. That might all change now as Wiggin’s unavailability throughout the season becomes imminent.
While the fit may not be great in Golden State, Simmons is at least a value piece that provides great playmaking and defense, and can possibly reshape his image with the Warriors. This also gets Wiggins to a city without this vaccination restriction.
2. Have players persuade Wiggins
Drama and the Warriors are not strangers. Over the course of the last half-a-decade, they’ve had their share of challenges that have required the team to come together behind veteran leaders in the locker room (think recruiting Kevin Durant and the Draymond Green-Kevin Durant altercation). Golden State’s brass can urge that the players make a concentrated effort in encouraging and educating Wiggins to get the vaccine.
3. Let Wiggins play in less than half of the team’s games
With so much money tied into Wiggins, it really is unfortunate that the Warriors may be forced to miss him for more than 50% of the season but technically, Wiggins isn’t doing anything wrong and is well within his rights as a player not to get the vaccine. The Warriors, if they value him to this degree, can let him travel and play with the team in cities that don’t have the vaccine requirement. This isn’t ideal and should be unlikely as this could create a constant interruption in the team’s flow and chemistry.
With the season set to begin on Oct. 3, the Warriors and Wiggins need to make important decisions that will affect the entire franchise and potentially how things play out in the Western Conference.