True Warrior’s “check book win” would keep Andrew Wiggins

True Warrior’s “check book win” would keep Andrew Wiggins

The Golden State Warriors could wrap up the NBA championship with a win over the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the Finals Thursday night.

If that happens, could this be Andrew Wiggins’ last game in a Warriors uniform? It’s a frightening prospect for dubs fans who admire, even love, the man they call Wiggs. And to his teammates who would lose a brother.

Wiggins was an expensive piece of the Warriors puzzle, and in the playoffs, especially the Finals, he played so well that he might have set himself apart from the team.

Nice? Yes. In a slideshow by Chronicle photographers, some of Wiggins’ shots appear to be framed incorrectly. However, if you look closer, you’ll see that Wiggin’s body is at dramatic, dynamic angles, like a motorcycle racer leaning into a corner because he’s playing with crazy athleticism.

The Celtics are advertised as a much more athletic team than the Warriors, but none is more athletic in the Finals than Andrew Wiggins. Or upset him. He’s long been remarkably athletic, but this season Wiggins has tapped a deeper well of will and put his prodigious physical talent to full use in basketball.

Wiggins’ contribution to the Warriors is so significant that it causes quite a stir that he would be considered Finals MVP. That’s an overreaction, but Wiggins-inspired play at least makes that plausible.

A parallel and troubling buzz is the growing fear among Warriors fans, and no doubt among Warriors players, that this could be the case for Wiggins.

This offseason, Golden State owner Joe Lacob and general manager Bob Myers must decide which players to keep and which to let go because it would be prohibitively expensive to keep everyone.

wiggins Gary PaytonII? Kevin Looney? Otto Porter Jr? Jordan Poole? Choose who you will turn away from the lifeboat.

But here’s an idea: keep them all. Starting with Wiggins.

That will require a lot of money beyond next season, which he’s signed for. We just checked the latest Forbes rankings, and that’s exactly how much money Lacob has.

If the Warriors win the NBA Finals, Lacob and Myers — and head coach Steve Kerr and the players — will have performed a miracle, a championship for the ages.

There will be a glorious save, then Lacob and Myers will start figuring out which players to get rid of. GP-Two, good luck and thanks for looking. Wiggs, please accept this engraved gravy boat as a token of our appreciation for your service.

Wiggins will of course be the center of attention. He improved his game and willingly integrated it into the Warriors’ master plan.

When the Warriors picked up Wiggins in February 2020, he was a consistent first-team pick for the NBA All-Underachievers. Now his teammates and coach worship him. But the Warriors must either sign him to a max deal or trade him before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2023.

With the Warriors expecting a combined $400 million payroll and luxury tax payment even if they trade Wiggins, keeping him is against every rule in the business rulebook. To do that, a team owner would have to be light years ahead of the book.

If any sports team owner in America would consider laying out the kind of scratches needed to keep the Warriors together, it’s Lacob. Many owners spend lavishly, even foolishly, but nearly all become queasy when payroll begins to eat away at profits.

For a growing segment of the sport, Lacob’s willingness to overspend makes him a fiscal bully. ESPN NBA commentator Brian Windhorst coined a new term after Game 5 for what the Warriors scored that night.

“You don’t just have to beat the Warriors on the field, you have to beat their checkbook,” said Windhorst, referring to the gigantic luxury tax that the Warriors are already paying because of Wiggins. “That was a check book win for the Warriors.”

So Lacob and the Warriors give themselves an unfair advantage with their insane spending. And it’s really unfair. Lacob is the richest NBA owner by far, right?

Well, not exactly. On the list of the 30 NBA owners from richest to poorest (source: JustRichest website), Lacob is ranked 25th with a net worth of $1.2 billion. Steve Ballmer (Clippers) tops the list with 75, $6 billion and 13 owners are each worth at least $4 billion.

So almost every owner in the league can afford to spend like Joe. Most choose not to.

Incidentally, all 30 NBA owners are richer than they would be because their franchises have been held in high esteem in part because Lacob’s Warriors revolutionized and energized the sport.

Lacob knows the NBA is a business. But he’s watching. He sees Payton neutralize the best offensive players in the world with his annoying relentlessness. He sees that Looney is completely overwhelmed, the result of years of dedication and study. He watches Poole grow from draft bust to burgeoning star.

And Lacob sees Wiggins, perhaps the ultimate embodiment of what Warriors culture can do for an NBA player, help give the team everything it could have dreamed of.

what will joe do Hey, you can’t take it with you.

Scott Ostler is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @scottostler