Harlan: Andrew Wiggins is MVP of Warriors' playoff scheme


Before the Golden State Warriors outlasted the Dallas Mavericks in Game 3 of the West Finals on Sunday, Andrew Wiggins capped off a career performance with one of the best dunks in the NBA playoffs. With less than seven minutes left in regulation, leading by eight points, Wiggins took flight a few feet inside the paint, and posterized Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic on his way down.

The electric one-handed jam -- initially called a charge before replay review -- sent shockwaves through the arena and across social media, and also served as Wiggins' signature moment. The 27-year-old recorded a playoff career-high 27 points with 11 rebounds, and with the series essentially over -- no team has ever overcome an 0-3 deficit in the playoffs -- Wiggins is now a top candidate for the inaugural West Finals MVP award, named after legend Magic Johnson.

"He might be the MVP of their entire playoff scheme. Wiggins was a first-time All-Star this year. And all they've really told him to do -- because they've got so much shooting -- is rebound, play defense, protect the rim," NBA on TNT voice Kevin Harlan explained to The Zach Gelb Show on Monday. "What he's done this postseason is, rebound like a fiend. He's run the court as fast and well as anybody. His offense is catching up to where his defense had been.

"He's really been the single star, the x-factor, that no one was really counting on. Curry is a top 10-12 player of all-time. Green is the steady performer who organizes them, on the defensive end. Thompson's been coming back from two horrific injuries to each leg... It's been Wiggins who's emerged as this x-factor, because he's been going unaccounted for. There's no matchup that's worked for any of the teams they've faced. He's thriving in that environment."

Wiggins, who was the first-overall pick in the 2014 draft, averaged 17.2 points with 4.5 rebounds over 73 regular season games. In the playoffs (14 games), he's averaging 15.9 points, and through three West Finals games, he owns a team-high plus-28.9 points per 100 possessions when playing, according to NBA Stats. When Wiggins is off the floor, Golden State is a pitiful minus-38.7.

The Warriors, which earned the West's third seed with a 53-29 overall record, will play Game 4 against the Mavericks on Tuesday night at American Airlines Center (9 ET tipoff). According to FiveThirtyEight's projections, the Warriors currently have a 95-percent chance to make the NBA Finals and a 27-percent chance to capture their fourth championship since 2015.

The entire NBA conversation between Harlan and Gelb can be accessed in the audio player above.

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