As Klay Thompson and James Wiseman near their respective returns for the Golden State Warriors, their fans are excited for a deep playoff run. Stephen Curry could possibly win his third MVP, while Draymond Green is one of the top contenders for the Defensive Player of the Year. One underrated factor of the 24-6 start for Golden State is starting small forward Andrew Wiggins.

Before the season, there were issues surrounding the availability of Wiggins because he was hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine. With that in the past, he's in the midst of the most efficient season of his NBA career. Wiggins is putting up 18.7 points per game on 49.1% shooting from the field and a career-best 42.2% from behind the arc. He has already scored over 30 points twice this season, and Steve Kerr continues to run plays for him every game.

With these factors, Wiggins is the X-Factor who can elevate Golden State to unbeatable status when he plays well.

*Watch NBA games LIVE with fuboTV (click for free trial)*

Golden State Warriors X-Factor: Andrew Wiggins

1. Creates shots for himself

One of the main reasons for the Warriors' success over the last several years has been their impeccable ball movement. However, when the game slows down and defenses lock in, especially in the playoffs, it's important to have guys who can get buckets themselves. Wiggins has that ability, even though he has battled inconsistency in his career.

The Warriors often run plays for Wiggins to seal his man deep in the post, which can result in free throws or easy baskets. Moreover, he's also an option on the weak side when the ball is swung because of his brilliant timing with his cutting or simply by attacking the scrambling defenders. His free-throw percentage could still be improved, but Wiggins has proven that his upper-body strength and lightning quickness make him tough to guard when he slashes through the lane.

Live and breathe the NBA?

🚨 Get viral NBA graphics, memes, rumors and trending news delivered right to your inbox with the Clutch Newsletter.

2. Much-improved defensive prowess

When Wiggins was on the Minnesota Timberwolves, he was highly criticized for his lack of interest on the defensive end of he court. Despite that, the Warriors organization saw the chance for him to change his mentality and focus on defense. In his first three games for the Dubs, Kerr challenged him to defend the likes of LeBron James, Jimmy Butler, and Devin Booker.

It was a whole new environment for Wiggins, but it was a massive opportunity for him to prove his value and get used to a winning culture. Starting the 2021-22 season, he thrived in the 3-and-D role similar to Harrison Barnes in the early stages of the dominant Warriors dynasty. In their current campaign, one could argue that Green or Andre Iguodala are better defenders compared to Wiggins, but Kerr consistently gives him the responsibility of containing opposing stars.

3. Opening up the floor for other shooters

At the early juncture of his career, Wiggins' defender would often help off him because teams would not fear his long-range marksmanship. It was the right move given he typically shot around 33% from 3-point range.

But even since joining the Warriors, he has developed a more reliable jumper, shooting 38.0% from 3 last season and now sitting at 42.2% this season. It has opened up a plethora of options for his teammates like Jordan Poole, Otto Porter Jr., and even Curry.

Staying disciplined with their sensational ball movement and off-ball screens is already difficult, but it's even tougher if all five guys on the court are legitimate threats from any area on the floor. The younger version of Wiggins didn't connect on open looks as easily, but he has since become a dangerous option. Playing Wiggins with Curry, Thompson, Green, and Poole on the floor in a crucial playoff game would give opponents immense issues because of their skill sets.

Wiggins' tremendous improvement of his whole repertoire has silenced his doubters. As the Warriors are in the midst of aspiring for another NBA championship, Wiggins is the player who could swing the tide in a close series against a Western Conference powerhouse. The production of the stars will be present, but it's time for Wiggins to showcase his talent on the biggest stage.