This is not a declaration that James Wiseman is a bust, or some
irredeemable player. He is not the only issue with the
Golden State Warriors, or even the Warriors' bench unit.
Conversely, this won't be a Warriors slander piece. If you were
looking for either of those conclusions, you can close the tab (and
thank you for the click).
Now that we have that out of the way: Wiseman being with the
Warriors doesn't appear to benefit either party right now. A center
with enough face-up and shooting flashes to raise your brow
probably shouldn't be relegated to only screen-and-roll duties.
And a win-now team spearheaded by one of the greatest players of
all-time in Stephen Curry, who's still playing at an all-time
level, shouldn't be tasked with being superhuman because the team
bleeds points every time he sits.
It's important to note that point isn't solely on Wiseman; we're
all waiting on Jordan Poole to regain his form (53.5% True
Shooting, 59.8% TS last season) and confidence, for example. Head
coach Steve Kerr has recently alluded to leaning on more
experienced role players like [check notes] Anthony Lamb and Ty
Jerome instead of the trio of Wiseman, Moses Moody and Jonathan
But think about who the Warriors are at their best. Quick,
versatile, shape-shifting. It's a buzzsaw of cuts, relocations,
ball-movement and switchability, We've seen how Moody fits into
that. We've seen how Kuminga can fit into that, especially when
he's able to log minutes at the 4 (or 5).
Have we really seen that from Wiseman? Part of the appeal was
that he didn't fit snugly into that; his
vertical presence and overall athleticism was a stark difference to
what the Warriors had in their frontcourt room. In theory, being
able to mix in his dynamic would make the Warriors even more
difficult to deal with.
We've seen flashes of that: the Warriors generated 1.03 points
per possession (PPP) on trips featuring a Curry-Wiseman ball screen
during Wiseman's rookie season, per Second Spectrum. It's easy to
see how Wiseman's downhill juice could vibe with the flamethrowing
But in order for him to carve out a more consistent role, there
had to be growth in the more "Warrior-like" elements. That growth
hasn't happened at an ideal rate, mostly because Wiseman hasn't
been able to stay healthy.
They rarely use Wiseman as the hub for their patented post-split
action, mostly because he has limitations as a passer. That would
be okay if he had more juice as an off-ball screener, but he's
still trying to master the details of timing and angles. His
results are spotty right now.
Defensively, Wiseman is even more of a mixed bag. Because of his
size and length, he can act as a true deterrent at the rim. He has
legtimately good reps in drop on film. But because of his footwork,
drop seems to be the only coverage he's truly comfortable in.
Add in the process of figuring out the gap in drop — how far he
should play back, when to step up to ball-handlers, and not giving
away easy reads in the process — and you get more messiness than
positivity. Pull-up shooters can find pockets to attack; drivers
often have space to chew up.
He'll often find himself slightly out of position, which alters
the strength of his contests. For a guy with his gifts, it's kinda
wild how often you'll see ball-handlers driving through his chest —
or drawing fouls.
The numbers aren't great. Opponents are generating over 1.2 PPP
on trips featuring a ball screen defended by Wiseman. Among players
defending at least three shots at the rim per game, Wiseman's
efficiency allowed (70.3% FG) is one of the worst marks in the
league. On top of that, he's averaging 6.8 fouls per 36 minutes — a
mark higher than his rookie campaign (5.2).
The Warriors would operate better with a veteran 5; it's part of
why they brought JaMychal Green into the fray over the offseason.
And frankly, I'd like to see Wiseman with a team that can really
prioritize his development without championship pressure.
I'd make a call if I were the Oklahoma City Thunder, just by
virtue of having 1.5 true centers on the roster. With Chet Holmgren
done for the year, you can afford to give Wiseman a bit of a
runway. And for the Warriors, there are vets (hello, Mike Muscala
and Kenrich Williams) worth inquiring about. Heck, there are also
younger players (hello, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Aaron Wiggins)
who may be better equipped for what they want to do than Wiseman is
There could be similar appeal in San Antonio, who may be willing
to take another young flier in the frontcourt in light of the Zach
Collins injury news. They've already spun the tires on Charles
Bassey; I'd at least see what the interest level would be. There
are vets to inquire about (Josh Richardson, Doug McDermott, Gorgui
Dieng), though it's worth noting that the Warriors might have to
add something minor to the pot to pry Richardson or McDermott out
(This is likely a no-go because of how the draft went, but
Wiseman under the tutelage of Steve Clifford in Charlotte would
also intrigue me.)
Again: none of Wiseman's issues are impossible to overcome. With
continued health, I'd honestly bank on him overcoming most of them.
There's a good player in there; even the archetype he's been kinda
pigeonholed into thus far — a rim-running dunkaholic who can man
the fort in drop — has value on good teams.
Considering the Warriors are getting blitzed in his minutes — a
minus-22.4 net rating with
opponents converting nearly 59% of their twos — I'm just not sure
if the Warriors can give him the time to work through those growing
pains while also trying to compete. It would behoove both parties
to look for an alternative.