Top Prospect To Top Concern: James Wiseman Finding His Way In The NBA

A rough first three seasons for the former 2nd overall pick, James Wiseman, as he was sent down to the G-league to play for the Santa Cruz Warriors on November 15th. His opportunity for showcasing his talents has been very slim due to battling injury.The decision was made by the organization to give Wiseman more experience since that is an area he lacks in. 

​There’s a lot of reasoning as to why the organization and fanbase still hold optimism around Wiseman’s potential. Standing at seven feet, he has a good rim protection presence and can move well vertically and laterally. Like most modern NBA big men, Wiseman can also extend out to shoot the basketball, which gives him a nice fit for the Warriors’ offense. While most players get discouraged when teams send them down to the G-league, Wiseman looked at the situation differently. “I’ve been through a lot of dark times,” he said. “I don’t see this as a demotion at all.”

​Coming out of high school, Wiseman was a top recruit, who committed to play for former NBA player Penny Hardaway at the University of Memphis. Due to his ineligibility, he did not get much experience at the college level, but because of his obvious talent, the Warriors drafted him 2nd overall. Thirty-nine games into his rookie season, he suffered from a minacious tear in his knee, sidelining him for the rest of the season and the next. Head Coach Steve Kerr believes that Wiseman needs to get more time in playing at a high level to get better and develop.

​​“He’s an amazing kid,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said to FOX Sports. “So committed, so genuine. He’s just never played much high-level basketball and he needs to play every night to get better. It’s not fair to him or us.”

​Although some players make a career in the G-league, it can provide good repetition for slower-developing players, such as Wiseman. It’s evident that Golden State still views Wiseman as a valuable piece for the future, allowing him to grow as a player at the lower level until they feel he’s ready. There isn’t a timetable for how long he’ll play in the G-league, I assume not for long as Wiseman already put up a double-double in one contest and scored 15 points, and eight rebounds in 26 minutes, shooting 7-for-9 against the Salt Lake City Stars. Performances like that and he should find himself back in the Warriors rotation. 

​One Warriors veteran that’s been in the same shoes as Wiseman, is big man Kevon Looney. He’s experienced being in and out of the rotation but has now received solid minutes as their primary center. Looney talked to Wiseman about the send down and wanted to keep his spirit and confidence up. His message to Wiseman was “go have fun, go dominate, show them who you are”. in no shape or form Is this move a punishment for Wiseman, as many players before him got sent down to the G-league to help them get their rhythm after experiencing an injury. 

Another teammate, who’s already made a name for himself in the Bay area, Jordan Poole, reminded Wiseman that it’s not a demotion. Jordan Poole is also another Warriors player that has experience with having to develop more to squeeze in for a spot in the rotation. 

“I told him it’s not a demotion. It’s not a punishment. He’s going to go down there and shoot as many shots as he wants, get as many touches as he wants, work on as many moves as he wants.”

With the encouragement of Wiseman’s teammates to enter the G-league displaying complete dominance, Wiseman said that he has his own objectives he wants to accomplish. Working on his rim protection abilities is going to be his entire focus. 

“Being able to make sure when I go for the block, I can get it,” he said. “It’s more like checking off boxes. Play cat and mouse with the guards. Work on my verticality. It’s all about getting reps in.”

Helping Wiseman get to the level of play that is expected of him can add a whole different dynamic to the Warriors’ offense. Throughout the entirety of Golden State’s successful run, they never had a center that matches Wiseman’s skillset––or even potential. The Warriors’ offense is heavily worked around perimeter shooting, which he’s shown, but having a good touch around the rim can leave defenses in a “pick your poison” predicament. In his rookie year, Head Coach Steve Kerr disclosed that he encourages Wiseman to shoot threes if he’s open. 

​“We are encouraging him to shoot, if he’s wide openfrom the 3-point line, we want him shooting”, Kerr said to media over Zoom. “We think he can make that, as he showed the other night, he’s got a really good stroke.”

If it’s one thing the Warriors know how to do, they know how to make you fit into their high-powered shooting offense.

​Wiseman has the natural ability to score the basketball, but it’s on the other end where he’s shown struggles. While the Warriors were giving him 17 minutes per game in the five games he’s played, the defensive deficiencies have resulted in negative plus-minuses in the four out of the five games. A former NBA center discloses his opinion about Wiseman, mentioning his poor instincts with rim protection without fouling at the NBA level. This is typical for a young player trying to adapt to the game on the professional level, committing senseless fouls andmaking “rookie mistakes”. All isn’t lost for Wiseman, as the organization portrays to still see the value in him, and no rumors have gone out that involve him in trade talks.

​The Warriors have good, young talent that is worthy of building upon, especially with the assumption that Wiseman is the centerpiece of it all. Given the unfortunate events that contributed to this slow start of his career, it’s better that the Warriors work with him rather than trying to obtain assets off his high value. The future for Wiseman is bright if he stays determined to work on his weak areas and shows dominance on both offense and defense, he should see himself called back up in no time.

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