- Editor’s note: Kerith Burke, NBC Sports Bay Area’s Warriors reporter, takes you inside the team as only she can throughout the season with the Ask Kerith Mailbag. Send her a question on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #AskKerith
At the time of this mailbag’s publishing, Steve Kerr and the Warriors were unable to say how long James Wiseman will be out, whether he has a partial or full meniscus tear in his right knee and whether or not he will need surgery.
Kerr said the medical staff is getting multiple opinions on how to proceed. You can listen to Kerr’s extended reaction to Wiseman’s injury here.
If Wiseman’s season indeed is over, it’s a shame he only played 39 games. Wiseman missed 11 games with a sprained wrist and missed some games in the health and safety protocols to quarantine. He began the season as a starter, Kerr then moved the rookie to the bench in favor of Kevon Looney for defensive reasons, but Wiseman eventually went back into the starting lineup. Just as he was finding a rhythm, boom, the knee injury. I feel for the rookie. This is tough.
Obviously, you had a lot of questions for the Ask Kerith mailbag about the future.
The Warriors were walking the tightrope of trying to win and develop young players simultaneously, namely Wiseman. If Wiseman is out of the equation, do the Warriors go all-in and push HARD for the postseason? An all-in push might be the plan, but it could be difficult to execute.
Kerr tightened the rotation before Wiseman’s injury. He was giving Steph Curry more minutes. But Wiseman’s absence leaves a gaping hole in the lineup, and if anyone else gets hurt ... yikes.
Looney is dependable, but he’s good for about 20 to 25 minutes a night max. Loon’s 31 minutes against the Denver Nuggets were a career high. That leaves Draymond Green or Juan Toscano Anderson to shore up the other center minutes at the five, less than ideal when they have to contend with guys who are four inches taller and forty pounds heavier. JTA was kind of out of the rotation. Eric Paschal is injured and was out of the rotation as well. And Smiley? Well ... let’s talk about Smiley in a moment.
It’s going to be tough for the Warriors to accept another season out of the playoffs when they have Curry and Green in their primes. Whether these two specifically push down on the gas pedal for the playoffs or let up with a resigned understanding that the season is over remains to be seen. It certainly did not look over against Denver when Steph dropped 53 points and Draymond cashed in 18.
Sometimes emotional moments, like an injury to a player everyone is cheering for, can be the spark born out of pain.
I’m amused by “The Geech” nickname for Alen Smailagic. @noiserawker and @ChaithanyaDesu asked about him too. I think the Warriors will use Smiley a little bit out of necessity, say spot minutes, but it would be unfair to throw him out there when he’s not ready.
Putting Smiley on the floor when the game is moving too quickly for him will equal turnovers, fouls and defensive mistakes.
Smiley has played a total of 19 NBA games over two seasons in his career. He’s played five games this season. His growth was stunted by injuries and the lengthy COVID-19 pause.
Time is running out for Smiley. The Warriors might want that roster spot back to make some moves this summer, perhaps with a big man who is not a project and ready to contribute now.
Mailbag readers @4thaPeopleGMC_5 and @49dubs asked the same question. Steve Kerr said the Warriors are very thin in the frontcourt and adding a player is something they'll look at.
The problem is ... who do they add? The best candidates have long been scooped up at the trade deadline or off the buyout market. The Warriors will have to look at band-aid solutions, like signing someone to a 10-day contract.
All indications are the Warriors have moved on from Omari Spellman, and I’ll add Jordan Bell, DeMarcus Cousins and Damian Jones as well.
Desperation may override previous goodbyes, but I bet the Warriors give someone new a look.
I like JTA too, and I think it would be cool if the Warriors converted the Oakland kid’s contract. He has a lot of upside and he’s a positive presence in the locker room.
My guess is the Warriors are not making any contract decisions until the offseason when they might blow up the roster. They might need his roster spot or the money.
To me, the two biggest needs are more shooting (I’m talking Bradley Beal-caliber shooting) and a backup center who can give you 20 minutes a night with good rebounding and defense.
How wild the Warriors reconfigure the roster for a championship run will be interesting. Steph is a chill superstar but you still want to keep him happy.
There’s a ton of fan excitement for Gary Payton II, another one of Oakland’s sons.
Ten-day contracts are a way to examine talent up close in practice, and maybe some in-game minutes, but these players rarely crack the rotation unless it’s an emergency. Mychal Mulder turning two 10-day contracts into something more was a special case.
Payton is a good defender, but his shooting percentages are low.
Klay Thompson, hands down. He has relentless drive when he’s on a mission and he wouldn’t be intoxicated by the ring’s power. His Samwise Gamgee would be Rocco, who would bark an alarm anytime Gollum came around. Just two best friends, saving the world.