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Warriors' risk in trading Wiseman? Just ask Lakers

NBC Sports

SAN FRANCISCO -- By cutting ties with James Wiseman as part of a trade to reacquire Gary Payton II, the Warriors are taking a risk they realize might backfire.

They and the rest of the NBA have seen it happen many times before, including relatively recently with their friends in Los Angeles.

Not the Clippers. The Lakers.

Attempting to remain relevant as a contender after Kobe Bryant entered his mid-30s, the Lakers chose with three consecutive drafts to refill the roster with tantalizing teenage talent. Positioned in the lottery, they selected, in order: Julius Randle (2014, seventh overall), D’Angelo Russell (2015, second overall) and Brandon Ingram (2016, second overall).

All three came into the NBA at age 19.

All three players became All-Stars -- but only after the Lakers, losing patience, traded them to other teams.

With Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson all past 30, Golden State, seeing to remain a contender for years to come, chose with three consecutive drafts to refill the roster with, yes, tantalizing teenage talent. All six players selected in the last three drafts -- including three lottery picks, beginning with Wiseman, second overall in 2020 -- also entered the NBA at age 19 or, in the case of Gui Santos, one day after turning 20.

Following Wiseman were Jonathan Kuminga (2021, seventh overall), Moses Moody (2021, 14th overall), Patrick Baldwin Jr. (2022, 28th overall), Ryan Rollins (2022, 44th overall) and Santos (2022, 55th overall).

The Warriors clearly ran out of patience with Wiseman, who over three highly discontinuous seasons played a total of 60 games.


“We debated (the trade) pretty heavily, mostly because I still believe he can be a good player,” general manager Bob Myers said Monday morning. “It may just be that his path required more minutes that we were able to give him. It may be that his time is longer than we can wait.

“It’s not an indictment of him. There’s plenty of players that take a certain amount of minutes or a certain amount of time. Especially with missing a year, there’s a lot of things he missed, not his fault. ... He is a third-year player, but he hasn’t got the minutes of that.”

Projections regarding Wiseman’s future also are being debated. Some believe, like Myers, that he will be a good player. Others remain suspicious that the 7-foot-1 center will ever be a key member of a quality team.

What was apparent to the Warriors and anyone paying attention is that Wiseman’s evolution was too slow for the needs of a team built around the Curry-Green-Thompson core.

“We just won a championship with that core,” Myers told NBC Sports Bay Area. “So, that core is still pretty good.”

I asked Myers if there was any thought during the last three drafts to opt for a more seasoned college player, someone who might be able to produce as a rookie.

“Every team has to deal with how they’re going to draft, especially with so many young players available,” he said. “When you’re in the lottery, if you want to take a big swing, that’s probably when you do it.”

Wiseman was not a particularly “big swing.” He was the obvious choice for a roster without an athletic big man. He was drafted not so much to make an instant impact -- coach Steve Kerr concedes to erring by immediately inserting him into the starting lineup -- but to gain a few years of experience and become an effective big man as the Curry-Green-Thompson trio aged out.

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Kobe was retired when Russell became an All-Star with the Nets, when Randle became a two-time All-Star with the Knicks and when Ingram became an All-Star with the Pelicans.

“You just never know how things are going to play out,” Myers told NBC Sports Bay Area. “You have to do what you think is best for the roster you have, whether it was the Lakers then or us now.

“And again, we just won a championship and a lot of that was because we got so much from the guys we brought in: Gary, Otto Porter, Nemanja Bjelica. We got one of those guys back, and we already know what he can do once he gets healthy.”

The Warriors are willing to wait, perhaps a few months, for GP2 to be productive. They waited 26 months for Wiseman and now can only hope it wasn’t too short.

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