Warriors

Wiseman, Warriors agree on his development for big offseason

Warriors

LAS VEGAS -- In any sport, roster fit on paper compared to the actual roster fit in games can be apples to oranges. That was the case when the Warriors selected center James Wiseman with the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, one spot behind Anthony Edwards and one ahead of LaMelo Ball. 

The Warriors' most-glaring long-term flaw appeared to be a star big man. They already had the shooters in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. They already had Draymond Green as their unique Swiss Army knife and defensive star. Adding an ultra-talented 7-footer could be their latest move in extending the dynasty. 

But as Wiseman's rookie year went on, which didn't include a training camp or preseason slate after playing only three games in college, questions regarding his fit continued to grow. 

Do the Warriors really need a true center? Can Wiseman thrive in Steve Kerr's system? How long will they have to wait for him to hit his potential? 

A torn meniscus that stopped his first pro season short after 39 games didn't do Wiseman any favors. Now entering Year 3, or really Year 2 for him after watching the Warriors win a championship from the sidelines, Wiseman and the coaching staff are on the same page for a critical offseason of development. It all comes down to one word that can take him and the Warriors a long way. 

Simple. 

"I'd say just playing my role, just keeping it simple," Wiseman said to NBC Sports Bay Area on the latest episode of Dubs Talk in an interview one day before his Las Vegas Summer League debut. "Just playing within the system and not trying to do too much. I really don't have to do as much. Just do the most important parts of my position and star in my role to the best of my ability.

 

"Rebounding, running the floor, blocking shots and protecting the rim. That's really it."

Wiseman doesn't have to be at the top of the arc trying to dribble through his legs and throw up a step-back three. Maybe that will come one day. He's full of natural offensive skills. 

Last season, Looney, 6-foot-9, led the Warriors with 83 dunks in the regular season. Wiseman had 84 dunks in his 39 games as a rookie. By percentage of field goal attempts, Gary Payton II was second on the Warriors last season, behind only Looney. Wiseman is listed as being nine inches taller than Payton, and that might be on the cautious side. 

It didn't take long for the 21-year-old Wiseman to showcase the highlights he'll bring right away now that he's healthy again. His first two points of summer league came from a lob by Jonathan Kuminga, 19, one that ended with Wiseman shaking the hoop and getting his teammates up onto their feet. 

Over Wiseman's four games in Las Vegas, he averaged 10.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game while averaging just under 20 minutes per game. His per 36 minutes equated to 18.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.6 blocks. 

As a rookie, he reached double-digit rebounds only three times, and fouled out four times. He had multiple blocks 12 times and averaged 0.9 blocks per game, which would have ranked second behind Draymond on this past season's championship squad. He also had a 109 defensive rating per 100 possessions.

With his combination of height, length, added muscle and a whole lot of athleticism, those numbers, especially his rebounding, should increase now and take leaps in the future. 

"Going forward, with his talent, with his size and athleticism, there's no reason why he can't be a dominant defensive player in the league," Kerr said after the season on June 22. "But it takes a lot of reps. It takes a lot of recognition.

"It takes a lot of being on the court with nine other people, not just being in a one-on-one workout or in the weight room."

Now that he's done with rehab work and can have an offseason of development, one-on-one work and game-like situations, Wiseman agrees with Kerr and has defense at the front of his mind.

"I'm really working on the defensive side of the game," Wiseman said to NBC Sports Bay Area. "The offensive side will come in time. But I'm really working on the defensive end."

RELATED: Element Wiseman adds to Warriors evident to end Summer League

The Warriors haven't had a rim-runner and shot-blocking threat like Wiseman since the two seasons JaVale McGee spent in the Bay Area. McGee was 29 and 30 years old as a Warrior, started 27 regular-season games, 10 in the playoffs, and doesn't have the same kind of ceiling as Wiseman. 

 

If Wiseman keeps it simple and keeps his eyes on perfecting his role in the now before his game can expand, he'll far exceed anything McGee ever gave Golden State. The good news? His focus is spot on, in sync with the Warriors and matches his smile of being back on the court.

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