When James Wiseman underwent surgery in April to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, the Warriors expressed hope that he might be ready to fully participate once training camp began in September.
More than three months later, they’re hoping the 7-foot-1 center can make his season debut sometime in February.
The primary reason for the delay is that Wiseman, multiple league sources confirmed, quietly underwent a second surgery, an arthroscopic procedure, in December. The revelation, first reported by Anthony Slater of The Athletic, was later confirmed by the Warriors.
Whenever Wiseman is cleared to play, he’ll be needed. Banish the thought that they are, and will be, better without him.
Though Golden State’s best lineups this season – and in previous seasons, when they were atop the NBA – have been small, with 6-foot-6 Draymond Green at center, there is no substitute for what Wiseman offers.
Athleticism and agility with a 9-foot-6 standing reach and 7-foot-6 wingspan makes him an elite lob threat. The impact of that skill may vary, from JaVale McGee and DeAndre Jordan to Giannis Antetokounmpo and Rudy Gobert, but every defense has to respect vertical spacing.
Moreover, the Western Conference has three notable 7-footers, and they’re all on playoff teams. Each poses a unique challenge, whether it’s Gobert in Utah or Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton or Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, who happens to be the reigning NBA MVP.
Kevon Looney is a very good role-playing center, but it’s unreasonable to expect more than 25 minutes a night. It’s unreasonable to believe Nemanja Bjelica’s defense won’t be a liability in the postseason.
It’s also unreasonable to expect Draymond to play the 23 non-Looney minutes.
That’s where Wiseman, whom the front office identifies as a cornerstone of the future, is needed. He doesn’t need to start every game, or even play 30 minutes, but the rotation benefits from his presence.
The Warriors were rolling, with a 29-9 record, before Klay Thompson returned to the roster. He’ll need time to find a groove, and he’ll get that time because he makes them better.
Regardless of their record when Wiseman is ready, the Warriors know he gives them dimensions they don’t currently have. They also know those dimensions make it easier to chase an NBA championship.