Warriors

Wiseman's development determines if Dubs made right LaMelo call

Warriors
LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman

There was little second-guessing going on when the Warriors turned in the card to draft James Wiseman with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, leaving LaMelo Ball to go at No. 3 to the Charlotte Hornets.

Wiseman had the chance to be a transcendent talent at the center position. He is young and raw at 19, but the Warriors believed he was the best player in the draft and that the torch-bearers of their culture -- Steph Curry, Draymond Green and coach Steve Kerr -- would help him reach his lofty ceiling.

Ball's upside was always evident. He had the ability to be a dynamic scorer. But he was inefficient while playing with the Illawarra Hawks of the NBL. His court vision and passing ability are otherworldy, but his turnovers were troubling. Some scouts believed his shot would have to be remade and his lack of defensive intensity would be an issue at the NBA level. Many saw Ball as the draft's biggest boom-bust prospect, and the Warriors didn't feel the need to gamble on him.

Well, here we are in February, just 24 games into the NBA season and Ball is, well, balling and questions about whether the Warriors made the right call are starting in some circles.

The Hornets rookie is averaging 14.2 points, 6.2 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game while shooting 43.3 percent from the field and 36.3 percent from 3-point range. But Ball has been even better over the last five games, averaging 22.6 points per game since the Hornets inserted him into the starting lineup. He's currently in the top 10 in assist percentage and worries about his outside shot appear to be overblown, as was evident Monday night when he torched the Houston Rockets for 24 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds while making seven 3-pointers.

 

Ball's display against the Rockets put him in elite company. He joined Steph Curry and Jason Kidd as the only rookies to make seven 3-pointers in a game and joined LeBron James and Luka Doncic as the only players 19 or younger to record multiple games of 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. He also became the youngest player in NBA history to score 20 points, dish out 10 assists and hit five 3-pointers.

Now, Ball has been far from perfect and he still has a long way to go. While he nailed seven triples against the Rockets, Ball went 0-for-6 inside the arc. He has been up and down in that area to start his career. While he is shooting 54.5 percent in the restricted area, he is only shooting 35 percent on all other 2-point attempts.

Ball's ability to knock down shots will make defenses guard him as a scorer first and further open up the floor for him to showcase his passing ability.

Ball has been great through 25 games, and I don't think it's a question that he's the NBA Rookie of the Year frontrunner at the moment.

All that can be true, and it is, but does it mean the Warriors made the wrong call? At the moment, no.

Wiseman has been everything they thought he would be early on. He has given the Warriors an athletic center that they previously haven't had with Curry. He has been impressive when getting out in the open court and has even shown the ability to knock down 3-pointers (9-for-22) early on.

It's important to remember that Wiseman only played in three games while at Memphis, so he still is incredibly young in his basketball life. Adding in the 20 games he has played for the Warriors and Wiseman has taken the floor competitively 23 times since graduating high school. That Wiseman is averaging 12.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks while shooting 50.1 percent from the field speaks to the insane amount of talent he has.

It's there and it bubbles over every few games, showing why the Warriors were giddy he fell to them at No. 2. But it's also going to take time for Wiseman to become the player many expect him to be. That's why Kerr made sure to temper the expectations before the season, telling fans to think of Wiseman not as Hall of Famer David Robinson but as Navy center David Robinson.

RELATED: Why Kerr shouldn't be blamed for Steph's minutes

All players develop on different trajectories. It's not a surprise that Ball has been good. It's surprising that his shot hasn't been a big issue, but there was always the possibility that he would be a star.

 

The Warriors knew that and they easily took a pass for a player they believe has generational talent.

There still are endless possibilities to what Ball will become in the NBA, and it will take years to determine if the Warriors made the correct call in passing on him. How Wiseman develops and what caliber of player he transforms into will eventually be the determining factor in what will be a five-to-10-year debate.

Until his NBA path is clear, the jury won't be able to deliver a verdict on the Warriors' Wiseman-Ball decision.

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