NBC Sports

Warriors hope Wiseman can turn into their version of Giannis

NBC Sports

Now that Giannis Antetokounmpo finally is totally and completely off the table, the Warriors and their fans have no choice but to shift their wishful gaze toward someone capable of giving them what they hoped to get from the Greek Freak.

Someone who, like Giannis, is blessed with the gift of easy athleticism, has absurd length, boundless energy and a willingness to be coached.

They don’t have to look far. He’s already in the building.

James Wiseman today is a lot like Giannis was when he made his NBA debut seven years ago. Giannis was an uncut gem, as is Wiseman. Giannis, growing up in Europe, brought an air of mystery that led to some uncertainty about his potential. Wiseman, with only three college games on his resumé, is viewed with similar intrigue. 

Giannis is 6-foot-11, with a 7-foot-4 wingspan, 9-foot-2 standing reach and a max vertical reach beyond 12 feet.

Wiseman is 7-feet, with a 7-foot-6 wingspan and a 9-foot-6 standing reach and a max vertical beyond 12 feet.

Giannis was 18, turned 19 as a rookie. Wiseman is 19 and turns 20 in March.

The first impressions of Giannis as a rookie in Milwaukee was that he was long and active and still learning how to play basketball.

First impressions of Wiseman as a rookie with the Warriors is that he is really long and really active.

Don’t think, even for a second, that the Warriors aren’t recognizing this. All of it.

 

This is why they were beyond delighted that Wiseman was on the board for them to take No. 2 overall. They spent months hoping and probably praying that the Minnesota Timberwolves wouldn’t trade the No. 1 overall pick to another franchise that would swoop in and swipe the 7-footer. When that didn’t materialize and he was available, they barely could contain their joy.

After Wiseman’s first practice Monday, they’re no longer bothering to contain their joy.

"His energy was through the roof, which took him out of positions at time -- which I love to see because you can teach positioning, but you can't teach high energy,” Draymond Green said.

"There's so much to learn, but he's got an enthusiasm and an energy about him,” coach Steve Kerr said. “And he's got a pretty good feel, too. He's very knowledgeable and seems to be picking up the plays pretty quickly.”

Backup point guard Brad Wanamaker, who played pro ball in four countries before making his way to the NBA, echoed those thoughts Tuesday after shootaround before the Warriors boarded a bus to Sacramento to face the Kings in a preseason game.

“Very talented guy who is very energetic,” he said. “He’s going to be able to do certain things that are definitely going to open the floor for a lot of guys. It’s exciting to see him out there, and it’s exciting to play with him.

“He’s very mature, and he has a very good IQ for the game. Just seeing little spurts of what he can do, you can tell he's been around guys who know how to play basketball.”

Keep in mind, Wiseman has yet to participate in a full scrimmage.

RELATED: Why Giannis leaving Bucks for Warriors was always pipe dream

As that rare teenager who dominates portions of practice, Antetokounmpo drew raves during his rookie season. He was raw but his potential was undeniable. The only question was whether he would work to maximize it. He has.

After seven seasons, he agreed Tuesday to sign a richly deserved supermax contract extension, worth $228 million over five years. For those seeking a glimmer of an opening, he also professed his love for Milwaukee, tweeting that it is “my city.”

We don’t know how good Wiseman will be in 2027. We don’t know if he has the defensive instincts Giannis revealed early in his career, but indications are that he does. We don’t know how hard he will work -- Giannis’ work ethic is high level -- but all indications are that Wiseman is eager to be great.

Is the comparison unfair? Yes. Comps always are. But reasonable assessment makes this one conceivable.

The last holdouts among Warriors fans seeking a longshot path for Giannis to come to the Bay Area can move on. The Warriors already have, and they’re comfortable with their guy.

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