Through 15 games of the NBA season, James Wiseman, much like the Warriors, has had his ups and downs.
The 7-foot rookie center has flashed an impressive array of skills, while also learning some hard lessons as he transitions to the NBA after just three collegiate games.
Wiseman had the best game of his career to date Wednesday when he scored 20 points in the Warriors' win over the San Antonio Spurs. He's been one of the NBA's most impressive rookies early on, and despite some bumps in the road, is "ahead of schedule" in the eyes of ESPN draft expert Mike Schmitz.
"He's been ahead of schedule by what I expected," Schmitz told Zach Lowe on "The Lowe Post" podcast. "I just thought that such a long layoff, such a short college career and somebody who in the past has had his struggles with reading the game quickly -- which is still something he needs to improve greatly -- but just the fact that he's been able to come in a play 20 minutes a game on that caliber of a team, like I underestimated just how lethal his physical tools are. He's in a class of his own already. Just how impactful that is as a lob-catcher, as a rim-protector, as a rim-runner when he isn't in position and when he is playing revved up as we've seen. He's been much better than I anticipated.
"With James, the thought was always, and the Memphis coaches would tell you this, they would always say, 'If he goes to Golden State he's going to be awesome.' If he goes somewhere else where the culture is not great and he doesn't have great vets around him then he's really going to struggle. ... If he were in a different situation, we would probably see a lot more of the catch in the mid-post, hold, fallaway jumper, and the lack of rebounding and the lack of motor at times, I think that would be more apparent than it is in Golden State."
In 21.2 minutes per game, Wiseman is averaging 11.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game so far this season. While Wiseman's athleticism has wowed early on, it's clear the 19-year-old still has a lot of growing to do as an NBA center. Still, the Warriors have been encouraged by his confidence and ability to bounce back from tough outings, and it's clear that Steph Curry, Draymond Green and coach Steve Kerr see a bright future for the young big.
If Wiseman continues to grow as expected in the Warriors' culture, the only question will become what kind of big he eventually becomes.
"He has all these little encouraging things," Schmitz said. "Like the shooting. Is he going to be like a hard diver and a pop guy? Is he going -- then we see the ball-handling. Is he going to be a guy who can actually push in transition or is it just faking a DHO here and there and then getting downhill. Then, the passing, he finally had a nice read against the Spurs on a back door and I think he finished with four assists. Is that going to evolve? By my view, you look at the best bigs in the NBA. You have your run-and-jump guys, your Capela, Jarrett Allen, Mitchell Robinson, these type of guys. But the best bigs can kind of create their own and facilitate, whether it's Jokic, AD, Giannis, Karl Towns, Embiid. So, is he going to become just some super-elite DeAndre Jordan? For them, is he going to be that with a little more skill, or is he going to be one of those type of guys?"
Wiseman has shown a plethora of skills early on, and playing alongside Curry and Green should take some of the initial pressure off him. He's only played 18 games since graduating high school, so he still has a long way to go to become a finished product. He's shooting 50.7 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from 3-point range early on. He has shown the ability to handle the ball in transition and has the ability to facilitate on the offensive end.
Gauging his NBA ceiling after 15 games is impossible and, frankly, a fool's errand. But the Warriors clearly were the perfect spot for Wiseman to land and he should be able to grow into the best version of himself with Curry, Green and Kerr helping him every step of the way.
Wiseman has been studying all kinds of NBA bigs, from Anthony Davis to Myles Turner in the hopes that he can emulate the best parts of their games. He has all the skills to be one of the best big men in the NBA. At this moment, I'd say Wiseman becoming a super-elite version of Jordan should be his floor. He's more skilled than Jordan and has the ability to impact the game in more ways than with his athleticism.
Will he become a superstar like Davis or Jokic? He has the ability, for sure. It's easy to see shades of Giannis Antetokounmpo in his game and how he could develop from rangy, athletic prospect to all-world star. But that's up to Wiseman and the Warriors.
If he puts in the work, and there's no reason to think he isn't laser-focused on realizing his potential, the Warriors will have one of the NBA's next elite centers.
It's clear Wiseman has all the talent to be great, and Green and Curry will need him to transform into one of the special bigs early in his career in order to give them a real shot at re-igniting the dynasty.