Monday was a good day for anyone aboard James Wiseman's hype train.
The Warriors rookie practiced with his teammates for the first time after missing the first week of training camp following a positive coronavirus test, impressing coach Steve Kerr and veteran forward Draymond Green with his energy. As Wiseman took the floor, FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver revealed that the site's model projects Wiseman to be the second-best rookie -- at least among players who played in the NCAA last season.
Wiseman, 19, carries the weight of expectations as Golden State's highest draft pick this century. With Steph Curry, Draymond Green and injured star Klay Thompson all in their 30s, the Warriors' future beyond the next two or three seasons largely rests on his shoulders.
The rookie center said last month after the draft that he hoped to maximize his time around the Warriors' veteran core, and Green said Wiseman started to do so Monday.
"It seems to me that he's going to be a sponge," Green said. "He asked a bunch of questions, which ... if you need some answers, that's the right thing to do and it's nothing to be shy about. I think he's definitely been paying attention, and he didn't look too bad out there. It was just -- sometimes, your first practice, you look giddy and all over the place, which was the case. But like I said, you'd much rather coach that up than trying to tell the guy to play hard."
The Warriors have been careful to publicly temper their expectations for Wiseman ahead of this season, stressing the long view when it comes to his long-term development. If Wiseman becomes the consistent outside shooter or the switchable defender Golden State envisions, that will be a matter of years rather than months.
Nonetheless, a top-three rookie season among the peers in his draft class would constitute a very successful first year in the NBA. FiveThirtyEight's model didn't include overseas players like LaMelo Ball, Deni Avdija or RJ Hampton, so Wiseman will have to contend with them in addition to the rookies who played in college.
If Wiseman is as good this season as FiveThirtyEight projects him to be, his preseason hype won't have been misplaced.