Warriors rookie Wiseman earns curious grade from draft expert


Being the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA Draft already comes with plenty of expectations. So does joining a team on the heels of a five-year run of dominating the NBA and advancing to the Finals in each of those seasons.

James Wiseman got the best of both worlds in that respect, as the Memphis product joined the Warriors after a 15-50 season that followed up a five-year run of NBA superiority, with the big man expected to be the bridge between the Warriors' current era and their future with him as the franchise cornerstone.

The Warriors haven't been able to rise back amongst the top contenders in the Western Conference in 2020-21 with Steph Curry back in the lineup, as Klay Thompson's absence once again looms large in the Bay Area.

It's hard to say how much Wiseman has played a role in the Warriors' 22-21 record so far this season. The rookie has missed 14 of those 43 games, as a sprained wrist sidelined him in February and landing in the  league's health and safety protocols has kept him out of the team's last three games.

Bleacher Report NBA Draft analyst Jonathan Wasserman graded 10 of this season's best crop of rookies "relative to their draft position," and Wiseman's debut campaign earned him a "B" from Wasserman.

That sounds good initially, but it also was the lowest grade he gave any of the 10 rookies on his list. Only two other rookies, Detroit Pistons wing Saddiq Bey and Cleveland Cavaliers swingman Isaac Okoro, also garnered a B in Wasserman's eyes.


LaMelo Ball, who was chosen one pick after Wiseman by the Charlotte Hornets, earned the highest marks from Wasserman with an A. Ball's dazzling play-making ability has Charlotte in the playoff hunt in the East.

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It's impossible to know who from this year's rookie class will have the best career at this point, as no one on this list even has 50 NBA games under their belt.

Wiseman is averaging 11.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per game on just 20.8 minutes a night. His per-36 numbers have mirrored some of the NBA's best big men in their rookie seasons.

At 7-foot-1, Wiseman's ceiling as a player should be as an elite rim protector, but he has struggled at times with operating within an NBA defense. As Wasserman also points out, Wiseman has fouled out three times since Feb. 23, and commits 3.2 fouls per game on average and 5.6 over 36 minutes.

His limited college experience and absence from most of Warriors training camp due to an illness likely has played a role in his struggles on the defensive end. Still 10 days from his 20th birthday, Wiseman is young and also missed out on a chance to compete in Summer League and other developmental work during the shortened offseason due to COVID-19.

There certainly are areas where Wiseman could be better, but even if he had come into the league more polished, it wouldn't have made a dramatic difference to the Warriors' record. Outside of Curry, the offense has been inconsistent as a whole all season.

He won't be Rookie of the Year, but once Thompson returns and Wiseman gets a full offseason to study film and shore up his deficiencies on the defensive end, we should see significant improvement from him. More success from the Warriors shouldn't be far behind. 

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