Warriors

Barbosa explains why Wiseman struggled in rookie season

Warriors
James Wiseman

James Wiseman's rookie year didn't go as the rookie drew it up. While the Warriors' young center would give his maiden NBA voyage a favorable grade, there is no doubt that he has a lot to work on in order to reach the lofty heights the Warriors envision for him.

Being drafted second overall comes with expectations. Those expectations are raised when you play for a franchise with a championship pedigree and when the players you were sandwiched between -- LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards -- both have impressive rookie seasons.

But Wiseman's struggles are easy to understand given the circumstances surrounding the year-and-a-half between the talented big graduating from high school and making his NBA debut in Brooklyn against the Nets.

 
"It’s kind of tough for a rookie. He didn’t really play basketball for a long time before he comes to the NBA," Warriors player mentor coach Leandro Barbosa told The Bay Area News Group's Wes Goldberg on the "Locked On Warriors" podcast. "When you are the second pick, there are a lot of expectations for that player. He couldn’t do much, he couldn’t prove a lot of people wrong because he didn’t have a lot of time to spend on his game.
 
"It’s complicated, but at the end of the day he’s a talent, he’s a guy that if he works, he’s going to be a very good player. He’s able to do a bit of everything on the court. He’s just gotta understand the offense and the way we like to play. Once he does, I think he’s going to be awesome for us."

Wiseman committed to play at Memphis coming out of high school, but he only played three games for the Tigers before withdrawing after the NCAA suspended him for 12 games after deeming that his family received improper benefits when Wiseman was a junior in high school. The NCAA wanted Wiseman to repay the $11,500 his family was given to move from Nashville to Memphis when he was in high school. Instead, Wiseman elected to end his college career.

After the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the 2020 NBA Draft to November, eliminated NBA Summer League and truncated training camp, Wiseman effectively had only played in four competitive games since graduating high school and hadn't done so in over a year before making his debut for the Warriors.

It was a recipe for a rocky start.

Wiseman opened the season in the Warriors' starting rotation before being replaced by Kevon Looney after 16 games. Wiseman eventually returned to the starting lineup in March, but then had his season cut short due to a meniscus injury.

Some believed the Warriors made a mistake in starting Wiseman too early, but Barbosa disagrees with that critique.

“No, I think it was a good decision and I like that we did that because we want to see what the guy can do," Barbosa told Goldberg. "We do have to work with him, and we’ll have a lot of time to spend with him to teach him what he has to do on the court, who he is with Draymond [Green] and [Steph] Curry. It was good, it was a good decision having him start because that way we can see what he can do.
 
"Now it’s on us to work with him.”
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A lot has been made about the timeline of Wiseman's development and how it matches up with the championship window of Curry, Green and Klay Thompson.

The 20-year-old center could be the centerpiece of a trade to acquire another star to put alongside Curry, but, as of right now, the Warriors' plan is to keep Wiseman and develop him into the star center they believe he can become.

"I think he can help us. I expect him to be on the team next year. I don't want to trade James Wiseman," president of basketball operations Bob Myers told reporters Monday in his end-of-season press conference. "I think he is a tremendous talent. I think he was put in a position where, again, the guy has taken hopefully all of his lumps early in his career. I think he can be very helpful to us in the future.

"I think he can be helpful in the present. We plan on him being on the team. We plan on him helping us. ... We're very confident he is going to be a good player and help us win next year. And so, we think he is part of winning for this team going forward."

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