Wiseman's unique rookie season makes success more impressive

Warriors' James Wiseman dunks

After playing just three games in college, followed by a five-month delay between the 2020 NBA Draft's initially scheduled date and its actual one, the circumstances surrounding James Wiseman's rookie season are rather unique.

Wiseman's participation in an already-abbreviated preseason and training camp was delayed by about a week, and he started in his NBA debut on Dec. 22 after not playing a single minute in an exhibition game. You wouldn't necessarily realize that while watching Wiseman so far this season, as he has been among the league's most impressive rookies.

As comfortable as Wiseman has looked early in his first NBA season, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Saturday that it's important to remember how atypical the center's rookie campaign is.

"I think I've even said it to you guys -- as far as I know, there's never been a player in the modern NBA who's been thrown out there on opening night without any training camp or Summer League," Kerr told reporters in a video conference. "As many young players as we have in this league, even going back to the days of Kobe [Bryant] and Kevin Garnett going straight out of high school to the pros, nobody has ever done what James has been doing over the last two weeks, literally just being thrown into the fire without any preparation based on the circumstances of the [coronavirus] pandemic and the impact the pandemic has had on the season.


"So, when you factor all that in, it's remarkable how quickly he's picked things up and how well-suited his, temperament-wise, to deal with the frustration of having to learn so many things in such a short period of time."

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Wiseman is averaging 11.6 points and 5.6 rebounds in a little under 23 minutes per game. The 19-year-old is shooting 40.8 percent from the field, but an even 50 from beyond the 3-point line. Wiseman made five of his first six NBA 3-pointers after taking only one in three games with the Memphis Tigers last season.

Kerr said Wiseman's shooting touch impressed the Warriors in his pre-draft workouts, but the big man's confidence taking 3-pointers has come along earlier than expected.

"Coming into the season, we thought eventually James will be a 3-point shooter," Kerr said, "and my thought coming into the season was let him step back and take one or two a game and see how it develops. He's obviously very comfortable from there, and that's a great sign for his future."

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The sigh of relief the Warriors breathed after Wiseman rolling his ankle Friday didn't lead to a serious injury shows how vital he is to Golden State's chances of success this season. Plenty of draft picks have shouldered big expectations as rookies, but, as Kerr noted, far fewer have done so amid the context with which Wiseman is dealing.

Wiseman's inevitable rookie-year struggles will be even more understandable as a result, and his initial success all the more impressive.