The thinking was clear when the Warriors used the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft on center James Wiseman out of Memphis, despite his raw skills and lack of experience. The 7-footer would immediately bring size to Golden State's roster as someone who could be a rim-running big and lob threat.
Before Wiseman's rookie season was cut short by a torn right meniscus, it was clear he still has a long way to go as a rebounder and understanding how to use his body. He didn't play a single NBA game this past season due to that right knee. But in the Warriors' final game of their summer league schedule, an 87-77 loss to the Washington Wizards, Wiseman's improvements were clear, as was the added element he should be able to bring from Day 1 if healthy.
"I thought he had a great outing today, probably his best one," Warriors coach Jama Mahlalela said after the loss. "Just his energy and movement up and down the floor."
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Right away, Wiseman made an impact on the defensive side of the ball, swatting away a shot that earned an "Oh! I think Wiseman blocked that with his elbow," reaction from the broadcast.
Over his 19 minutes played, all in three quarters before the Warriors unleashed their bench players and lost their lead, Wiseman blocked two shots, grabbed six rebounds and scored 11 points. He missed all three of his 3-point attempts, though he has proven he has the range and shooting stroke to let it fly from there at times. Down low, he was a force at times.
In the final 30 seconds of the first half, Wiseman gave us all a glimpse of how empowering he can on offense and defense. First, he set a strong screen for Mac McClung before rolling to the hoop and throwing down a loud dunk. Then on the other side, Wiseman swatted away his second block of the night, a sequence that should make all of the Warriors smile somewhere.
"His screening and rolling was done with more pace today," Mahlalela explained.
All five of Wiseman's buckets came right around the rim. He finished multiple alley-oops and beat the buzzer at the end of the third quarter with an acrobatic finish.
Draymond Green led the Warriors last season with 1.1 blocks per game. Wiseman averaged 0.9 blocks per game as a rookie. Now with a season of watching the champions and much more muscle on his long frame, Wiseman totaled eight blocks in his four games played in Las Vegas, good for an average of 2.0 blocks per game while playing just about 20 minutes per game.
Kevon Looney led the Warriors with 83 dunks in 82 regular-season games. Wiseman as a rookie had 84 dunks in 39 games. You get the picture.
Golden State Warriors
The combination of Wiseman and players like Jonathan Kuminga will bring more size, explosiveness and athleticism to the Warriors from the season opener until however far their season goes.
Wiseman improved as a screener every game in Vegas. He showcased his ability to block shots and disrupt offenses, no matter how giddy he is to jump at almost everything right now. The Warriors know his offensive skill set already is there, and should provide something they don't have -- a true lob threat -- as he continues to expand his arsenal around the rim.
The 21-year-old played in four straight games to end the Warriors' summer league schedule. That's more than he played in college and his longest stretch of games since playing 10 straight in late March to early April in 2021 before his rookie year came to a close. Golden State didn't get many wins this summer after celebrating another title.
What Wiseman displayed in Sin City, however, was a win for the present and maybe an even bigger one for the future.
"It just bodes well for the rest of his summer," Mahlalela said. "He can now do development work and not do rehab work. That's a fundamentally different thing for him and we're just -- as a coaching staff and organization -- excited for that process and for him to learn and grow and come into training camp a different player, because he's actually had a summer where he can work."