Warriors admit mistake, abandon vision by trading Wiseman


By reportedly trading James Wiseman after 60 games spread out over 26 months, the Warriors walked away from more than a young man some believe will have a long NBA career. They also quit on their vision.

Any team drafting No. 2 overall, in any draft, is seeking – anticipating – someone capable of becoming a franchise cornerstone.

The Warriors didn’t make that pick to fill the back end of the roster. In the case of a team with an experienced championship core, as they had in November 2020, they had to be particularly careful because they don’t expect to be in the lottery anytime soon.

And now, poof, it’s all gone.

Wiseman is being sent to Detroit to begin anew with a young, rebuilding Pistons. It’s a good move for him. A fresh start with a team that presumably wants the make use of his assets.

Those visible assets – ability to score in multiple levels and defend in a simplified system – didn’t fit the needs of the Warriors. They knew that when they drafted Wiseman but believed they could coach him to fit their desires.

That’s why they lured Dejan Milojević from Europe. His top priority was to mentor the evolution of the Warriors' future center, who was 19 years old when he entered the NBA. This process was going to take years, longer if injuries were to cause interruptions, which they did.

Wiseman was the first of the new generation Warriors, followed in the next draft by fellow lottery picks Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody. They were followed last summer by Patrick Baldwin Jr. and Ryan Rollins. Adding five 19-year-olds in three consecutive drafts to a team built around three 30-somethings – Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson – does not make for a seamless transition from one nucleus to the next.

Rather, it makes for what we’ve seen this season. Only one of the five, Kuminga, is playing meaningful minutes.

The Warriors believe Wiseman will be a capable scorer in the NBA. They also realize he was never going to fit an offensive system built around Curry. To watch video of Andrew Bogut, Zaza Pachulia, David West, JaVale McGee, Kevon Looney, and James Wiseman is to quickly realize which one is not like the others.

Wiseman is the only one whose best skill is his shot – and whose worse skills are his ability to orchestrate a defense and set screens.

He was never going to be Bogut, yet the Warriors had him dropping in coverage. He was never going to Pachulia, yet the Warriors had him trying and often failing to set effective screens. He could have been JaVale but didn’t have such varied NBA experience.

Besides, No. 2 overall picks are to provide more than catching a few lobs while playing 16 minutes a night.

The Warriors drafted Wiseman because they visualized his impact after five years in the NBA. Curry would be 37, Green and Thompson each 36. The offensive system would have to adjust and there might be a need for a 7-foot-2 athlete who can go out and get 20 a night.

The bullet train to 2025 slowed last season because the Warriors, surprisingly, won an NBA championship, validating the quality endurance of the Curry-Green-Thompson triumvirate. They weren’t ready to fade away. The future would have to wait.

The Warriors approached the trade deadline seeking someone who contribute immediately. Today. If that meant sacrificing a piece of tomorrow, so be it.

The Warriors saved a considerable sum of money by moving Wiseman for Kevin Knox and draft picks which were sent to Portland for the beloved Gary Payton II. They will now sniff around the buyout market and maybe find someone who fits the timeline.

A veteran big who does dirty work and can stretch the floor. A veteran wing who can defend and stretch the floor. No guards needed.

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So now it’s up to Kuminga, Moody, Baldwin, and Rollins to represent the new generation. This is not as scripted, but adjustments are necessary, even if it means abandoning an idea and admitting a mistake.

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