Golden StateWarriors

Warriors' reliance on Klay, Wiseman not ideal for ceiling


When outlining all of the areas the Warriors need to improve next season, there seems to be one common denominator as to how these issues will be addressed: the growth of James Wiseman. 

Better rebounding numbers: crashing the boards should be Wiseman's job. 

More rim protection: Wiseman needs to use his length. 

Lower the fouling numbers: Wiseman was 16th in the league in personal fouls last season. 

The only area for improvement that isn't in Wiseman's wheelhouse is shooting and floor-spreading. That will be reserved for Klay Thompson. 

On paper, this is OK. Thompson is one of the most prolific scorers this game has ever seen, and Wiseman has all of the tools to become a star. But, the context that surrounds these two this season makes it difficult to start planning a "Warriors 2021-22 NBA champs" tattoo. 

Thompson is returning to the court for the first time in two years -- and his return date still is up in the air. Wiseman is entering just his second year in the league, and his first one was not smooth. 

There are probably some fans out there who are skeptical that Wiseman will be able to have as big of an impact he needs to make right away. And rightfully so. It's tricky with him. There were moments during his rookie year that perfectly displayed the skillsets and the potential he has. However, they didn't appear consistently enough to definitively say that's who he is.

Some of that was because of injury. Wiseman continuously popped in and out of the rotation because of personal injuries, and injuries to his teammates caused him to play with different groups all season long.

Another part of it was because he needed more time to develop. He hadn't played an organized game of basketball since fall 2019. The Warriors also didn't put him in a position to succeed. They needed so much from him immediately but didn't set him up the best they could -- partly because of the two things previously mentioned.

RELATED: Biggest question about Klay's return isn't his shooting

But, here's the unfortunate part: the Warriors are asking Wiseman to do the same thing they asked him to do last season. They need him to have an immediate impact. The biggest difference is that they've retooled their coaching staff with personnel who specialize in player development, including Dejan Milojevic who worked with reigning MVP Nikola Jokic. But, when it comes to Wiseman's role, they're asking him to do the same thing, but now there is even more pressure. 

When it comes to Thompson, it's easier to be optimistic about him having an immediate impact when he returns. He will never forget how to shoot the ball, and that alone will force defenders to respect his on-court presence and space the floor more. 

But again, there are understandable concerns. 

Before Thompson returns, it's unlikely that the Warriors' floor-spacing will be any better than it was last season. Golden State replaced Kent Bazemore and Kelly Oubre Jr. -- their second and third-best floor spacers -- with Otto Porter Jr. and Nemanja Bjelica, but that doesn't take them any steps forward. It will all come down to Thompson to make any significant changes. And putting all of your eggs in the basket of someone who hasn't played since June 2019 is a bit scary. 

For both Thompson and Wiseman, there is a lot of pressure. 

Yes, there is pressure on others as well to make this season a success. 

Steph Curry needs to continue the dominance he played with last season. Draymond Green must keep up his defensive tenacity, and even add in some more offense. Juan Toscano-Anderson and Jordan Poole need to keep growing after carving out roles for themselves. And of course, everyone must stay healthy. 

But even if all of this happens, there's nothing to suggest they will be any better than they were last season.

It's up to Thompson and Wiseman -- two players coming off injuries -- to make this team seriously competitive, and that's a scary thought. 

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