Wiseman lived up to fair expectations in Summer League


James Wiseman could have grabbed more rebounds. He probably would like to have been more assured in his movements. He definitely should have had more touches.

On the whole, Wiseman did enough in four Las Vegas Summer League games to prove he can be of considerable help to the Warriors next season.

Was he perfect? Not at all. There were moments on offense and on defense when he seemed confused or uncertain. His mid-range shot has a thick coating of rust. He had more turnovers (seven) than assists (five). And like most young, athletic 7-footers, his defensive discipline is inconsistent.

Yet he ran the floor wonderfully, understood his priorities and acquitted himself nicely for someone shaking off 15 months of inactivity that accumulated during multiple knee surgeries and setbacks that extended his rehabilitation process.

In time, Wiseman conceivably can:

Provide a portion of the rim protection Andrew Bogut gave the Warriors a few years ago, in which case it’s a win.

Provide a portion of the vertical spacing and rim protection JaVale McGee gave them after Bogut was released, in which case it’s a win.

Provide the outside shooting threat the Warriors got last season from Nemanja Bjelica, in which case it’s a win.

Wiseman is not going to pass as well as cleverly as Bogut or Beli -- or as innately as David West -- but there is reason to believe he will get better.

In the final minute of the first half of the LV Summer League finale against the Wizards, Wiseman produced the kind of sequence the Warriors dream about when visualizing his future.

Wiseman applies a pick on Wizards guard Devon Dotson that free Warriors guard Mac McClung, who dribbles toward the baseline, as Wiseman rolls toward the rim. It’s reasonable to anticipate a lob, but that’s not what unfolds. McClung fires a behind-the-back pass between two defenders that Wiseman catches in stride and immediately dunks with 30.8 seconds left in the half.

I’m not sure Wiseman sets such an effective screen 18 months ago, and I’m definitely not sure he catches that pass.

But he doesn’t stop there.

The Warriors get back on defense, Wizards forward Isaiah Todd spins past McClung on the baseline and Wiseman is there to help. He makes the block, with McClung recovering the ball and eventually draining two free throws.

Wiseman in Summer League action averaged 10.5 points (17-of-35 shooting from the field, 2-of-6 from deep), 5.5 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 19.9 minutes per game. The Warriors in no way featured him on offense, as there were stretches when he seemed invisible to teammates.

The numbers are, given his long layoff, an encouraging sign for Summer League head coach Jama Mahlalela.

“This bodes well for the rest of his summer,” he told reporters in Vegas. “He can actually do development work and now rehab work. And that’s a fundamentally different thing for him. We are, as a coaching staff and organization, excited for. that process. He can learn and grow and come into training camp a different player because he’s actually had a summer where he can work.”

That point cannot be overstated. Wiseman, 21, was in high school when he last played a full season. He has never participated in a full NBA training camp. This was his first exposure to Summer League.

There is reason to believe he’ll be better in September, when camp opens, than he was in July. Better in December than he was in September. Better in March than he was in December. As long as he’s healthy, the Warriors will be better able to fully evaluate his value.

They believe in Wiseman now, as they believed in him six months ago.

You may recall -- no doubt you do -- last season, when concerns about Wiseman’s availability led to handwringing in the streets of Dub Nation over the team’s lack of size. With Kevon Looney, Draymond Green and Bjelica as the “centers,” social media and sports-talk radio were teeming prospective trades.

A peek at the imposing big men in the Western Conference -- Denver’s Nikola Jokic, Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton, Utah’s Rudy Gobert, Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, Memphis’ phalanx of bruisers – led to considerable trepidation.

They should have gone after Dewayne Dedmon! How about Robin Lopez? Should have kept Marquese Chriss! Tristan Thompson, anyone? We sure could use Enes Freedom’s offensive rebounding! Why didn’t we keep JaVale?

The Warriors never seriously considered chasing a random big man for the sake of size. As coach Steve Kerr astutely pointed out, anyone who was good enough help the Warriors was already on an NBA roster.

So, they played their hand and won a championship. While waiting for Wiseman.

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He now looks ready to contribute. Not 25 minutes on opening night, but surely enough to fortify the thinnest position on the team.

Don’t expect too much from the start, but in a matter of weeks, Wiseman should be good for 18-20 productive minutes per game.

The Warriors could have used that last season. They’re going to need it next season. 

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