In Salt Lake City, on the front end of a back-to-back, the Golden State Warriors saw their 9-game winning streak finally snapped.
The Dubs had held up rather well in the absence of defensive stalwart, Draymond Green prior to Wednesday. Managing to steer themselves through tricky matchups against the likes of Brooklyn, Dallas, and Minnesota – all without the services of a recognized big-man beyond Kevon Looney.
The Golden State Warriors will be returning James Wiseman in the not-too-distant future, and he could solve some of their biggest needs.
However, the Utah Jazz presented a different challenge. Utah attacked the crack in the Warriors’ armor and exploited their most glaring weakness – size. A weakness that worryingly, with Thursday’s trade deadline now come and gone – the front office was reluctant to address.
Putting their eggs in the Wiseman basket
The Warriors were annihilated on the interior in Utah.
The home side out-rebounded the Dubs 52-35, even without the help of Rudy Gobert. Backup center, Hassan Whiteside alone provided 17 rebounds and seven – I repeat seven – blocks off the bench as the Jazz cruised to a 111-85 victory.
The 26-point loss in Utah had shades of the Warriors getting crushed by Milwaukee in early January. And while the sky isn’t falling – it is perhaps concerning that their two blowout losses this year have fallen at the hands of teams with the arsenal to exploit their weakness in the paint.
The Warriors’ hesitancy to add a big at the deadline showcases their extreme – yet perhaps blind faith in last year’s No. 2 overall pick, James Wiseman. Standing at 7 feet tall, Wiseman is a physical freak with a potentially high upside.
He’s shown glimpses of star promise that would hypothetically solve all the Warriors’ problems.
However, Wiseman is also just 20-years-old, coming off a meniscus injury – and has only played 42 competitive games of basketball since leaving high school in 2019. His rookie season was also a tale of caution.
While unquestionably talented, Wiseman struggled to adapt to Steve Kerr’s motion offense system in his rookie year – seeming often lost on the offensive end and at times a liability on defense.
Based on last season, Wiseman still looks a couple of years away from being a reliable contributor to a championship team. And it was perhaps no coincidence that the Warriors’ best stretch of last season happened once Wiseman went down with injury – forcing them to fully embrace ‘small-ball.’