James Wiseman has returned to playing five on five basketball, a reassuring sign for one of the Golden State Warriors‘ biggest x-factors.
There isn’t a much better midseason upgrade the Warriors could receive than a healthy and effective sophomore season from Wiseman. He addresses their current need for a big and can elevate them to a near-flawless defensive team.
James Wiseman’s debut for the Golden State Warriors could be on the horizon. Where did last year’s No. 2 overall pick leave off and how did we get here?
On Feb. 15, Wiseman was cleared for his first five-on-five scrimmage since April of 2021 when the big man suffered a season-ending meniscus injury.
It’s been a bumpy road getting to this point. Wiseman, who played only three games in the NCAA due to an off-court scandal, had roughly a month between being drafted by the Warriors and making his NBA debut due to the odd basketball landscape caused by 2020.
Wiseman’s rookie season was plagued by unfortunate events
An already unusual path to the NBA was made worse by Wiseman catching COVID-19 and missing training camp prior to his first game. Above all else, Wiseman wasn’t entering the league with typical lottery pick expectations. He was joining the Warriors — who, with the return of Stephen Curry — expected to be a playoff team.
This rapid turnaround proved to be a challenge for the young center. The lofty expectations and limited time for development made it difficult for Wiseman to find his balance at the NBA level.
If this wasn’t enough, Steve Kerr and the Dubs made a conscious effort to avoid overusing pick-and-roll plays, something a young, athletic center like Wiseman would usually be making his bread and butter.
It wasn’t until later in the 2020-21 season when Kerr finally moved Wiseman to the bench and began utilizing him in more screen-and-rolls. At this point, the Dubs were gaining momentum towards a strong finish to the year while Wiseman, albeit still looking out of place on both ends of the floor, was starting to show glimmers of promise.
The 19-year-old was reinserted into the starting lineup and posted 11.0 points and 5.8 rebounds on close to 50 percent shooting in his final nine games before suffering his knee injury.
Notably, Wiseman was still a minus-8.6 player despite seemingly growing more comfortable with his role.
Wiseman’s time on the sideline is almost over
Nevertheless, we all know a meniscus injury soon followed that has knocked Wiseman to the sidelines for close to a year now. Again, Wiseman is entering the season with having relatively little opportunity for genuine improvement over the offseason due to his shakey recovery status.
This begs the question, how much different will Wiseman look like as a sophomore? Can we expect any significant changes?
The change of scenery should help. Golden State is already established as a title contender and a wide array of players have been stepping up to get the job done. Wiseman’s role will be narrowed down to the simplest aspects of the game.
This should give us a reason for optimism. Many of Wiseman’s flaws came from inexperience. Sure, he needs to get his reps in, but being around the team for an extended period of time should have helped him, at least a little.
Wiseman is expected to ramp up in the G-League before making his official return sometime in the next month, barring any major changes.