Golden State Warriors big man James Wiseman made a successful return to the floor on Thursday night, notching 18 points and six rebounds for the Santa Cruz Warriors in the NBA G League.
It was Wiseman’s first playing time since tearing his meniscus on April 11, with the former number two overall pick logging 20 minutes after a cautious recovery period.
The Golden State Warriors need help in the frontcourt and James Wiseman is the one who is most capable of assisting them.
The 20-year-old showed plenty of positives and looked noticeably stronger, gaining optimism among fans that he could yet feature in the Warriors playoff hopes.
It was the first of at least two G League games for Wiseman, with Santa Cruz set to play at Chase Center on Sunday.
What the plan is after that remains a mystery, as Golden State battles for the second seed with just 15 games remaining in the regular season. What we do know is that this is a crucial moment; do the Warriors bring Wiseman back quickly to see if he can be a valuable piece to their playoff run? Or do they focus on the future and let him develop through the G League and/or garbage NBA minutes?
The answer should be the former, for more reasons than just Wiseman himself. If Golden State had greater big man depth, then by all means let the focus remain on next season and beyond. But Wiseman is the only genuine seven-footer on the Warriors roster, and they could undoubtedly do with his enormous frame.
Right now, Nemanja Bjelica is averaging around 15 minutes per game. After a promising start to the season, the Serbian isn’t providing much with all due respect (in Mark Jackson’s voice). Provided the Warriors are fully healthy, Bjelica isn’t seeing playing time come the playoffs. At least Wiseman has the potential to find a role in the postseason.
There’s no reason why Bjelica’s 15 minutes couldn’t go to Wiseman, particularly in a simplified role where he just needs to rebound, run the floor, finish in the paint and provide some defensive presence.
There’s no doubt Wiseman can be a productive player box-score wise. He can probably get 3-4 dunks simply by running in transition or taking advantage of double teams on Stephen Curry. That’s even before any kind of pick and roll action, which in itself could be exciting, especially with Jordan Poole as the ball handler in the second unit.
But putting up numbers is different from being an effective player on a championship-contending team, something that will challenge the big man after ineffective performances at times in his rookie season.
Either way, he should at least be given that opportunity. Failing to do so could leave the Warriors with a ‘what if’ scenario they come to regret.