The Golden State Warriors and James Wiseman opened their preseason with a 96-87 victory against the Washington Wizards in their first of two meetings in Tokyo.
In what could only be categorized as a sloppy affair, with both teams exhibiting obvious signs of rust, Wiseman looked as good as ever. Across his 24 minutes of action, the big man tallied 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting to go along with his 9 rebounds, one assist, and a lone block.
James Wiseman shined in the Golden State Warriors’ first preseason game, giving fans a taste of what’s to come from the rising star.
In the past, Steve Kerr has admittedly struggled to identify Wiseman’s optimal fit within the Warriors’ complex offense, but if anything, the preseason is all about experimenting, and that Kerr did on Friday morning (Friday evening in Tokyo time).
Wiseman largely operated as a traditional screen-setting big man, though his unique skillset amplified many of the Warriors half court sets.
One thing that immediately jumps off the screen is Wiseman’s absurd mobility for a player of his size. Here, Wiseman takes a quick power dribble into a handoff to Donte DiVincenzo, then darts towards the rim on the roll, completely losing Kristaps Porzingis on his way for an easy jam.
This play is just an ordinary Pick and Roll action between Curry and Wiseman – a connection we should expect to see a lot more of this season. Wiseman sets the simple drag screen and Curry drives, forcing the help from Daniel Gafford. This frees up the 7-footer for an easy alley-oop flush.
Simplifying Wiseman’s offensive role allows for his best qualities – his athleticism and versatility – to shine through. There is no need for the coaching staff to overcomplicate things when Wiseman can simply overwhelm opposing defenses with his 7-foot frame.
Wiseman also showcased his improved awareness on the defensive end, mucking up driving lanes and holding the fort on the interior.
Here, Wiseman does an excellent job of navigating the Wizards’ dribble handoff action. He understands that Daniel Gafford isn’t a threat unless he enters the paint so he hangs back and offers help on the drive. As soon as Poole loses his footing, Wiseman steps in to protect the rim.
For all that Wiseman is on the offensive side of the ball, what he brings to the table defensively could be even more vital to the Warriors’ success. Kevon Looney did a fine job against much bigger competition at the center spot last season, but Wiseman adds an element of rim protection that Looney just cannot match.
“James has had a really a good few days of practice,” Steve Kerr noted postgame. “His understanding of patience and defensive communication, being in the right place, he has a much better understanding of the NBA game than he did when he was playing a couple of years ago. … Couldn’t be happier for James. To see him rewarded in the first preseason game is fantastic.”