James Wiseman was the undoubted talking point from the Golden State Warriors opening preseason game in Japan on Friday. The former number two overall pick made his long awaited return to an NBA fixture, quickly setting about making up for lost time.
The big man finished with a game-high 20 points and nine rebounds in a little under 24 minutes against the Washington Wizards, more importantly remaining efficient and consistent in a much more simplified role.
James Wiseman’s role is again in the spotlight after an impressive display in the Golden State Warriors preseason opener.
Wiseman was thrust into a starting role as a rookie, playing 39 games before the meniscus injury that’s since affected him till recent times. His general lack of feel and basketball IQ was a constant issue in a complicated Warriors offense led by veterans Stephen Curry and Draymond Green.
But the preseason opener was a sign of the enormous upside should Wiseman and the Warriors get it right. The most startling aspect was the ease in which his points came within the general flow of Golden State’s offense.
Five of his eight field-goal makes were dunks, coming through a combination of pick-and-rolls and running out in transition. He also made two nice hooks in mismatches against smaller players, while he added a baseline mid-range jumpshot in the fourth quarter.
The ease of Wiseman’s scoring begs the question on what kind of lineups we could see him in this season. Theoretically, he should be getting easier baskets when playing alongside greater scoring threats and elite playmakers. This is what makes the idea of playing next to Curry and Green so compelling, as tough as it was at times two seasons ago.
This is not advocating for Wiseman to automatically be re-inserted as a starter; not only does he need at least 20 regular season games producing this kind of form, but Kevon Looney’s playoff heroics deserve to be rewarded at least to begin with.
However, could we see him enter games early at the five-six minute mark? If he performs well early in games, could he close out a first half alongside the regular starters? Wiseman offers the rim-running, vertical spacing threat Green and Curry have seldom had over their careers. While it was a short period in the second quarter, we saw how the the youngster could be utilized by the veterans.
Firstly, Green identified Wiseman with a mismatch inside, hitting him with a perfectly placed pass from the perimeter. Wiseman sealed off his opponent before turning and finishing with a hook from a few feet. It was an incredibly simple play, but one that second-string players may have failed to recognise in Green’s position.
On the exact next play, as seen in the clip below, Curry and Wiseman run a simple pick-and-roll from the top of the perimeter. The shooting threat of the two-time MVP forces Wizards big man Daniel Gafford to hedge just enough, before Curry throws up the lob to a rolling Wiseman for the easy two-hand slam.
Again, this is a simple offensive play that’s incredibly difficult to defend; you have the greatest shooter ever so teams are incredibly unlikely to play drop coverage, but then the trade-off is the rolling, freakishly athletic seven-foot big man who’s going to catch and finish anything around the rim.
Wiseman will undoubtedly play the majority of his early season minutes in second units; exercising the pick-and-roll with the likes of Jordan Poole and Donte DiVincenzo. However, his tantalizing threat next to Curry in particular, has to give Steve Kerr plenty of food for thought moving forward.