The Mercury News
Are Warriors hurting their present developing Wiseman for future?
The Warriors want to develop James Wiseman, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft.
They also want to play their best lineups in an effort to win every game.
At the moment, those concepts seem to be mutually exclusive. That was certainly the case in Monday’s win over the Lakers.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr finds himself in a no-win scenario.
James Wiseman is 19 years old. He’s playing like it.
The Stephen Curry-led Warriors have never had a player like Wiseman, a bona fide 7-footer who has the ability to score at all three levels. They’re playing like it.
Something has to give. It did Monday.
The Warriors played their best basketball of the season against the Lakers. Their furious and ultimately victorious second half against the NBA’s best team was the kind of performance that can spark a winning streak. It was the kind of victory that, down the line, you could point to and claim that’s where this season’s Warriors found their identity.
Curry was awesome; Draymond Green was a game changer; Kelly Oubre had his best night as a Warrior; and Andrew Wiggins’ two-way play was revelatory.
But all that good stuff came with Wiseman on the bench.
Wiseman started the game, like he has all season, and was swiftly attacked by Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol, and LeBron James. It was an unfair fight for the
rookie — there will always be nights like that.
And things snowballed. In 13 minutes, Wiseman had five turnovers, posting a rating of minus-19. A little more than two minutes into the second half, Wiseman picked up that fifth foul and was pulled from the game, with the Warriors trailing by 13.
From that point on, Golden State outscored the Lakers by 15 points, shooting 54% from the field, with Green posting a plus19 rating.
Kerr was looking for the Warriors to be on a string for the first time this season. We saw it, in flashes, on Monday night in Los Angeles. I don’t think the Warriors’ success was a coincidence.
So what do they do now? Obviously, not every game will be this tough for Wiseman. There’s only one Anthony Davis.
But the Warriors cannot ignore that Wiseman’s developmental minutes are also, at the moment, detrimental to the Warriors’ winning cause.
And given how long it takes young centers — even precocious ones like Wiseman — to learn the NBA game, the situation becomes even trickier.
Should this trend continue, the logical option would be to drop Wiseman out of the starting lineup. But that’s complicated by the fact that the one reliable thing the Warriors have going for them is Eric Paschall’s second-unit minutes as a small-ball center. The Dubs can’t mess that up, and Paschall’s bullyball isn’t likely to work next to Green in the Warriors starting lineup.
The Warriors starters certainly looked better with Kevon Looney at the five. Looney, for all the athleticism he’s lost, knows all the wrinkles of the classic Warriors motion offense.
But Looney is another non-shooter in a lineup that already has Green, and Wiseman taking on Looney’s 10-minutes-anight role isn’t likely to do much for his overall development.
The Warriors are all-in on Wiseman and given the circumstances, that means continuing to try to shove the square peg into the round hole.
Perhaps if Kerr keeps jamming him in there, he’ll shave off the sides. Perfect fit. But it should be noted that Oubre started to find his offensive rhythm once he was away from Wiseman.
The Warriors might have solved one big problem, finding another in the process. While the sample size is small, early signs point to Oubre and Wiseman not being able to effectively coexist on the court.
Oubre took over Andrew Wiggins’ second-unit minutes on Monday and thrived alongside Paschall. Oubre is an agent of chaos, and a freestyle offense with good spacing worked wonders for a player who can knock down a corner 3-pointer, but he is most dangerous when he can attack the rim from the perimeter.
When Wiseman was on the floor, though, that option
to attack the rim is rarely there. Wiseman is the rim-runner with that unit (for good reason) and Oubre is relegated to the role of a spot-up shooter, which is sub-optimal.
When Oubre does try to go to the basket from the perimeter with Wiseman on the floor, he far too often runs into the big man under the hoop. At the very least, Wiseman’s presence near the basket creates an easy defensive rotation for the Warriors’ opponent.
This is still a wing league, and the Warriors run an offense that relies on strong play from the wings. With Wiseman in the starting lineup, the Warriors simply don’t have enough shooting to properly operate and give Curry space. At times, Wiseman has stood out as the Warriors’ second-best shooter in the starting five.
That lack of spacing only further highlights that the Warriors, understandably, don’t really know what to do with their new baby unicorn, who, through no fault of his own, doesn’t play well with others just yet.
The Warriors are stuck between stations. They’re trying to build for the future while capitalizing on the present.
If only that was truly possible.