Questions surrounding the Warriors decision to select James Wiseman with the No. 2 pick in this year’s NBA Draft are plentiful, and mostly external, with many NBA observers wondering whether LaMelo Ball, who went to the Hornets with the third pick in the draft, was the better choice.
That debate will go on for the remainder of this year and probably longer. But there are internal questions within Golden State that deal with coach Steve Kerr’s motion offense. In years past, Kerr’s centers have been little more than role players, often getting benched late in the game as Kerr shifts to his small-ball lineups, notably his “death” lineup with forward Draymond Green at center.
Former Warriors center Andrew Bogut knows that fact well. A former No. 1 pick in the draft by Milwaukee, he relinquished his starting spot to former Warriors forward Andre Iguodala in the 2015 NBA Finals. The move helped push Golden State toward that season’s championship. The Athletic’s Ethan Strauss asked Bogut if Kerr’s system could mesh if Wiseman became a 20 points-per-game scorer, his answer was a simple “no.”
Well, he did say more, actually. Here’s part of his comment.
“That’s the hard thing with the Warriors style and the flow of play. The big’s used generally as a facilitator at times and needs to be a big defensive presence, rebounds, sets good screens, and you get your little lob dunk or drop-off dunk. Now, where this is interesting is you’ve drafted a guy in the top five.” — Andrew BogutThe Athletic/Ethan Strauss
It’s easy to understand Bogut’s point. If the Kerr’s centers are used as facilitators and defenders, the selection of the offensively-gifted Wiseman is a bit puzzling. But he’s gifted all-around, and I think the Warriors are trying to break the mold with Wiseman. He’s athletically skilled and extremely coachable, and has the potential to have a well-rounded game as no Warriors center under Kerr has.
Once Wiseman finds the flow of the offense, it should be easy for him to put up points within that flow. Per Strauss, Wiseman is averaging 21.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per 36 minutes, shooting 51 percent from the field including 44 percent from distance (10-for-23). With no go-to role and limited minutes, he’s averaging 12.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots overall.
I think he can easily score 20 points per game in the future, which will make up for some of what Dramond Green lacks in scoring punch. And by the time Green, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson retire, Kerr’s system could actually revolve around Wiseman. They are truly trying to break the mold with the rookie. Time will tell if the mission will succeed.
PLUS: I noticed the Warriors’ TV broadcast calling Wiseman “Big Jim” on the recent 2-2 road trip. I was put off by it at first. Who is named “Jim” nowadays? Color commentator Kelenna Azubuike came down hard on the nickname, giving it a firm thumbs down.
I don’t have a hard stance on what Wisman’s nickname should be, or if he needs one at all, but I love the “Big Jim” moniker. While Wiseman is a slender, athletic center, he needs to play, well, big. He must defend and rebound as a primary function before he can earn crucial minutes, especially with the defense-first mentality of Kerr that’s paying dividends this season.
So keep calling him Big Jim, at least once in a while, so he remembers that he’s often the largest individual on the court even as he shows skills of a smaller player.
And most importantly, get your popcorn ready as the journey of Wiseman continues. Next up: Friday’s game against the Hornets and yep, No. 3 overall pick in the draft, LaMelo Ball.
(Photo credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)