Golden State Warriors

Warriors play worse with James Wiseman on the court thus far and there’s an easy solution

This season of Warriors basketball is full of issues — good ones, bad ones, and weird ones, as well.

Take the case of rookie center James Wiseman, the No. 2 overall pick. He’s talented, that’s clear. But with superstars Stephen Curry and Draymond Green running the show, there’s no room for him to spread his wings (including his 7-foot-3 wingspan, of course).

Wiseman is learning from this superstar teammates, too, no doubt. But it’s clear that for his talent to grow, coach Steve Kerr has to find him a home on the court. Kerr already removed Wiseman from the starting lineup earlier in the campaign, and he flourished briefly in a bench role.

Then he hurt his wrist and when he came back, Kerr had trouble finding minutes for his rookie center. He played just 12 minutes in Golden State’s heartbreaking loss to the Blazers pre-All-Star break before playing a season-high 35 minutes along with other reserves against the Suns — as Curry and Green sat out.

Per The Athletic’s Anthony Slater, Kerr has good reason to hesitate in giving Wiseman valuable playing time. Golden State, by the numbers, is clearly worse when he’s out there.

In eight-second glimpses, Wiseman’s potential leaps off the screen. But his regular mistakes are both obvious and detrimental on the scoreboard. Wiseman has appeared in 26 games this season and only been on the plus side of the plus/minus ledger in seven of them. The Warriors were 9.7 points per 100 possessions worse with him on the floor in the first half.

Anthony Slater/The Athletic

Those numbers obviously need to change. Golden State’s challenge is to implement Wiseman, all 7-foot-1 of him, into their motion offense, led by well-entrenched, championship superstars.

The issue, or at least one of them, is that Wiseman likes to go one-on-one, which is so surprise. He’s young and fearless. Which is in general, fantastic. But Kerr needs him to help now, ideally while he learnes. But he can’t learn to much, or it will hurt the team’s progress!

See how unusual this is?

The solution is easy: tell Wiseman to watch film of former Warriors’ center JaVale McGee. Tell Wiseman to do what McGee did, which was run to the rim at every opportunity afforded in transition and Kerr’s offense, pass to open (or superstar) teammates and own the dunkers’ spot by receiving ally oop passes.

Wiseman’s ability to shoot from distance should be used only when naturally necessary. In time, he’ll be a floor-stretching big. He’s just not there yet, and Kerr needs production now, especially scoring easy baskets near the bucket. Wiseman is good enough to help on offense, as long as he doesn’t try and do too much and also rebounds on defense so Kerr keeps him in the game.

It’s a weird problem to have. Normally, a team with Wiseman would just roll the ball out there to him and say, “Have at at!” But Golden State is working to keep a championship window open, not create a new one. Kerr must hope Wiseman is mature enough to handle it, and so far that seems to be the case.

(Photo credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports)

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