As I watched the Warriors get trounced by the Kings the other night, play-by-play man Bob Fitzgerald said something that, while unintentional, related directly to Golden State’s rookie center, James Wiseman.
Sacramento guard De’Aaron Fox was absolutely torching the Warriors defense, on his way to a career-high 44 points. Along the way, Fitz mentioned that this is Fox’s fourth year in the NBA, and that’s when everything comes together for the league’s most promising players.
So why is Golden State expecting the world from the 19-year-old Wiseman in a year’s time?
Sure, not every NBA player needs four seasons of basketball to fully develop. And Fox was no slouch last season or the year before. But Fitzgerald has seen a lot of pro careers play out from his court-side seat. Fox is only now a franchise player.
Still, it seems Golden State’s goal is to make Wiseman a franchise center next year, so he can magically combine with superstar Stephen Curry, forward Draymond Green and guard Klay Thompson. It’s why the rookie has been shifted from the starting lineup, to a reserve role, and now back to a starter; it’s a frantic push to mold Wiseman quickly, as if he can learn Kerr’s motion system as no center has before.
Green acknowledged weeks ago that Wiseman’s progression to that point, while very possible, is likely a long-term project.
“To play that type of pace and that style, it takes some getting used to,” Green says in the above clip. “I’m not gonna lie and say he can do that right now … from an understanding perspective, I’m not sure that he can. But I am 100 percent sure he can get there … he’ll 100 percent pick that up. And until he does, we’re going to do whatever we gotta do to use his strengths.”
Rather than ask the near impossible from Wiseman — to become the center that can thrive in Kerr’s system as no other center has, all in just a year’s time — why not ask him to contribute in ways past Warriors centers actually have? As Green alluded to, Wiseman has strengths that can be utilized more quickly.
Think Andrew Bogut, JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia (especially McGee). These players started, but they were role players. Curry, Green and Thompson took care of the rest. That’s all Golden State should expect from Wiseman in his first few seasons.
And it will be enough. Those centers from past years were essential to the Warriors’ success. Wiseman himself will decide whether he can be more than those players — thriving with his large body and the agility of a smaller man in Kerr’s motion offense. But that will take time.
It might take four years, as it did for Fox, who did improve mightily in year No. 2 and No. 3. That’s honestly the best-case scenario for Wiseman. No need to push his development at light speed. He can help the Warriors win and still develop for the future without such frantic preparation for one year from now.
(Photo credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)