How quickly can James Wiseman become a superstar?
That appears to be the question in Golden State. The club’s No. 2 overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft is expected to bridge the gap between the Warriors’ recent dynasty and another run of chasing championships.
That’s a hefty responsibility.
But at 20 years of age with just three college games under his belt, it might take a season or two for Wiseman to fulfill his obvious potential. Luckily, Wiseman has chosen two role models that also struggled as young players before exploding onto the NBA scene and becoming legends.
That would be the late, great former Lakers champion, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Garnett, who like Bryant, entered the league out of high school and struggled initially before having a career filled with greatness.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Connor Letourneau, Wiseman often read’s Bryant’s “Wizenard Series” of children’s books and keeps Bryant’s autobiography close by for inspiration, while also looking up to Garnett.
Here’s a fraction of Letourneau’s in-depth article on Wiseman, with some key numbers that relate directly to Golden State’s phenom.
One chapter [of Bryant’s autobiography], on Bryant’s struggles adjusting to life in the NBA as a 17-year-old straight out of high school, particularly resonated with Wiseman. Bryant averaged just 7.6 points per game on 41.7% shooting as a rookie, and he didn’t have to deal with the physicality of the league’s best centers. Another one of Wiseman’s idols, power forward Kevin Garnett, scored fewer points as a 19-year-old rookie than Wiseman is currently averaging — despite significantly more playing time.Connor Letourneau/San Francisco Chronicle
Each player looked like a boy amongst men initially, only to dominate their craft in the years that followed. As Letourneau illustrated, Bryant and Garnett actually performed worse than Wiseman has this season.
Though he’s just 12th in minutes played among this year’s rookie class, Wiseman is top five in points, blocks, rebounds and shooting percentage, at 51.2 percent.
The main issue, however, is getting him to thrive with superstar Stephen Curry in coach Steve Kerr’s motion offense. Golden State’s performance as a team actually dips with Wiseman in the lineup, despite his impressive statistics.
But my goodness, if Wiseman could become as good as Garnett or Bryant, who each won NBA championships as team leaders, he might re-write Kerr’s offense, at least a bit. We already see it, with Kerr opting for more Curry and Wiseman screen-and-roll plays late in the season.
It’s good for Wiseman to realize that even the best in league history had to learn the ropes, however. It’s perhaps essential, with Wiseman’s self-described perfectionism. The Warriors and their fans want him to be great as soon as possible, and the only way to get there is one game at a time.
(Photo credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)