SAN FRANCISCO – James Wiseman is only 21 years old. He’s not running out of time in the NBA, but he’s entering a crossroads for his career with the Warriors.
Through his first two NBA seasons, Wiseman has logged just 39 games (27 starts) along with a handful of games in the G League and Summer League. The 2022-23 season will be a crucial proving ground for Wiseman, the 2020 No. 2 overall pick, as the Warriors hold a $12.1 million club option on his rookie deal for 2023-24. Given the team's impending budget constraints and tough decisions to be made with its escalating payroll, it’s entirely possible Wiseman is on the chopping block next summer if he has another disappointing campaign.
For Wiseman, the biggest hurdle is simply staying on the floor. He tore the meniscus in his right knee on April 10, 2021 and is finally on the verge of entering his first training camp completely healthy. According to Warriors president of basketball operations/general manager Bob Myers, Wiseman has been a full participant in pickup games this summer at the team facility.
“We track kind of the pick-up games and he's the only one in the facility that played in every one which is nice,” Myers said. “He didn't miss anything. There’s no swelling. Happy that he’s healthy. Now he can start the work."
This season is all about experience for Wiseman. They don’t need him to be a star or shoulder the offensive load. He needs to protect the rim, rebound, set some screens and throw down a few dunks. But it’s hard to grow when you’re not on the floor.
Take Jordan Poole, for example, who made a leap from Year 1 to Year 2 before breaking out last season in Year 3. Poole played in 108 games combined his first two seasons and 76 last year, before appearing in 22 more playoff games. You have to think Poole’s trajectory is still pointing upwards.
Wiseman better get on the boat before it leaves shore.
Along with Poole and 2021 lottery picks Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, Wiseman is set to form the next wave of Warriors once the Dynasty Dubs veterans’ time is up. Golden State is also optimistic about developing 2022 first-rounder Patrick Baldwin Jr. and second-rounder Ryan Rollins, as Myers said there should be no health limitations for either rookie after they were held out of Summer League action.
Baldwin, listed at 6-foot-9, 220 pounds, dealt with an ankle issue that has bothered him since high school, when he was once a top-10 recruit in the nation. He profiles to be a rangy shooter with high basketball IQ but is still unpolished. The No. 28 pick has plenty of time to refine with the Warriors and it's likely he’ll start the season in the G League, Myers said.
“We are looking at him like he could help us in the future,” Myers said. “He has all the attributes that usually lead to success: Skill, size, acumen. He looks healthy now. I am hesitant to say anybody is great or not early, but he's done a nice job this off-season.”
Rollins’ post-draft physical revealed a stress fracture in his foot, though he said he couldn’t feel it. A rangy guard with two-way capabilities, Rollins’s first two seasons of this three-year rookie deal are guaranteed after the paid $2 million and traded up to take him at No. 44 overall.
“I think our young guys have a lot to learn,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “But they are all very talented and so it's an interesting mix of veteran and youth that we're excited about, but we are also conscious that it's not going to be smooth sailing all the time. There's going to be a learning curve for sure.”
Kerr also outlined what he’s specially hoping to see from Kuminga, Moody and Poole.
“With Jonathan, it's similar to James in that you're talking about a really talented young player without a ton of experience,” Kerr said. “So there are specific things that we want from him: Running the floor, rebounding, becomes a great defensive player. Being able to utilize his physical size and strength and athleticism. …
“Jordan really established himself last year as a really good NBA player. So for him, it's now about getting better defensively, more consistent defensively, to become -- for Moses, it's about taking the next step and earning a spot in the rotation. Last year he was on the fringe and as a rookie, that's usually how it works. But Moses has a great shot right now to really take a spot in the rotation and make himself a really big part of this year's team.”