Revisiting Andre Iguodala's comments on James Wiseman, player development


Back on Oct. 27, Andre Iguodala made a rare press conference appearance and spit basketball wisdom like only he can.

Near the end of the 15-minute Q&A, a reporter asked Iguodala if Warriors lottery picks like James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody were in a better situation with the reigning champs, compared to high-profile youngsters with the league’s bottom feeders.

In light of Wiseman’s trade deadline deal to the Detroit Pistons, Iguodala’s comments are worth revisiting.

During Sunday night’s matchup with the Miami Heat, Wiseman put up an impressive 22-point, 13-rebound double-double on 10-of-13 shooting, even sinking his lone 3-point attempt of the night, while continuing to be a force on the offensive glass and showing off rare transition skills for a 7-footer.

But the Pistons lost by 12, have the league’s worst record at 16-56 and are firmly in the Wemby Sweepstakes.

Is Wiseman in a better spot for his career now that he’s getting minutes to develop? Or would he have been better served watching the Warriors try to make another postseason run from the bench?

At age 39, Iguodala’s career may be over, as he fractured his wrist last week and will undergo surgery. He’s seen it all in his 19 years in the league and has a big-picture lens to go along with his four rings and seven NBA Finals appearances. In October, he made the case that the young Warriors like Wiseman were in a better spot with Golden State.

“You learn how to win. I’m always talking about (it), the bottom of our league – we gotta raise that bar,” Iguodala said. “I think a part of that is your purpose on the floor. I think your purpose on the floor should be: How do I put my team in the best position to be able to win or am I making winning plays?

“On bad teams, you develop losing habits and get comfortable with losing. You’re just putting up a bunch of empty stats, then you have that problem. On a losing team, are those real stats or are they empty stats? ... I think for JK, Moses and even Wise, you’re learning how to play winning basketball.”

At the time, the Warriors were just four games into the season, sitting at 2-2. We didn’t know a .500 season full of mediocrity would unfold for the Dubs, as another 50-plus win season was projected by oddsmakers.

While the Warriors have gone 7-7 in their past 14 games, which has felt excruciating at times, it could be a whole lot worse. The Pistons have gone 1-13 since Wiseman suited up for the squad. There’s still an expectation of winning in San Francisco.

For a .500 team sitting in the West’s No. 7 seed, Golden State’s championship pedigree is still keeping it in the hunt for another run. According to Vegas sportsbooks, the Warriors have 10/1 or 13/1 odds to win the title, about the sixth- or seventh-best chances in the league. The Pistons are better off loading up the ping-pong balls for Victor Wembanyama at this point.

Which goes back to Iguodala’s comments in October.

“It’s just about them being patient and understanding,” Iguodala said of the young Warriors. “Like, when you’re learning winning basketball and then you get into your prime – they’re still only like 20 years old. (When) you’re 24 years old, you still got 10 years you can be dominant, playing at a high level with winning ways of basketball. I think that’s the making of a true champion.”

Ultimately, Wiseman’s 10-game rotation audition at the beginning of the season was his make-or-break moment with Steve Kerr’s system. Wiseman had been a known favorite of owner Joe Lacob but injuries led to a touch-and-go career by The Bay. But his routine lapses on defense and propensity to get lost on offense caught up to him.

The train started leaving the station without him in November. When he went down with an ankle sprain during a 3-on-3 scrimmage in December, that was pretty much all she wrote.

According to the numbers, Wiseman has been a much more productive player since being unleashed with Detroit.

Wiseman’s numbers with the Warriors:
21 G, 12.5 MPG, 6.9 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 0.3 BPG, 62.8 FG%

Wiseman’s numbers with the Pistons:
15 G, 26.9 MPG, 13.8 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 55.9 FG%

In Sunday’s game, Wiseman showed off what makes him such an intriguing talent, as noted by NBA analyst Jackson Lloyd.

Wiseman has already played more minutes for the Pistons (193) than he has for the Warriors (145) this season. By Iguodala’s logic, those minutes have led to a bunch of “empty stats,” but perhaps Wiseman’s departure with the Warriors was inevitable.

The Wiseman trade requires greater context. Steph Curry is 35 now and still in his prime, but even he can’t evade Father Time’s unrelenting grasp. The cracks are showing on the dynasty. The last thing the organization wants to do is waste another year of Steph’s greatness.

It wasn’t a blockbuster, but the Warriors made a win-now move when they acquired Gary Payton II. Golden State still hasn’t realized any gains from the trade in the nearly six weeks since it went down.

Wiseman likely wouldn’t have made an impact this year, but once Payton can turn up the defensive intensity and bring opportunistic buckets – the sentiment around the trade should change, too. The first time GP2 gets a steal and slams down a fast break dunk, a large contingent of Dub Nation will probably sigh and say, ‘Damn. So glad to have Gary back.’

Barring a frontcourt injury, it was hard to see Wiseman getting the runway he needed with Golden State in the near future.

Kevon Looney is like a boulder that can’t be moved from the lineup. Kuminga has become a bona fide rotation player. Draymond Green still holds a $27.6 million player option for 2023-24 that is probably far more lucrative than any deal he could negotiate as a free agent. Even two-way convert Anthony Lamb was ahead of Wiseman in this year’s rotation.

Perhaps if JaMychal Green plays elsewhere next season, it would have opened up more minutes for Wiseman. But who’s to say the Warriors wouldn’t go for another cheap, veteran, spacing big like Otto Porter Jr. if Green leaves? Even Patrick Baldwin Jr. looks like a better fit than Wiseman at this point with his size (6-foot-11) and smooth shooting stroke.

Payton isn’t just a rental either, as he’s locked in through next season and holds a player option in 2024-25. Given Donte DiVincenzo’s likely departure via free agency this summer – as he’s played himself into multiyear territory the Warriors can’t likely afford – Payton also gives the Warriors a defensive-minded guard ready for next season.

Wiseman has started 12 of the 14 games with the Pistons and is averaging nearly 27 minutes per game. That kind of opportunity simply didn’t exist with the Warriors.

For all we know, Wiseman will be part of a winning core with the Pistons in upcoming years while the Warriors dynasty fades. Ultimately, I think the trade had to happen for both parties. Wiseman needed a fresh start and the Warriors need to win now.

Featured Image Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports