James Wiseman's name has shown up in trade rumors here and there, more so in speculation that he could be a valuable chip should the Warriors decide to pursue a star, namely Damian Lillard. At just 20 years old, the 2020 No. 2 overall pick has a ton of value for a team looking to develop in the long term, though he might not be the best option for a team whose peak window for winning now may close soon.
But would Warriors fans want to trade Wiseman if in, say, two or three years, Wiseman was playing like the center currently representing the Western Conference in the NBA Finals? We're talking about Phoenix Suns big man Deandre Ayton, of course, who averaged an efficient 14.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game in his third season. He's blossomed further in the playoffs, with averages of 15.8 points and 12.2 rebounds on a whopping 68.1 percent clip from the field. His 22-point, 19-rebound Finals debut was one for the ages.
Ayton's trajectory is exactly the type of development that Warriors head coach Steve Kerr could see with Wiseman, and such a lofty comparison might cause Warriors fans to pump the breaks on including Wiseman in any hypothetical trade scenarios. Kerr joined Audacy Bay Area affiliate 95.7 The Game with "Damon, Ratto and Kolsky" to discuss the connection he sees between the two young centers as he watches the Finals:
To me, the most interesting thing has just been watching Deandre Ayton. And I talk to James and text him, and I'm just so inspired by what Ayton has been able to do, and I think there's no reason why James can't follow that same path. What Phoenix has done with Ayton is they've really streamlined his game. You look back a couple years ago and he was kind of all over the map. You could tell how gifted he was but you weren't exactly sure what he was, and they've figured it out. Obviously, Chris Paul has helped dramatically because he's such a good point guard and passer and he really makes the game a lot easier for Ayton, but i'm watching Ayton quite a bit and I'm watching Phoenix and I'm thinking a lot about how we can use James and simplify the game and make him really effective for us next year.
Even in a somewhat underwhelming rookie season for Wiseman, one that was filled with injuries and a stat line that didn't quite put him in the running for Rookie of the Year Award, there were a whole lot of positive takeaways for Kerr.
He really is a sponge and he's a guy who wants to learn, wants to work, wants to be a big part of the team, very motivated. James is just a great kid and I think that was reinforced — that's what we thought before the draft last year — and all of that was reinforced. Obviously, the setbacks of the injury along with not having summer league last year or this year, not having training camp last year... all that stuff has just put him behind where he would have been otherwise, but that's okay. You just roll with the punches and you push forward. I think the biggest thing is, with Klay coming back this year, with the momentum that we picked up last year at the end of the season, I think we're going into this year with a different mindset. Last year was more about let's just see what we've got. We'll start James from opening night and see what he's got and kind of throw him into the deep end a little bit. I think this year will be much more streamlined. Let's put him in positions where he can really help us on game nights and where we can really help develop him on practice days and as that process goes forward, he'll have a chance to play more and more if he's ready to help us win games. And if not, that's fine — we'll keep developing him because he's 20 years old and I know everybody's impatient, [wanting] him to be great now. It just doesn't work that way. But if we continue to develop him and we're having a great season, that's the whole plan, that's the whole idea, whether he's playing 15 minutes or 30 minutes or anything in between. So we want to win and we're committed to that and over the long haul, we're going to develop James and we feel like he's going to be our starting center at some point for a long, long time ahead.
Listen to the full interview with Kerr below!