If this past season was any indication, the next wave of Warriors is already in the building.
Jordan Poole just turned 23 and is fresh off a remarkable breakout season. After their rookie years, lottery picks Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody look like they’re capable of having long and successful NBA careers. The biggest question mark of the next nucleus is 7-footer James Wiseman, whose entire second NBA season was wiped out due to his slow recovery from a meniscus tear in his right knee in April 2021.
During their press conferences with reporters Wednesday, ahead of Thursday night’s NBA Draft, Warriors coach Steve Kerr and president of basketball operations Bob Myers discussed the important summer on tap for their youngsters, especially Wiseman.
“It's a big summer for James, and good news is he's doing really well,” Kerr said. “I was just talking to (director of sports medicine and performance) Rick (Celebrini), and James is coming along well. We're anticipating that he'll be part of Summer League, and excited for that.”
Wiseman showed flashes that made Dubs fans drool during his rookie season, when he averaged 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds with a 51.9 field goal percentage in 39 games after he was picked No. 2 overall in 2020. But Wiseman could also be inconsistent, which is to be expected for a guy who only played three college games before making the NBA leap. He hasn't played in a game since landing awkwardly on a dunk attempt on April 10, 2021 and tearing his right meniscus.
Wiseman appeared to be on the comeback trail in October and November of last year before his progress slowed. Eventually, Golden State had to shut down Wiseman in March, after he suffered repeated setbacks during his rehab. Now it appears he’ll be back in action soon, as the Chase Center will host the California Classic on July 2-3 before the NBA Summer League takes over Las Vegas from July 7-17.
“He's working out, and no setbacks -- he worked out yesterday,” Myers said of Wiseman. “I think he'll work out today. What Summer League he plays in, I don't know if it'll be the one here or in Vegas. He'll scrimmage with our guys. He's going to start doing live stuff. All indications are good. Kuminga and Moody are planning to play as well, and so I don't foresee that changing. It'll just depend on how many games, which one they play in, but they're all planning on playing, which we think is great.”
Bless the poor souls who have to face Kuminga, Moody and Wiseman in the Summer League. They could be putting up some huge numbers.
“For us to win it and hang on to our young players, it couldn't have worked out any better,” Kerr said. “Doesn't guarantee anything for the future, but it's just a great position to be in where you've got some really talented guys like Jordan and James, JK, Moses, who represent the future, but they're still learning from these championship players in their own locker room.”
The primary concern for Wiseman will be how his knee responds to repeated action. He made three rehab starts for the G League Santa Cruz Warriors earlier this year before swelling caused his season to be cut short. Wiseman and Myers reportedly also made a multi-day trip to London in April for a plasma injection to stimulate recovery.
Beyond that, Wiseman also has a lot of learning to do, with his hands, feet and everything in between.
“I think defensive recognition, of patterns and rebounding, that's what we can use from him the most,” Kerr said. “Going forward, with his talent, with his size and athleticism, there's no reason why he can't be a dominant defensive player in the league. But it takes a lot of reps. It takes a lot of recognition. It takes a lot of being on the court with nine other people, not just being in a one-on-one workout or in the weight room. Hopefully -- knock on wood -- hopefully he gets healthy and gets to start putting those reps together and develops into a fine defensive center. That would be the idea. You see how gifted he is offensively. He's a lob threat. He's a good shooter. It's all there for him.”
Kuminga looked like a future star at points last year as a rookie. Moody shows maturity beyond his years. The Warriors would love to add Wiseman’s size inside. But Myers said the three young players will have to “earn” their minutes, like Poole did this past season.
“It's a hard lineup to crack because we have some older guys,” Myers said. “Depends on who we sign in free agency. Depends on if they're better than the rookies we have now. You know, it's hard to predict these things.”