James Wiseman won’t make the trip with the Warriors to Phoenix for their upcoming matchup with the Suns, and he likely won’t be with the team indefinitely.
The Warriors are sending Wiseman, the former No. 2 overall pick, to the G-League 14 games into this season. The results haven’t been there for the young center, whose 6.6 plus-minus this season ranks 442nd out of 455 players. And in turn, he’s been glued to the bench. Golden State believes letting him get back on the court, even in a G-League setting, will be more productive for his development.
“He’s going to go to Santa Cruz tomorrow,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We will keep him there for an extended period to get some really good practice time and some games. It’s not going to be one game and bring him back. We want to give him maybe 10 straight days, something like that. Come back, and we all know things happen in this league. He’s going to find his way back to the rotation at some point. The best thing for him is to play a lot of minutes and get a lot of reps.”
Wiseman had three games in a row before Monday in which he logged zero minutes. His minutes in the fourth quarter of the Warriors’ blowout of the Spurs were his first playing time since Nov. 11.
In Wiseman’s nine minutes, the Warriors got outscored by four points. He was the only Warrior with a negative plus-minus.
The Warriors began the season with visions of a dynamic, young, athletic second unit. Jordan Poole at the point of attack. Wiseman diving to the rim. Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga slashing from the wings.
That fantasy hasn’t manifested this year. Golden State’s starting lineup of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green and Kevon Looney has the best net rating among any five-man combination with at least 100 minutes played, but have been constantly let down by GSW’s bench.
The struggles haven’t all traced back to Wiseman, but he has certainly taken his lumps. Wiseman has skunked several layups or dunks and looked lost on defense. The seven-footer is averaging 6.8 points and 3.8 rebounds in 13.4 minutes per game.
Golden State selected Wiseman with the second overall pick in 2020. He was the top high school recruit, but only played three games in a one-and-done season at Memphis because the NCAA suspended him for a recruiting violation.
Wiseman put up decent numbers in 39 games during his rookie campaign, but the statistics came on a rebuilding team where touches were abundant. A knee injury both ended that season prematurely and knocked him out for the entire 2021-22 campaign.
That lack of playing time, compounded with getting squeezed out of Golden State’s rotation early this year, has stunted Wiseman’s growth. Monday was only Wiseman’s 50th career NBA game.
“It’s really hard for anybody to be in and out of the lineup,” Kerr said. “But for a young guy who’s been through a lot already, it’s a lot to go through. But this is part of his journey. Everybody’s got a different one. A part of his is that he barely played any basketball before he got to the NBA. And then he had a major injury. What I love about James is that he’s got incredible character and work ethic and care for the team…Wise is all in on the team. Because of his talent, because of all those characteristics I just talked about, I’m a huge believer. Long-term, he’s going to be a really good player. But he needs reps. He needs to play. It’s not easy when you don’t get minutes.”
Jordan Poole, who dropped a season-high 36 points, also remains confident in his teammate. Poole used the G-League to develop his game before he was ready to crack Golden State’s rotation, so he’s familiar with what Wiseman should expect.
“James and I talk all the time,” Poole said. “He’s going to dominate it, first and foremost…It’s not a demotion, it’s not a punishment. You’re going to be able to shoot as many shots as you want, get as many touches as you want, work on as many moves as you want. Just have fun. It’s just basketball, you know?”
“James is going to be a-ok,” Poole added. “Me personally, I have the utmost confidence in him. He’s talented. He’s curious. He’s hungry. He’s gifted. He’s humble. Those are all the pieces you need to be successful.”