Life comes at the Jock Blog fast.
Not thinking the Warriors were going to do anything at the trade deadline, I planned to pen an ode to the worrisome state of the Warriors. I wondered if it was finally time we came to grips with 2022-23 as the “Fatigue Year”. The message: You can’t win the Finals every year, sports fans. Kevin Durant is in Phoenix. Kyrie Irving is in Dallas. Blood — and turnovers — are in the water at Chase Center, and Nikola Jokic is circling.
In the span of an hour:
James Wiseman, all of 21 years old and still seven feet tall, gone — to the Detroit Pistons.
The return? Five second-round draft picks.
The Warriors message: We made a big mistake drafting Wiseman. He doesn’t fit. Time to confess our sins.
And then, more action. This time, with feeling.
Bob Myers took the five second-round picks and, within the hour, just before the trade deadline, shipped them to Portland for Gary Payton II.
The Warriors message: We made a mistake letting Payton go last summer. We miss his defense. Time to confess our sins.
Two mistakes, two attempts at corrections.
It’s as gray area as it gets as a Warriors fan.
On the one hand, you’re delighted that Payton is back. His defensive presence has been absent, and that absence felt, all season. This year, without Payton, the Warriors are 15th in the league in defensive efficiency.
Last year, with Payton, the Warriors were No. 1 in the NBA in defensive efficiency.
Unquestionably, the Warriors are a better defensive team on Thursday than they were even 24 hours earlier in Portland. And even though trying to get over the hump in the 2022-23 season appears to be a Sisyphean task, the Dubs at least are better positioned now.
But then there’s the Wiseman thing.
Wow, is that a big swing and a miss. Like, Giants-try-for-Aaron-Judge-and-Carlos-Correa swing and a miss. Whiffing on the No. 2 draft pick in the NBA is the kind of thing that can devastate franchises, as I was just saying to my good friends Darko Milicic and Sam Bowie.
And there’s the looming problem that Wiseman, just a puppy, could turn into an NBA All-Star with that skill set. And those fantasies of how Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, Jordan Poole and — maybe — Moses Moody could form the next nucleus. How the Warriors were “light years” ahead and poised to contend even post-Klay, post-Draymond.
Many have argued to keep Wiseman, even with the unproductive play. KNBR Warriors insider Marc J. Spears likened a possible trade of Wiseman to an old Popeye episode where Popeye decides he doesn’t need his spinach, tosses it in the ocean, and as the spinach drifts away, it forms a mouth and says: “You’ll be sorrrrrrrrrryyyyyy…”
Great Popeye recall by Spears, by the way.
It makes you wonder everything that’s gone down behind closed doors down on Terry Francois and Warriors Way. Who fought for Wiseman over LaMelo Ball on Draft Day 2020? Who fought to keep Wiseman last summer, when the Dubs could have moved him at higher value?
Perhaps it all comes down to this:
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Wiseman-for-Payton move saves the Warriors $7 million on tax this year, and $30 million on tax next year. These are not insignificant sums for an owner who has gone above and beyond. Morever, The Athletic’s John Hollinger reported the savings could be even bigger — north of $100 million. Listen, you’re not getting a full breakdown of the luxury tax in a 700-word Jock Blog. It’s way, way, way above the pay grade of a guy who had to “get help” on test days from my buddy Sandy Murray to pass Advanced Algebra in high school.
So Lacob and Myers put two and two together and said: Wiseman is a bad fit. Moving him saves us huge dough. Moving him gets us GP2 back. We have a shot now.
And you get today, a big day in Warriors history. It’s a day that does not come without regret — there is plenty — but it’s a day of resolution.
You may now resume your frustration with the stop-and-start nature of the 2022-23 season, keeping hope alive all the while.