The future of James Wiseman remains a lingering question for the Golden State Warriors. The former No. 2 pick has struggled to stick in the rotation and was sent down to the G League for meaningful reps early in the season. If he makes progress over the next few weeks, there’s a chance he could become a meaningful part of the supporting cast in the playoffs. If not, the Warriors have to seriously consider trading him for someone who can while their championship window remains open.
Wiseman is set to return against the Grizzlies tonight after missing 11 games with a sprained ankle. After practice on Tuesday, he spoke with the media and gave a thorough and detailed description of what the Warriors need to see from him between now and the trade deadline.
“My role is rebounding, being vertical at the rim and being a rim protector. That’s all I really need to do. I really don’t need to score like that. I can, of course. But I don’t need to. I need to do the small things on defense, which will get me on the floor more.”
Those are exactly the words Warriors fans would like to hear. Next they would like to see him actually do some of those things.
Rebounding and rim defense have not been James Wiseman’s strengths
Wiseman has averaged a respectable 10.3 rebounds per 36 minutes with decent percentages on both the offensive and defensive glass. But he’s also 7-foot, 240 pounds and mobile for his size. There’s a reasonable argument that those numbers aren’t even scratching the surface of what he should be able to do on the glass.
According to the NBA’s player tracking data, Wiseman is converting just 49.6 percent of his rebound chances into actual rebounds. That number ranks 68th among the 80 centers who have played at least 200 minutes this season. His average rebound distance is just 4.3 feet, 12th-worst out of all players at any position who have played at least 200 minutes this season, meaning he rarely collects rebounds out of his immediate area.
Wiseman’s numbers are even more discouraging as a rim protector. He has recorded five times as many fouls as blocks this season. He has seven blocks on the season to three goaltending violations. And opponents are shooting 66.7 percent on shots inside of six feet when he’s the closest defender, slightly higher than we would have expected given the player and shot distance.
I don’t mean to nit-pick with Wiseman. He’s just 21 years old and between college and the NBA has played just 61 games and 1146 minutes across the last four basketball seasons. He simply does not have the experience and reps to play defense and control the glass at a high level against NBA competition.
It’s encouraging to hear him recognize his role and describe it accurately. But even taking it to heart and committing to those responsibilities doesn’t mean the Warriors should expect him to be successful with them any time soon. All that is to say, these words are a positive. But the decision the Warriors have to make on his future before the trade deadline isn’t going to get any easier.
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