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News Every Day |

Kurtenbach: James Wiseman is a bust. Time in the G-League can change that

Kurtenbach: James Wiseman is a bust. Time in the G-League can change that

It took a few weeks for the Warriors to come to reality, but this team has one timeline: the here and now.

James Wiseman, the former No. 2 overall pick in the NBA Draft, now in his third season in the league, doesn’t do anything for the Warriors during that timeframe.

It’s fair to wonder if he will do anything for the Warriors in any timeframe.

So it’s time for another dose of reality:

Wiseman is a bust.

But there’s good news for him and the Warriors: that’s not something a bit of time in the G-League can’t fix.

Is using the B-word harsh? Perhaps. One could also argue such labeling is premature.

But what would you call Wiseman?

At the very least, he’s another B-word: a burden.

Golden State Warriors' James Wiseman #33 is congratulated by Stephen Curry #30 after a dunk in the third quarter of their NBA game against the Miami Heat at the Chase Center in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)
(Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)

Wiseman’s option for the 2023-24 season has already been picked up by the Warriors for $12 million. With the Dubs’ luxury tax bill, he will cost the team way more than that.

But so far, all he has to his name in his NBA career is his potential, quantified by the pick the Warriors used to select him in the 2020 NBA Draft.

The Warriors wanted to have two title windows: now and forever. Too much focus on the latter jeopardized the former.

Not only does Wiseman not help the Warriors win – his presence on the court actively sabotages it right now.

He’s not alone in that distinction, but that doesn’t make him a rotation-caliber player on a team with lofty goals.

It’s long been suggested that big men might take a while to develop in the NBA, but when you’re taken No. 2 overall in the draft, you’re expected to be better sooner. Meanwhile, Wiseman is the third-best center in his class, while Cleveland’s Evan Mobley — the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft — is a borderline All-Star player.

The NBA isn’t a patient league, and the Warriors should be the league’s least-patient franchise. Steph Curry might be immortal, but Draymond Green’s odometer is well-worked, and Klay Thompson’s current play is a cautionary tale about playing in the NBA post-injury and post-age 30. Those three can win a title if you put the right players around them.

Wiseman is not one of those players. Not yet, at least.

He might have shown flashes and put up some decent numbers as a rookie, but the Warriors only started playing playoff-quality basketball that season after he went down with an injury. Last year, he missed the full NBA season because of injuries. The Warriors won the title. With the Warriors’ tough start this season, something had to give. That’s why Wiseman was taken out of the rotation last week as part of a larger reshuffle.

But the Warriors couldn’t leave it there. Wiseman can’t play for the Warriors, right now, but he was gaining nothing by sitting on the big-league bench, sulking.

Moving him to the minors for a stretch is a necessary move, and the Warriors deserve plaudits for wising up to the fact that Wiseman was sunk cost.

If the big man’s career is going to amount to anything but infamy, it’ll be because of this stint in the G-League.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 10: Golden State Warriors' James Wiseman (33) watches the game from the bench against the New York Knicks in the fourth quarter at the Chase Center in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
(Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

The Warriors’ lofty and hubristic “two timelines” era is dead, but the Warriors can still show they’re “lightyears ahead” by building Wiseman into a winning NBA player while he plays for Santa Cruz Warriors.

It’s hardly far-fetched to think this can be a turning point. We saw the G-League help Jordan Poole go from a bust to a nine-figure player. Poole found his confidence playing against lesser competition. Wiseman might be able to do the same.

(Then again, it didn’t do much for Alen Smailagić.)

The G-League might not be the top-flight, but anyone who has watched it knows that the games are exceptionally competitive — it’s like the NBA Hunger Games. No one leaves anything in the tank.

Golden State Warriors' Draymond Green (23) talks to Golden State Warriors' James Wiseman (33) during their game against the Sacramento Kings in the third quarter at the Chase Center in San Francisco, Calif., on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
(Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

The Warriors — still treating the big man with kid gloves — are adamant that this is not a “demotion” for Wiseman No, this is a chance to play.

And it’s true that the big man needs minutes of serious, competitive basketball.

Wiseman entered this season having played less than 1,000 minutes of competitive basketball since graduating from high school — 69 minutes for Memphis in college, 836 minutes as a rookie with the Warriors in 2021, and 42 minutes in the G-League last year.

That’s it.

Knowing that and playing Wiseman in the rotation against NBA competition gunning for the defending champions looks foolhardy in retrospect.

The Warriors were high on their own supply. My media cohorts and I took a few hits, too. It’s ok to admit if you were part of the circle as well.

But now that everyone is sober, it’s clear what needs to be done.

I don’t know if Wiseman will whoop the lesser athletes in the G-League or if his non-existent feel for the game will undercut him in the minor leagues, too.

Truth be told, it’s probably a bit of both. But the experience will be telling, either way.

Golden State Warriors center James Wiseman, on a rehab assignment with Santa Cruz, looks to pass the ball against the NBA G League Ignite's at Chase Center in San Francisco on Sunday. (Brandon Vallance  Santa Cruz Sentinel)
Wiseman played two games in the G-League last season. (Brandon Vallance – Santa Cruz Sentinel)

The Warriors have spent millions on their G-League affiliate in Santa Cruz for situations like this. Those costs were not sunk.

The SeaDubs — as the Santa Cruz Warriors are wonderfully nicknamed — run the same plays as the big-league Warriors. Their coaching staff, led by Seth Cooper, is treated as an extension of the big-league coaching staff. The facilities are good enough that the Warriors have sent Curry and Thompson to practice with the team during injury rehabs.

This could absolutely work.

But success or failure in this pivotal period won’t be determined by Cooper or the facilities at the Kaiser Permanente Arena — it’s on Wiseman to find his game and his mojo.

If Wiseman wants to shake off his “bust” label, he’s going to need to bust up some minor leaguers for the next week or so.

And whichever route he chooses with his play will determine the rest of his NBA tenure with Golden State.









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