James Wiseman Areas of Growth

The second overall pick last year had an up-and-down first season in the Bay Area. Wiseman, only 19 at the beginning of the season, only played three games in college before being ruled ineligible and leaving Memphis to prepare for the draft. In his first taste of the NBA, Wiseman looked overmatched and outmuscled often. It’s hard for any rookie center to make an impact, let alone one with little preparation time and a pandemic impacting their training camp. After 39 games, Wiseman went down with a meniscus injury that shut him down for the season.

Now Wiseman’s name primarily comes up as a trade piece. There have been plenty of rumors for packages the Warriors would put together to help them win now. Rumors persisted before the draft of a Wiseman-led package going to the Raptors for Pascal Siakam. He’s also been tied to the Trailblazers for CJ McCollum, or just about any other big star who may be on the move.

Is it time to move on from Wiseman? There were definitely growing pains in year one, but there are some strengths to build on. Here are the three areas Wiseman needs to improve on in year number two.

Rebounding

Shock and surprise, but a big man needs to be able to pull down rebounds. Wiseman pulled down 5.8 RPG (1.4 of them on the offensive glass) in his rookie season. For a guy of his size and a starter, Wiseman is going to need to increase those numbers.

Coach Steve Kerr agrees, calling rebounding the number one thing Wiseman had to work on when asked at the All-Star break (h/t Essentially Sports):

Rebounding is about positioning, it’s about anticipating. And he should be getting better as he goes. The second half of the season will be really big for James and for us. For us to win, he’s gotta be a force in the paint on the glass.”

Wiseman was often out of position defensively, leading to him missing rebounds he should’ve had. He had a defensive rebounding percentage of 21.4 percent, which was the highest on the team. Unfortunately, that would still rank him 22nd among starting centers.

Draymond Green helped offset the rookie’s rebounding mishaps, but he is continuing to decline as he puts miles on his tires. The Warriors’ second-best player for defensive rebound percentage is now a Laker: Kent Bazemore. Golden State is going to look to Wiseman to anchor the paint, so he’ll need to improve positioning and strength to help him get more boards.

Injury Recovery and Building Strength

Speaking of strength, that’s the next thing Wiseman will need to improve. Most one-and-done college players have to build strength once they reach the NBA. Wiseman is no different. His 240-pound frame is wiry still, which causes him to lose some battles underneath to stronger and more muscular players.

Wiseman has great length and supreme athletic ability. He can jump out of the gym and throw it down with the best of them. The thing that will take him over the top is continuing to bulk up his frame and learning to play with the extra weight.

Tied to this is Wiseman’s return from injury. A torn meniscus in his right knee needed to be surgically repaired and cost him the remainder of the season. Knee injuries are particularly scary in big men, so how Wiseman bounces back will be a big factor for his development in his sophomore season. 

Finding His Place in the Warriors Offense

The offensive side of the ball was Wiseman’s biggest struggle in year one. Advanced stats aren’t kind to his rookie season. He posted a -4.0 Offensive Box Plus/Minus, and a negative offensive win share. His shooting at the rim was effective with an 80 percent make rate. Where Wiseman struggled was creating for himself, specifically in the midrange.

Shots from 10 feet to the three-point line were Wiseman’s Achilles heel, shooting 32.9 percent on just shy of 100 attempts. If he can begin to find where he fits in offensive sets, he’ll get more looks at the rim and better shots overall. The Warriors were reluctant to run him as a pick-and-roll screener, which is odd as that was where he was most effective. Plus it’s easy to get quality looks as the roll guy when your point man is Stephen Curry

There’s a steep learning curve to the NBA, so with time Wiseman should improve his reads and his place in the offense. He’ll stop clogging lanes that drivers are trying to use and instead he will space out when needed. If he can get his midrange to a consistent stroke, he’ll free up the lane more for his teammates. Wiseman’s outlook is not as bleak as some may describe, but he has some key areas to improve going into year two.

Evan Gomes is a freelance sports & pop culture writer. Follow him on Twitter at @ItsEvanGomes, and check out his two podcasts: Crossbody of Work and The Pop Capsule Podcast. For more NBA content, check out Belly Up NBA.

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Evan Gomes

Evan is a freelance writer and podcast host. He hosts two podcasts: Crossbody of Work & Pop Capsule Podcast. Catch him on Twitter to talk basketball, professional wrestling and the Taylor Swift discography.

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