James Wiseman must become Warriors threat down low to contend

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Warriors burning questions: Can Wiseman become threat down low? originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

  • Editor’s note: Reporter Kendra Andrews will look at the players on the Warriors’ roster that will make or break their return to championship contention.

How will the Warriors balance winning now, while developing their young talent? This is the overarching question surrounding Golden State as it gets ready to wrap up training camp and start their preseason games. They've been in this position since last year, and it's a tricky line to toggle. 

For the most part, the Warriors shouldn't rely on their young guys to be game-changers this season in their quest to get back in title contention. But, James Wiseman is in a different category. If the Warriors are to take advantage of their current stars' remaining golden years, Wiseman will have to show improvement

Burning question

Will the ultra-athletic Wiseman be able to fill a vital role for this team, especially given how up and down and incomplete his rookie year was entering his second season?

A quick recap on Wiseman's rookie year: he entered the NBA having played just three college basketball games. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, he didn't have the normal draft process. He also missed the Warriors' training camp because of COVID-19.

He found himself in and out of the lineup throughout the year before missing the last few months with a torn meniscus, which he had to rehab all summer and is forcing him to miss training camp (again) now. So, it's easy to say Wiseman hasn't been able to put in the work the team would want to see from their sophomore player that they drafted No. 2 overall. 

The good news for the Warriors and Wiseman is that he has been working with Dejan Milojevic, a new assistant coach who has worked with the likes of Nikola Jokic and Ivica Zubac, giving Wiseman the support he didn't have last season. However, because of his injury, Wiseman has been limited to very basic workouts.

For the Warriors to contend…

While Wiseman's offensive versatility was something that initially attracted the Warriors to the big man, Golden State should focus on making Wiseman a threat down low. He needs to become a pick-and-roll machine and rebounding monster. 

Because of his size, Wiseman is naturally an obstacle for pick-and-roll defenders, but his screen-setting skills need improvement. Wiseman is already a rim-runner, so if he can use his speed and agility in a pick-and-roll with Steph Curry, this could become a lethal go-to for the Warriors. 

On defense, Wiseman was a bit of a liability. He fouled uncontrollably and simply looked overpowered by stronger players. That, in combination with not having a comprehensive understanding of the defensive reads, made it hard for him to be successful on that end of the floor.

So, why will the Warriors depend on Wiseman so much if he needs so much development? One of the reasons is depth. Outside of Wiseman, the only true center Golden State has is Kevon Looney. The Warriors are comfortable playing small-ball, but they don't want to be forced into it, as they were last season. 

RELATED: Wiseman gave Kuminga important Warriors advice

They also need someone to help address the rebounding issues they faced last season, and Wiseman offers a big body to do so.

Perhaps the biggest reason they need this leap from Wiseman is that the Warriors need another variable to get them back atop the Western Conference. The additions of Otto Porter Jr., Nemanja Bjelica and Andre Iguodala are also helpful, but won't take them the next step.

The return of Klay Thompson will be a huge bonus, but will it be enough? Kuminga and Moody are question marks, so it all comes down to Wiseman being the wild card.

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