Why Warriors are right team for James Wiseman to develop defense, shot

Marcus White
·4 min read

Myers confident Warriors will help Wiseman improve weaknesses originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Two questions about Warriors draft pick James Wiseman's NBA future loom larger than the rest.

Can the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft stretch the floor with a consistent 3-point shot and, as a center, is he capable of making the defensive switches on the perimeter required of a dominant defensive big man in the modern game?

Golden State, unsurprisingly, believes the answers to those questions are yes. The Warriors wouldn't have used their first-round pick -- their first in the lottery since 2012, their first in the top five since 2002 and their first in the top two since 1995 -- on the 19-year-old otherwise.

But Bob Myers, the Warriors' general manager and president of basketball operations, believes Golden State has the key to unlocking Wiseman's potential.

Willing teachers.

"You can't learn from a better defender in Draymond Green," Myers told reporters on a video conference call Wednesday night after the draft.

"Who probably won't be shy correcting him, if he needs to."

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Green stands seven inches shorter than Wiseman, but his ability to switch on to bigs and smaller wings made him the linchpin of the Warriors' dominant defense during their run of five straight NBA Finals appearances at the end of the previous decade. He is the blueprint of defensive versatility required by a big man in a league that's trending smaller, even though Green rarely is the biggest player on the court.

Wiseman won't have that problem. He's listed at 7-foot-1 and 247 pounds, with the potential to add even more muscle to his frame in order to contend with the league's elite centers. That'll be valuable for matchups with Nikola Jokic and Anthony Davis, but the Warriors are counting on Wiseman developing into a center capable of defending smaller lineups.  

"I think he's gonna have to learn to do both," Myers said. "He's big, but the NBA's got a lot of big guys in it. But I think he physically can do it, but there's gonna be mental growth. He's gonna have to learn the NBA game. He's never played this style, never played against [this caliber of] players, and so we hope he can do all that, but no 19-year-old I think figures it out right away."

Wiseman will find no shortage of instructors to improve his jump shot, either. Coach Steve Kerr is the NBA's all-time leader in 3-point percentage (45.4 percent), and star point guard Steph Curry is sixth (43.5 percent). Klay Thompson, who will miss all of next season after tearing his Achilles, is 14th (41.9 percent).

Memphis' Penny Hardaway, who coached Wiseman in high school and college, is confident the center can extend his range. In the lead-up to the draft, Hardaway even compared Wiseman to Chris Bosh in an interview with NBC Sports Bay Area's Monte Poole.

Bosh, whose career was cut short due to blood-clotting, developed into the prototype for modern big men over the course of his career. In the last three seasons of his career, Bosh averaged 3.5 3-point attempts per game and made 35.9 percent of them. During those three seasons with the Miami Heat, Bosh attempted more 3-pointers (608) than the entirety of his first decade in the league (302).

"I think there's good potential," Myers said of Wiseman's jumper. "I look a lot of the big guys that can shoot now -- that I can't name because I'm not allowed to. [There's a] lot of big guys that have learned to shoot really well in our league that weren't doing it at 19. ... Like anybody, he's going to need to work on it quite a bit. NBA line's a bit further out, and that'll be something Steve will work with him on. We know the importance of stretching your game out, but like I said, I think this guy's gonna have a long career, and over time, we hope that becomes a pretty natural part of his game."

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On draft night, Myers took the long view regarding Wiseman's expectations. The Warriors think he can play an important role for them this season, but they drafted him with long-term development in mind.

Wiseman repeatedly told reporters how excited he was about the chance to learn from the Warriors' veterans and coaching staff. In order to answer the biggest long-term questions about his game, Wiseman will need to be a sponge.

"He could be [great]," Myers said, when asked about Wiseman's pre-draft comparisons to all-time great players like Bosh. "Will he be? I think that's up to him. I think that's up to us, but mostly him. How much time does he want to put in, how much he loves it. I think all those players [Wiseman was compared to] love the game. He's got the talent. He's got the skill. He's got the work ethic. But those guys charted a pretty unique path, and they worked for it."