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A Farewell to James Wiseman, plus open thread
Go forth and prosper, except against GSW
Here are my general thoughts on a few issues we’ve discussed at DNHQ. First, let’s remember the good times…
Was drafting Wiseman a mistake?
Even though I was completely against drafting him, I don’t think it was a mistake. (WHAT?) It was a calculated gamble that he would become a star. I personally thought he had a 10% chance to be a star, 70% chance of being JaVale McGee and 20% chance of being tall Smailagic.
GSW clearly went for a portfolio of high-upside high-risk young guys: JW, JK, MM, PBJ, RR. If even one of them is a star, then mission accomplished. Looks like JK might be the guy, but you’d never know that to start. So you can’t look at one of those picks and say it was wrong. You have to look at all the picks. It would be like saying Steph should never shoot 3s because he missed two. No, you have to look at the overall percentage.
It was a big miss, but I don’t have any angst about it. A gamble I wouldn’t have made, but an understandable one. My preferred path (trading down for Haliburton) relies on me making up trades that may never have been available.
Was it a disastrous pick?
Was it a “disaster”? I just don’t think of draft picks that way. It’s like thinking a three-point shot attempt is disastrous. Was Steph’s missed 3 pointer at the end of 2016 Finals Game 7 the most disastrous three-point shot in GSW history? Was it Steph’s miss at the end of 2019 Finals Game 6? Both shot attempts directly led to Finals losses for the franchise. And yet… you miss three-pointers all the time, and sometimes they are big misses. It’s about good process and good luck. Same with draft picks.
If you insist on figuring out the level of disaster, trying to order the awful things that have happened to the franchise, go for it. That’s an exercise I’m happy to sit out.
Was it an incompetent pick?
If you want to ask “was it an incompetent pick?” then that seems more tractable. I think the answer is clearly NOT incompetent. Just because I don’t agree with a move doesn’t mean it’s incompetent.
On the one hand, Wiseman was a #2 pick and he was a bust with GSW. It’s true and it hurts.
On the other hand, he was a super athletic big guy who is reportedly smart, hardworking, likable, and coachable in exactly the position GSW has always been weakest at.
PLUS, it was a famously terrible draft (so no one wanted to trade up) in the middle of a deadly pandemic (so no one could properly scout) and the only alternative (LaMelo) came with big question marks on shooting, strength of competition, toxic family, fit with Kerrball, and ball dominance, and he plays the same position as two beloved hall of famers and he also would have blocked the development of Poole. And NOBODY was taking Haliburton at #2.
Given that it’s not even clear there is a right draft pick at #2, I can’t call this even exactly a bad pick. Just a big gamble that I wouldn’t have made that missed big.
Is Two Timelines impossible?
This is too deep an issue to discuss here, whether a team can uncover the diamonds while Chasing Wins. JFK is showing serious signs of life and the Warriors, you know, won the whole damn thing last year so… they won despite the extra difficulty level.
I began a whole analysis, looking at big men who had terrible rookie years. Lots of interesting examples… but to be honest, I kind of lost interest. I say with relief that Wiseman is someone else’s problem and opportunity now.
I may eventually go back and finish an analysis of high draft pick rookies on playoff teams.
Did the Warriors give Wiseman a fair chance to develop?
Clearly GSW didn’t develop JW well but I’m not sure what they could do differently. The guy was ALWAYS unavailable to play and practice, with lower body injuries, COVID, etc etc.
He couldn’t play with Steph. He makes more silly turnovers than Moody (and MM was stapled to the bench for it). When he turns to pursue drivers, his body ends up in all crazy angles. It took forever before he started defending without jumping into people. And near the end he was sulking on court when he wasn’t fed the ball in the post.
It will look bad if Wiseman explodes this year on DET. I am expecting JW’s highlight reel to look good in DET. But can he play winning basketball? It might be a while.
Why didn’t GSW run more pick and roll for Wiseman instead of motion offense?
First, motion offense is the best way to play next to Klay and Draymond. Steph can play next to anyone, but if you can’t play motion offense, then you make Klay a non-factor and make Draymond a liability. If you can’t play next to those guys, you’ll never have a real role with the Dynasty Warriors.
More importantly, THEY RAN A LOT OF PNR FOR HIM. Kerrball has plenty of PNR possibilities, and they tried Wiseman in all of them.
According to stats.nba.com, Wiseman's "frequency" of play as PNR roll man was 19.8% or 47th of 206 in the NBA. So they ran PLENTY of PNR for Wiseman in his time on court, especially considering GSW runs less PNR than other teams.
And they did this a lot more this year. Comparison: in his rookie year, his frequency was 14.6%, or 104th of 228, right in the middle of the pack, which is still plenty.
If you see how much JaVale McGee, Bogut, and even Looney and Draymond thrived in the PNR, it says there is a lot of ways for different big guys to succeed in Kerr’s system. Wiseman is not yet fluid in the pick and roll.
Hold on, doesn’t Wiseman have elite pick and roll stats?
I did some investigating. This year, JW does have a stupendous 1.60 ppp as PNR Roll Man. This is on 1.2 poss/g in 21 games, or 25 possessions which is a very small sample and mainly in garbage time. In 2020-21 he was at 1.12 ppp (somewhere in bottom 40%) on 66 possessions. (stats.nba.com)
In my opinion, the issue is likely that Synergy only counts the play as a PNR Roller IF YOU GET THE BALL as the roller. Wiseman's big issue is that when he rolls he doesn't make good contact to gain advantage, and he doesn't angle himself to be available to pass to. So all those plays don't count against him; you only count the plays when they pass him the ball when he's wide open for a dunk.
I also suspect that if he drops the pass it often doesn't count against him, though that guess could easily be wrong.
It also doesn't make sense. If he’s so elite, why won’t the staff play him with Steph? Steph is one of the deadliest PNR ball handlers and he calls plenty of PNR, and JW destroyed Steph's offensive statistics. There's no way the coaching staff refused to run PNR for an elite roller because of some abstract notion of spacing. He just is not currently good at the PNR.
How will James Wiseman end up?
Obviously, no one knows at all.
He seems to have all the ingredients to be elite, so I wouldn't be shocked if he gets good when he can just play freely with no expections and just simplifying his role as a pick and roll monster. But I would also not be surprised if he went the other direction and tries to become KAT lite instead, raining jumpers all over.
My final take is that if he can stay healthy, with his athleticism and size, he should end up being at very least a backup NBA big, and likely a NBA starter level at some point in his career, and there’s always a lottery ticket that he’ll put it all together and be a late-blooming star. He just ran out of time on the Warriors.
Why not just draft Haliburton at #2?
In response to Dilly’s comment:
Yes, others have argued this. I think the issue is that Haliburton was not DEFINITELY the best player to draft… We liked his good stats, his character and ability to play on and off ball and good defense. But he was not explosive and had weird looking shot mechanics and wasn’t elite at anything. He wasn’t a “give me the ball and I’ll get a bucket” guy, so he seemed a low chance to be an All-Star. He seemed to be a good fit for GSW because they don’t need a guard to be able to get a bucket with a dribble, and a worse fit for other teams (thus why he fell to #12), so the dream is to trade down to extract that difference of value.
Also, all reporting shows that GSW draft team actually liked Wiseman for all the obvious reasons and the Hall of Fame ceiling (despite the bust floor).
tempprofile also reminds us that the #2 pick makes a higher salary than later picks.
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