NBA

Warriors see James Wiseman as a future star, will not trade him this season, per report

The Golden State Warriors are not planning to put 20-year-old center James Wiseman on the trade market before the Feb. 10 trade deadline, according to The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami. Actually, Kawakami put it in stronger terms than that: They “aren’t trading Wiseman. They absolutely are not.”

Wiseman, the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, tore the meniscus in his right knee in April and hasn’t been cleared to scrimmage yet. The late-season injury coincided with Golden State going on a 15-5 rampage, and they’ve been even better this season, with a league-best 21-4 record and plus-12.9 net rating.

As an extremely raw rookie, Wiseman unsurprisingly struggled to grasp the nuances of NBA-level team defense, and he had trouble adjusting to the Warriors’ read-and-react offensive system. Since he’s been out of the picture, the Warriors have split their frontcourt minutes between Draymond Green, Kevon Looney, Juan Toscano-Anderson and, this season, Otto Porter and Nemanja Bjelica, with extraordinary results. None of those guys provides the vertical spacing that Wiseman does, though, and coach Steve Kerr has said repeatedly that he’ll try to keep things simple for Wiseman when he returns: Set solid screens, roll hard, finish around the basket and rebound. 

According to The Athletic, Golden State’s front office sees anything Wiseman can give the team this season as “mostly a bonus,” but believes he can be a star down the road. It also reportedly isn’t interested in trading for Ben Simmons or Myles Turner, and it “loves” having three recent lottery picks — Wiseman, plus rookies Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, who are both 19 years old and scored 62 combined points for the G League’s Santa Cruz Warriors on Wednesday — waiting in the wings. This jibes with everything that owner Joe Lacob has said on the subject.

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In the Warriors’ ideal world, they won’t need to make any sort of upgrade between now and the deadline because A) they’re awesome on both ends already, and B) the relatively soon-to-return Klay Thompson will function as their midseason acquisition. Maybe Wiseman himself will give them a different dimension, and maybe Kuminga or Moody will make a case for more playing time, but, even if none of the young guys are in the mix, there will be intense internal competition to get in the playoff rotation. Outside of the current starting five and Thompson, there will be six guys fighting for spots: Bjelica, Toscano-Anderson, Porter, Andre Iguodala, Gary Payton II and Damion Lee. It is not as if Golden State is desperate for more talent.

The flip side is that being awesome on both ends and having a deep roster of good role players is also an argument for trading Wiseman, Kuminga, Moody and even future draft picks. The Warriors are unequivocally in the league’s top tier, and they have the statistical profile of a championship favorite, but, given that they are the team that won an NBA-record 73 regular-season games, went up 3-1 in the Finals and didn’t finish the job, they know better than anybody that the margin for error is miniscule. Stephen Curry will turn 34 in March, and between now and then Green and Thompson will both turn 32. After three championships, five consecutive Finals appearances and everything they’ve put their bodies through, doesn’t Golden State owe it to its homegrown stars to do everything in its power to maximize this season?

I say yes, the Warriors absolutely do owe them that. I also don’t think that the front office is necessarily doing them a disservice at the moment. What purpose would it serve for Golden State to signal that it doesn’t value its young players and would trade them for modest upgrades? What in the name of D’Angelo Russell should we expect? The Warriors can simultaneously be bullish on Wiseman’s upside, thrilled with their roster, doubtful that the right trade will present itself and ready to pounce if it does.

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There is one caveat in Kawakami’s story: He writes that Golden State “won’t even consider” trading a major part of its present or future “unless somebody a lot more transformative than Turner or Simmons becomes available.” This suggests that the Warriors’ willingness to broadcast their intentions is directly related to their assessment of the trade market. Golden State’s fundamental dilemma will not change in the next two months, but the trade market could alter the math. Until 3 p.m. ET on Feb. 10, the Warriors will have options on the table that would sacrifice youth and depth in the name of improving their odds of winning the 2022 title. Exactly which players do they view as “transformative” enough to push some of their chips in? That has always been the big question, and Golden State has no incentive to suggest the list is long. 


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