While the Golden State Warriors are currently engaged in the process of getting themselves ready for a potential title run, the team has something of a dilemma on its hands behind the scenes. Namely, deciding the best course of action with former No. 2 pick James Wiseman.
Just when it looked like the big man was finally set to return to the lineup earlier this month, he experienced swelling in the knee where his meniscus was repaired. As a result, the Warriors have effectively shut him down, at least for the time being.
It feels like a major blow for the franchise; not just in the present but for the future as well.
Some see cornerstone potential in Wiseman, and that lot seemingly includes Warriors owner Joe Lacob. However, team insider Connor Letourneau believes that the club’s outrageous luxury tax situation and concerns about his knee may have Golden State agonizing over whether to pick up his fourth-year option for 2023-24 (worth $12.1 million).
If that’s true, the team has some serious soul-searching to do.
At this juncture, it’s unlikely that the Warriors would seriously consider trading Wiseman for anything other than a home-run return. However, in the event that GM Bob Myers and his brain trust decide they aren’t confident in his knee and/or his ability to develop — and they don’t want to pay him — here’s one “abandon ship” deal that would net a low-key win-now piece.
Deal With Spurs Makes Former Lottery Pick the New Starting Center
Again, we’re qualifying this whole scenario as one that only makes sense if the Dubs have already rendered judgment on Wiseman and want to turn him into something that helps now. In that reality, the following offseason trade with San Antonio gives them the legit seven-footer/paint presence they’re lacking currently:
- San Antonio Spurs receive: C James Wiseman
- Golden State Warriors get: C Jakob Poeltl and a first-round pick in 2022 (via Toronto).
Poeltl isn’t flashy or a potential All-Star in the vein of Wiseman. What he is, though, is a former No. 9 pick who’s just entering his prime as a 26-year-old and is in the midst of a career year for the Spurs.
Through 61 games this season, he’s averaging 13.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.8 blocks while making 61.5% of his shot attempts.
For Golden State, Poeltl would be the stone-cold seven-footer they need to combat the likes of Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, Rudy Gobert, Deandre Ayton, et al. At worst, he’s more useful right now for a team that wants to win as much as possible while Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are still playing at a high level.
Additionally, Golden State gets a pick in the 17-21 range in what could be a fairly deep draft. And when you’re talking about a club that’s already in the tax with just eight players under contract, the pick holds extra value just as a means of filling out the roster.
Meanwhile, San Antonio gets a guy who, again, could one day become a franchise player.
The Warriors may decide that there are too many red flags or that they value Jonathan Kuminga, Jordan Poole and Moses Moody over him as prospects, but the Spurs — who are headed toward an all-out reboot — are in a good position to take on what could be a long-term project.
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Poeltl Adds Value on Both Sides of the Ball
Defensively, Poeltl’s value is obvious. He bothers more shots than just about anyone in the NBA, leading the league with 14.3 contests per game. Also: opposing players have seen their field-goal percentages drop by an average of 6.2% on attempts within 10 feet of the hoop when he’s the closest defender this season.
On the other side of the court, Poeltl is strong around the basket — with a conversion rate of 74.5% within three feet of the tin — while still having some mid-range chops. Moreover, he plays well in pick-and-roll action and has underrated passing chops.
Finally, he’s as adept at providing opportunities for his teammates by sealing off defenders as any big in the Association. His 5.7 screen assists per game rank second only to Gobert in 2021-22.
For a team with multiple shooters/creators like the Warriors, the extra space he provides with screens could be a boon.