The impending return of Klay Thompson and the COVID-19 vaccine controversy swirling around Andrew Wiggins have garnered most of the attention around Dub Nation heading into training camp. The Golden State Warriors have another conundrum on their hands though and it comes in the form of 7’0″ 240-pound center James Wiseman.
On one hand, the sky is the limit for the second overall pick from the 2020 NBA draft and even if the Warriors roster stays more or less the same heading into the regular season, Wiseman could possibly give the group another star in their starting five. Imagine by the second half of the season, Curry is in vintage form, Thompson has returned and looks dominant, Draymond Green is the defensive leader he always is and Wiseman is wearing down older big men down low before his 21st birthday next March.
The Warriors could still have a “big four” even without that much-rumored blockbuster trade that never came to fruition over the summer.
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Add in quality newcomers to the rotation like old friend Andre Iguodala, Nemanja Bjelica and Otto Porter Jr., plus holdovers like Jordan Poole, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Kevon Looney, and maybe the Dubs wouldn’t even need Wiggins. At this point, “Maple Jordan” has perhaps become more of a headache than what he’s worth. The potential healthy and dominant return of Wiseman is just as big of a question mark as Thompson’s is though.
Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz believes there is a good shot that Wiseman develops into the player that Golden State thought they were getting during the 2020 draft, as he listed the former Memphis Tigers product as a “Top Breakout Candidate” for this season.
Wiseman ‘Packs a Ton of Physical Talent Into a 7’0″, 240-Pound Frame’
Wiseman looked like a candidate for Rookie of the Year last season through the winter, though he had already missed 14 games heading into April. Once the big man went down with a knee injury on April 10 against the Houston Rockets, those chances went out the window.
Wiseman finished his rookie year with a line of 11.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 21.9 minutes per game while shooting 51.9% from the field in 39 contests, including 27 starts.
“Assuming he stays with the Warriors (or even if he doesn’t), Wiseman has to be better in Year 2, almost by default,” Swartz wrote. “Wiseman hasn’t been able to train this offseason while recovering from meniscus surgery, and will be limited to individual drills during training camp.”
While the latest on the injury front isn’t ideal for Wiseman and the Warriors, Swartz is still optimistic that the center will make a positive impact in year two.
“Even with this setback, just getting a year of NBA experience under his belt should do wonders for his mental progress. After missing most of his lone year in college, Wiseman is coming into his second season with a head full of advice from Draymond Green and Golden State’s coaching staff,” Swartz wrote. “He may look a little rusty at the beginning of the season, but Wiseman should eventually start to look like the player who was selected No. 2 just a year ago and packs a ton of physical talent into a 7’0″, 240-pound frame.”
Who Else Could Be a Breakout for the Warriors This Season?
Swartz’ optimism for Wiseman can be reassuring for some of Dub Nation, but just in case things don’t go as planned, there is another breakout candidate on the Golden State roster.
At just 22 years old, Jordan Poole is already entering his third NBA season. Poole may be asked to do more than he has ever before, at least in the first half of the year, while Thompson remains out and the Wiggins’ situation gets squared away.
Poole has played in 108 career games and made 21 starts over the last two seasons and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him more than double the number of his career starts this season. Despite slightly less playing time in the 2020-2021 campaign, the former 28th overall pick improved in points per game (12.0) and also shot with more efficiency, posting a 43.2/35.1/88.2 shooting line.
For what it’s worth, head coach Steve Kerr said in August that his “gut reaction” was that Poole would be taking on Thompson’s starter’s minutes, at least to open the season. Kerr spoke highly of the third-year guard again on Tuesday.
Usually when a supervisor has more confidence in their employee “than ever” and calls them the “most consistent worker”, that person will take on more responsibility and reap the rewards. We’ll be finding out in the coming days whether or not that is the case with Poole.