Pump the brakes on James Wiseman's breakout 2022-23 campaign, Dub Nation. As Steve Kerr sees it, this season will be far more about overall development for the talented young big man than the true impact he makes on the Golden State Warriors.
Appearing on Real Ones with Raja Bell and Logan Murdock of The Ringer, Kerr tempered expectations for Wiseman's highly-anticipated return to official NBA action, reiterating that Kevon Looney is entrenched as his team's starting center.
“To be fair to [Wiseman] and to Loon, Loon's our starting five,” Kerr said. “He's a championship player. He's won multiple rings. He's proven in the playoffs that he can switch and guard almost anybody out there, and also has the wherewithal to be really effective offensively because of his knowledge, his screen-setting, his recognition of patterns, all that. Realistically, Wise will back up Loon..”
That Wiseman has no realistic chance at supplanting Looney in the Warriors' starting lineup should come as no surprise.
Looney played the best basketball of his career during Golden State's title run, holding his own defensively while switched onto superstars like Luka Doncic and Jayson Tatum and dominating the offensive glass. His re-insertion to the starting five in Game 6 of the second round—a move first championed by Stephen Curry and Draymond Green—played a pivotal role in the Warriors closing out the Memphis Grizzlies, too.
Just because the newly re-signed Looney isn't going anywhere and the Warriors like to play small hardly means there won't be a role for Wiseman in 2022-23, though. Golden State just needs to find the best way to take advantage of his rare physical gifts, explosiveness and all-around athleticism that separates Wiseman from Looney.
“Wise has the capability to do some things that Loon can't, number one being a lob threat,” Kerr said. “So we gotta put Wise in a position where he can be diving to the rim, giving us that vertical spacing that we haven't had maybe since JaVale was here. He runs the floor beautifully. The biggest thing for James is he has the capability to be a really dominant defender with his size and speed, but it takes a ton of reps, so we're gonna be asking him to defend, and run the floor and be that lob threat. There's no doubt in my mind he's gonna get better and better as the season goes on. He's got a great future.”
Don't expect Wiseman to play much once the Warriors' title defense begins in earnest come playoff time. He's still at least a year of development away from challenging Looney for high-leverage minutes against top-tier competition.
For doubters, though, keep in mind that every soaring alley-oop, towering block and spot-up southpaw from Wiseman triple over the 82-game grind could be a sign of what's to come with much more regularity down the line—just ask Kerr.