Warriors at Kings: What does development look like?
Kerr: "James [Wiseman] is going to take a leap and I think these last 28 games are going to help"
It feels a little weird sitting down to write this (late Wednesday night). With the NBA trade deadline hitting at noon Thursday, one - or both - of these teams could be wildly transformed by game time. Or not.
Such is the uncertainty of two teams that are looking for answers.
The Golden State Warriors enter tonight’s game perfectly in balance at 22-22.
The Kings? Rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic:
WHO: Golden State Warriors (12-12) at Sacramento Kings (19-25)
WHEN: Thursday March 24th, 2021 // 7:00pm PST
Development? Or just get dunked on? Fast-tracking the Wiseman experiment
The Warriors’ rookie, James Wiseman is the future here. The highest draft pick since Golden State took Joe Smith first overall in 1995, there’s a tremendous pressure riding on this panning out.
After starting the first 16 games, Wiseman was moved to the bench, where he played some of his best basketball. Remember, it was his second non-start where he blew up and became the youngest Warriors of all time to score 25 points in a game. Wiseman hurt his wrist just two games later - an injury that kept him off the court for most of the month of February.
Since coming back, he’s scored in double digits in seven of ten games, starting with my personal favorite, 14 points in 16 angry 4th quarter minutes after being benched for the first three quarters. Now, with Curry missing another three games or so, the Warriors are shifting into some Coke bottle thick glasses and looking deep into the future.
This isn’t a perfect situation for Wiseman, but neither is it an especially bad one. This is an organization that has the resources and long-term commitment to help. Coach Steve Kerr, said on the radio yesterday that Wiseman’s starting role is pretty well sealed through the end of the season (and by inference, beyond), calling it “permanent” and saying, “…these last 28 games are going to help initiate that. We're going to be a different team. I like where all this is heading."
Wiseman logged nearly 28 minutes in the game prior to their last outing, the most of his short career. Reps are good, but if the goal is player development, then those minutes need to be steered. So bear with me as I dive into how the Warriors use Wiseman, and how that affects his performance.
First up, here’s the play types that Wiseman has been using, on a per-possession basis, via Synergy stats. As we’ve pointed out previously, Wiseman is not a fantastic post player at this point in his career. Overall - again according to Synergy data - his points per possession are in the bottom third for centers. As a 19 year-old, Wiseman isn't expected to be an elite scorer, but leaning into his weaknesses like this can't help.
Digging deeper into the numbers, Wiseman scores at an average rate on cuts (48th percentile) but the post is one of his worst areas when it comes to offense. He scores just 0.754 points per shot attempt, which is in the bottom quarter for centers.
So it seems weird that they keep posting Wiseman up and then passing the ball to him in a stagnant stance in the high post. Unless they are hoping that he’s going to figure out that part of the game and add it to his repertoire?
In an earlier article (so the image below is slightly outdated), I charted all of his play types. Note how out of whack many of his play types are compared to how often those plays are called for him. Ideally: the bigger circles should be all floating to the top of the graphic. Wiseman isn't coming off screens often enough, and it seems clear that throwing it into him as he stands static in the post might not be the best plan.
Compounding the issue, Wiseman doesn't generate assists (14th percentile) so it’s just not a natural use of his skill set. He isn't seeing the cutters. Maybe it looks different with Curry and Thompson running around the fringes, but right now it's been too steep of a hill to climb.
Andrew Bogut was one of my favorite Warriors and he’s in a unique position to know, so listen to what he had to say about Wiseman:
“The big spot is [tsk] not a spot that gets a lot of touches in that system… I don’t think he’s played the role in high school or college that he’s being asked to play now… so the development side will be huge for him… getting time on the floor, being allowed to make mistakes will be huge for him.”
Greg Popovich is the gold standard for coaching in the modern NBA, and one of the hallmarks of his coaching philosophy is his adaptability. From post heavy twin towers, to run and gun three-point shooting, and then back to a high post system for LaMarcus Aldridge, Popovich has always been willing to drastically modify his system for the personnel.
The reason the offense is designed as Bogut describes is because it’s meant to maximize wing spacing. Without shooters, and with a developing young center, it may be a good idea to at least slip a few new pages into the ol’ playbook. For now, Wiseman is assured minutes, the next step will be maximizing those minutes so he’s developing, and not just watching opposing centers move him out of the way while they collect rebounds and score a bunch of points.
Beat the Kings!
Even without Stephen Curry, the Warriors will need to be able to handle business against teams like the Kings. Coming in on the friendly side of the second game of a back-to-back, Golden State has got to capitalize against their Nor-Cal brethren.
The Kings have the league’s worst defensive rating, which is awfully nice for a bad Warriors offense hampered by the absence of Stephen Curry.
If you thought watching this season’s Warriors was maddening, just check out the twisted joy ride that Sacramento has taken their fans on:
The Sacramento Kings have a had a roller coaster of a season to say the least. Following the previous matchup with the Warriors the team went 2-6, followed by a 7-1 stretch, and then proceeded to lose their next nine straight games. They have gone 6-5 in their last two games going into their home back-to-back that tips off on Wednesday against the Atlanta Hawks.
At the request of a commenter, I have sent my crystals down to the lab, and the smelly hippy there has assured me that “like, nothing can go totally wrong… ya know?” So with that in mind, and the Kings absolutely atrocious defense, I’m going to predict the first cosmic alignment of Oubre and Wiggins - yes, that’s right: they will both have a good game tonight.
As always, the Warriors will win. Because that’s what the universe wants.