Wiseman, and the bridge to the Warriors' future

Green, Wiseman, and the Warriors' next push for equilibrium

Draymond Green’s ejection in last night’s loss to the New York Knicks hurt. After giving up 40 points in the first quarter to the Knicks (one of the five worst offenses in the NBA), the Golden State Warriors were clawing back in the second, tying it up with about two minutes left before halftime.

Then, disaster struck. New York goes on a 6-0 run, capped with Green’s ejection. It was an innocuous play, and James Wiseman (the guy Green was yelling at before getting hit with this second technical of the night) sounded confused about how the act even warranted the whistle.

But disregard all that and look at the impact. Here’s the game flow, showing the Warriors closing in and then getting roasted in the third. I carefully marked (in messy crayon) the point of the ejection:

Remember that the Warriors currently have the 5th best record in the West and have played the 3rd toughest schedule in the NBA - including two walloping losses without Green to start the season.

The ejection, like a microcosm of the Warriors franchise, wasn’t just about Green. Golden State is in a weird spot, clearly with an eye on the future - the return of Klay Thompson next season, alongside a developing Wiseman and whatever other new draft asset - but still firmly entrenched in the present as Curry pulls this squad into relevance.

Becoming comfortable with metastable equilibrium

I ran this discussion point by my 12-year old daughter. She listened, took one look and went, “nerd stuff.” So I’ll keep the intro real brief.

In physics, they have a lot of different ways to talk about system balance. Like a basketball team changing between eras, the term “metastable equilibrium” applies when additional energy must be introduced before the object can reach true stability.

During the transition between equilibrium states, the system evolves through a series of nonequilibrium or unstable states in which the properties of the system are continuously changing.

For Golden State, this is a team that is going to undergo change before it stabilizes in their new form. A new form that will push Green into the background, and pull Wiseman squarely into the front. But it’s going to take effort. And it’s going to include plenty of uncertainty along the way.

Which is really just the long way of saying that Green’s role in developing Wiseman is critical to the Warriors’ future. Long after ESPN published an article “just saying” that Green was a “powder keg” ready to blow up the franchise, the mercurial defensive ace finds himself holding the blacksmith’s hammer that will help shape the future here.

The Warriors need Green right now. Beyond the defensive marshalling (which there’s a lot of), he leads the team in assists (again), and has continually proven himself as an asset that helps the team win. So far this season, the Warriors have been 6.1 points per 100 possessions better with Green on the court.

The Warriors also need Green in the future. But it’s a slightly different Green. One that unlocks Wiseman in all the right ways, without becoming toxic. Because Green is in a unique position - serving as the primary front line mentor to Wiseman.

Offensively, Wiseman’s future is already becoming clear. This clip from Anthony Slater does a great job illustrating the conundrum Wiseman and Curry can put a defense into. Leave Wiseman, and he’s lob-o-matic, but if you stay home on him, it opens the lane in a way that Curry seldom gets to see.

Defensively, the future is much more opaque.

According to Cleaning the Glass, Wiseman fouls on about 6% of the team’s defensive plays - a mark placing him in the bottom 11 percentile of the league. He’s a fantastic shot blocker, but those are empty stats if you can’t play defense without fouling.

It’s not an issue unique to Wiseman. Again, watch this Slater clip:

In the minutes with Green, the Warriors defense would rank higher than the league’s best defense; in the minutes without him, that rank drops to almost dead last. As Anthony Slater describes, Kerr said the team “was a mess” without him.

But back to the opening point about metastable equilibrium, there are problems here that Green can’t solve directly - only indirectly.

The best natural rebounder on the team is arguably Stephen Curry. But for the team to make it to the next level, they’ve got to find a way to improve as a team in this regard.

Like so much with Golden State these days, these aren’t problems that will go away overnight; but they can go away, with effort and development.

Wiseman is very much a work in progress, but he is going to play a huge role in bridging this aging core into the next era of Warriors dynasty. It’s going to be messy, and require players to develop in a lot of different ways. For Wiseman, maybe it’s rebounding, and defending without fouling. For Green and Curry, that development may require them to pick up more clipboards.

No matter what though, I feel like the organization is well positioned to build that bridge.

Thanks for a great first year!

Just a personal note quickly from myself, and the rest of the LGW crew: today marks the one year anniversary of this website. It’s an honor and a privilege to cover the Warriors for you, and truly a pleasure to watch our community thrive here in our new home.

If you’re reading this, thank you!