The best thing about James Wiseman’s 2022 NBA Summer League stint is that he played through four games without much of a hitch in terms of his health.
Wiseman’s body has been the major issue surrounding his brief NBA career as he has played in only 39 games through two seasons. A torn meniscus in his right knee put a premature ending to his rookie year, with rehab complications forcing the former Memphis Tiger to then miss the entire 2021-2022 season.
When the Golden State Warriors selected him with the second overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Warriors were simply adding to their embarrassment of riches while waiting for Klay Thompson to recover from a torn ACL in his left knee. Wiseman’s athleticism and the skills were on display even in the brief time he shared the court with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Jordan Poole.
Those same attributes and skills showed themselves again during this year’s summer league festivities, which for a top pick like Wiseman is unfamiliar territory. The goal wasn’t necessarily to dominate, although that would have been welcome as that would have shown (with authority) how well he has recovered. Getting back into the scheme of things with what Golden State runs and getting some game action took precedence over putting on a show.
Wiseman’s summer league per-game averages of 10.5 points (on 48.6 percent field goal shooting), 5.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 2.0 blocks in 19.9 minutes through four games are solid but not great, but the Warriors would rather see solid now if it means greater things will come later on in October. That the Nashville, Tennessee native played just close to 20 minutes a game meant he was on a silent minutes restriction that also served to preserve his health and give other players on the summer league roster a chance to shine.
Nevertheless, it was great to see the defensive activity on display, especially as Wiseman continues to be smarter with how he defends. The urge to jump at every shot is quite tempting and with the athleticism the 21-year old has got despite his injuries, one can’t blame him.
Against the San Antonio Spurs, Wiseman finished with seven fouls (players foul out in summer league after committing 10 fouls) so Golden State’s coaching staff needs to balance curtailing his defensive aggression with making him choose his battles so he can stay on the court for longer periods of time.
The eight free throw attempts against the Oklahoma City Thunder showed that he continues to work his way into being more aggressive offensively. That also means making better reads from different spots on the floor not just when it comes to executing offensive sets, but also hunting for mismatches. His shooting percentages fell when he got more shot attempts and that comes when he at times forces things.
Looking at the bigger picture, the chemistry he has also developed with Jonathan Kuminga was another welcome development, considering they will share a majority of their court time together. Kuminga himself is trying to get better with more summer league reps and having someone like Wiseman makes the reps matter more.
As many have pointed out, the fact that Wiseman was able to play four consecutive games is perhaps the best takeaway from the past week. The notion that the Warriors must put bubble wrap on their highest draft pick in nearly three decades (Golden State selected Joe Smith with the first overall pick in the 1995 NBA Draft) is slowly slipping away but the Warriors will certainly exercise caution since they want Wiseman to be there when the games matter more and the stakes are higher.
Summer league was just a small step for James Wiseman as he prepares to take the giant leap back into NBA action. Wiseman’s health was the biggest question mark heading into the 2022-2023 season and the past week has pretty much shown that he’s making the step in the right direction.