Warriors preseason opener: James Wiseman looks fantastic in simplified role and teases big possibilities for the future

The defending champion Golden State Warriors started Friday in Japan with a 97-87 win over the Washington Wizards in the 2022-23 preseason. The box score didn’t look pretty for three of Golden State’s stars, with Stephen Curry, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole teaming up to shoot 3 for 25.

That’s not ideal for the fans who came to watch the big names, but the Warriors didn’t care about those numbers. What they do care about is how James Wiseman looks every second he’s on the pitch, and he sure looked good on Friday.

Wiseman finished with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting. That’s a deceptive description, to be honest. Wiseman didn’t really do it shoot. Five of his eight buckets were dunks. Everything else was on the edge except his last deuce, a sweet little baby hook about six feet. Have a look.

This is by design. During his rookie season, Wiseman looked like a freshman trying to blend in at the senior symposium. He just wasn’t ready to handle all of Golden State’s improvised, ever-moving moves, and while he has the ability to hit jumpers, way too much of his focus seemed to prove he could make shots the defense would be happy to concede.

This is easier. Let that man be an athlete. That pick and roll with Stephen Curry teases that duo’s capabilities. Steve Kerr is not a pick and roll coach, as we know, but to be honest, Curry has never had a vertical athlete of Wiseman’s caliber at his disposal. This isn’t something defenses will easily solve as multiple defenders are forced to stick with Curry as a top player.

Kevon Looney is the starting center for now and he is fantastic. He knows the Warriors system inside out. He knows exactly how to play with Curry, anticipating passes and cuts and DHOs as Curry leaves defenders running in ragged condition. That’s just too much for Wiseman to handle at this point in his career.

He’s going to get a lot of time with Curry, and I suspect Kerr Curry will be more on the ball in these minutes so that the whole attack isn’t about setting Curry up, forcing Wiseman to think more than Kerr would like. With Curry on the ball, Wiseman can just be an athlete, running and slashing in the open space Curry’s gravity naturally provides. This will slow things down, and actually speed up Wiseman.

Let’s not make too much of one preseason game, but as first impressions of the hopefully new and improved Wiseman go, this was a good one.

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