James Wiseman gives Warriors new hope
On a day overshadowed by Klay Thompson’s injury, Golden State’s No. 2 pick offers a promising future
Dynasties don’t last forever. The Golden State Warriors were reminded of that Wednesday as news of Klay Thompson’s leg injury cast a shadow over the 2020 NBA draft.
But the good news for the Warriors is they landed a potential star in James Wiseman, the No. 2 pick of the draft, who could one day pick up the torch from Thompson, Stephen Curry and Draymond Green.
“He is a very special talent,” Green told The Undefeated. “I look forward to having him out there next to me and trying to teach him all I can.”
It remains to be seen when Thompson will join them. The 30-year-old shooting guard suffered a right lower leg injury on Wednesday while playing pickup basketball in downtown Los Angeles with current and former NBA players. Thompson had to be helped out of the gym to his car.
There are fears that the five-time All-Star may have torn his right Achilles tendon, several sources told The Undefeated. Warriors general manager Bob Myers says more will be known after an MRI on Thursday.
The Warriors’ top pick was also upset by the news.
“As soon as I saw [the news], it was kind of down for me emotionally,” Wiseman said of Thompson. “But as a team, we’ve got his back no matter what.
“And in terms of my perspective, I just can’t wait to go in there and give my great contribution toward the team.”
Penny Hardaway, who coached Wiseman at Memphis, told 95.7 The Game on Wednesday that Wiseman is driven to be the best big man in the NBA and will be the “fastest big man from one end to the other.”
Front-office executives and scouts love his potential. One NBA scout told The Undefeated that Wiseman is “a combination of David Robinson and Chris Bosh.” One NBA general manager said that the 19-year-old reminds him of Chris Webber. Wiseman, however, is focused on being himself.
“I mean, it’s high praise, but I just want to create my own thing, be my own player,” he said. “I’m James Wiseman, I’m myself, I’m authentic. So, I’m just going to go in there again, grow, and adapt and stay humble and work my tail off every day.”
Myers said how far Wiseman goes will be mostly up to the rookie.
“How much time does he want to put in? How much does he love it?” Myers said when discussing the comparisons to the All-Star big men. “He’s got the talent. He’s got the skill. He has the work ethic. But those guys charted a very unique path and they worked for it. They had long careers. We think he has the potential to pave his own way with the skill set he has.”
Wiseman arrived at Memphis ranked No. 1 in the ESPN 100 Class of 2019. But the Memphis, Tennessee, native played in only three college games (averaging 19.7 points and 10.7 rebounds) after he was suspended for 12 games in November by the NCAA, which ruled that his family accepted $11,500 from Hardaway in 2017 to help with moving expenses. Hardaway was not the head coach at Memphis at that time, but due to his connection to the university as a former player and booster, it was deemed a violation. Instead of serving the suspension, Wiseman opted to leave Memphis and prepare for the draft.
Wiseman says the battle with the NCAA gave him a motivational chip. But the emotional toll was visible after he was selected by the Warriors.
“I busted out in tears because I’ve been through a lot,” Wiseman said after the draft. “I text my teammates every day in Memphis. I wanted that moment with my teammates. Just seeing all that, becoming like a downfall. Man, I would just have to bust out in tears because I’ve been through a lot of adversity in my life.
“But I’m ready to go into Golden State with a great mindset, with a different mindset. Ready to go in there and learn as much as possible, grow my game and adapt and work my tail off.”
Before the draft, Wiseman said publicly he was fine with being selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the top overall pick. But a source said he declined to work out or have a phone conversation with the Wolves, who already have All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns. The Wolves selected Georgia swingman Anthony Edwards instead.
Now, Wiseman joins a championship franchise, which has enjoyed having athletic centers for years. Adding Wiseman not only fills a major void at center, but gives the team size, shot-blocking, rebounding and a high-flying alley-oop finisher. Myers said Wiseman has the potential to start immediately and loves that the 19-year-old will have the luxury to learn from veterans with championship experience. That’s not typically the case for a No. 2 pick.
“We’re dropping him into our culture,” Myers said. “We think it’s one of the best in the league. We are pretty excited about integrating him and making him a Warrior. It’s a fun thing to consider him on the floor. Fans are going to like watching him. I’m going to like watching him.”
So, while the franchise waits for news on the severity of Thompson’s injury, the long-term future in Golden State is still bright. One NBA general manager said Wiseman was the best all-around selection as a player and a person in this draft.
“I think he wants it, and that’s what we are excited about,” Myers said. “We see a guy that wants to work, wants to be great.”