The defending champion Golden State Warriors kicked off their 2022-23 preseason slate with a 97-87 victory over the Washington Wizards on Friday in Japan. The box score didn't look pretty for three of Golden State's stars, with Stephen Curry, Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole combining to shoot 3 for 25.
That's not ideal for the fans that came out to see the big names, but the Warriors couldn't care less about those numbers. What they do care about is how James Wiseman looks every second he's on the court, and he sure looked good on Friday.
Wiseman finished with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting. That's a deceiving description, to be fair. Wiseman didn't do any real shooting. Five of his eight buckets were dunks. Everything else was at the rim, save for his final deuce, a sweet little baby hook from about six feet. Have a look.
This is by design. During his rookie season, Wiseman looked like a college freshman trying to blend into the senior symposium. He was simply not ready to process all of Golden State's impromptu, ever moving actions, and though he does have the ability to hit jumpers, way too much of his focus seemed to be proving he could make shots that defenses will happily concede.
This is simpler. Let the guy be an athlete. That pick and roll with Stephen Curry teases the possibilities of that duo. Steve Kerr isn't a pick-and-roll coach, as we know, but to be fair Curry has never had a vertical athlete of Wiseman's caliber at his disposal. This is not something defenses are going to have an easy time solving as multiple defenders are forced to stay with Curry as a top-end finisher.
Kevon Looney is the starting center for now, and he's fantastic. He knows the Warriors system inside and out. He knows exactly how to play with Curry, anticipating passes and cuts and DHOs as Curry runs defenders ragged. That's just too much for Wiseman to process at this point in his career.
He'll get a lot of time with Curry, and I suspect Kerr will play Curry more on ball in these minutes so that the whole offense isn't about setting Curry up, forcing Wiseman to think more than Kerr would like. With Curry on ball, Wiseman can just be an athlete, rim running and cutting into the open space that Curry's gravity naturally provides. This will slow things down, and turn, actually speed up Wiseman.
Let's not make too much out of one preseason game, but as first impressions of the hopefully new and improved Wiseman go, this was a good one.