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The Promise of Wiseman - by Firoj Kumar Sahoo

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Wiseman is a 7'1 rookie center who came in with a beautiful jumper and a 3-point shot; remember, no one knew he had the stroke when drafted, the ability to handle the ball and run the floor in transition, and elite athleticism. He came into the NBA with an NBA-ready physique when most of the players in his class entered as scrawny kids. Wiseman has shown the ability to close out faster guards using his foot speed but must show this ability consistently next season. These are the skills every team wishes their center had but end up spending years to develop. Yet, Wiseman came in ready with these skills. The YouTube video of Wiseman participating in an exhibition game with Jalen Green, playing like a guard with a gamut of crossovers and step-backs. Wiseman's game did not demonstrate this last year as the emphasis was to limit him. How many of us would be surprised to see a 7'1 rookie who demonstrates the game he has? Yet, casual fans are ready to ship him off as a trade piece when his value exceeds Lamelo Ball's. The issue with Wiseman is not his body or his talent, in his mind and the horrible cards that lady luck dealt him. The NBA game was too fast for him initially to do whatever he wanted to try. That led to indecision, second-guessing, and a lot of rookie mistakes.

Wiseman was denied his college career due to no fault of his own. Just NCAA was enforcing petty rules and making him sound like a miscreant. Was it wrong to accept a meager amount to help move expenses from a trusted coach when you are financially disadvantaged? As a freshman who was denied the experience of a college program, the result was losing the opportunity to understand the importance of screening actions, defensive coverages, and basketball terminology.

As he tried to learn on the go after entering NBA, Wiseman looked awful getting beat on defense and often finding himself in foul trouble. Injuries and Covid protocol issues halted Wiseman's progress. If that is not a rotten streak of luck, I don't know what is. All through the season, he would barely make contact on his picks before he rolled. He would bite on pump fakes and be instructed not to jump on defense and stay tall, hindering his ability to close out. He was slow on defensive rotations and raked up fouls, and fouled out on occasions. He had a hard time catching passes, holding on to rebounds and catching passes, and holding on to them. Partly because his mind was running faster than his body could adjust. Wiseman's issues were primarily due to the anxiety caused by not wanting to make a mistake. Fans were urging him to be more aggressive on rebounds, but the issue was he could not. Confused with a game moving too fast, I challenge you to learn a new dance form and try to dance to high-paced music. I can guarantee your mind would not know what to do. your body would not be able to adjust, causing you to trip and fall. That is what happened to him.

All these issues do not mean he is a bust, just thrust out of his comfort zone, which may take time for him to adjust. It also helps you get better faster. That is the appearance of what was happening over the fag-end of the season. During the last stretch of games, Wiseman looked comfortable while hitting his picks when screening, catching passes better, and closing out on guards fast (in the buck game he closed on to Divincenzo so fast he panicked and shot a brick leading to a dunk at the other end). Things started falling in place, and warriors were winning. As Wiseman aptly put it in the interview after the bucks game, "not gonna lie, that shit was fun." As lady luck would have it, what could have been an insane developmental stretch for Wiseman ended with an injured meniscus while going for a highlight dunk in the Rockets game. And just like that, his rookie season ended with warriors fans remembering him as a bust and begging to trade him for a star. The injury recovery was so long that he missed even the Summer League, where he would have had free reign and could have shown the full range of skills and convinced the Warrior fanbase that he is something to covet. When he finally gets to play a full season next season, he will most likely still struggle but more than anything else, what will decide how good he is next season is plain bad luck.

If Wiseman manages to play most of this season, he will make Warrior fans never think about trading him ever again by midseason. He is a fast learner and will figure out things that he struggled with this year. So instead of focusing on things he struggled with, let's get hyped about the insane talent he did show last year. He was elite in catching lobs and finishing. That time he took the rock coast to coast and did a euro step and dunked it, showing glimpses of Giannis possessing his body. What about those tight bounce passes that he made threading the needle assisting Draymond and Wiggins, showing his untapped passing ability? Or even the occasional nifty footwork he showed at the post while scoring with baby hooks and floaters. Not to forget the exquisite touch he has around the basket. Other than Curry, Wiseman was the only source of consistent offense at times. So to all those negative Warrior fans who think Wiseman is a bust and would have rather taken Lamelo, chew on this, Lamelo's ceiling is an all-star, while Wiseman's ceiling is MVP.

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