During the final scenes of the 1985 cult classic “The Last Dragon,” Bruce Leroy finally reaches his full potential in a battle against his nemesis, Sho’Nuff. By achieving “The Glow,” Leroy became unstoppable.
This is what will happen to Golden State if they take James Wiseman with the No. 2 overall pick on Wednesday night. The Warriors will be glowing if the other 29 teams in the NBA don’t figure out a way to keep Wiseman out of The Bay.
The 19-year-old is the perfect example of how fit matters more than anything in sports. Because opportunities in which a player like Wiseman could end up with a team like Golden State in a draft this low on high-level talent don’t come around often.
This season, the Warriors will have a roster that includes a healthy/motivated Steph Curry at point guard. A healthy/motivated Klay Thompson at shooting guard. A very serviceable Andrew Wiggins as a potential fourth option at small forward, and a healthy/highly motivated Draymond Green at power forward.
If you take a look at the Warriors’ current roster, you will see that they don’t have a center. At first glance, you wouldn’t think that weird given that we’re living in the small-ball era where traditional big men are almost obsolete. But despite the “death lineup” that the Warriors made popular as one of the best at playing small, they have a history of at least starting games with traditional centers. Until the rails fell off last season due to multiple injuries, traditional big men like Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, Zaza Pachulia, Kevon Looney, JaVale McGee, and DeMarcus Cousins got the start at the 5-position.
But with all due respect to those men, the Warriors have never had a center that could do this.
If Wiseman is anything close to what we’ve seen in his small sample size, then at No. 2 the run-and-gun Warriors could be getting a 7-foot-1 and 240-pound teenager who can outrun perimeter players on the break, rebound, defend the rim, and knock down the occasional trail 3-pointer in transition.
We’ve seen how deadly the Warriors can be when they go small with Green rebounding/leading the break and Curry and Thompson on the wings waiting to fire away from deep. But we’ve never seen them with a 7-footer flying down the middle getting easy buckets off rim-runs.
He could be the final Infinity Stone.
Notice, I said “could,” especially given Wiseman’s lack of a resume. In his three games at Memphis, he only played a total of 69 minutes while scoring 59 points and grabbing 32 rebounds.
“I was really in the middle of a hurricane,” Wiseman told ESPN in February. “That’s like the worst place you could possibly be. Just having the mental agony and the suffering, crying every night because I just wanted to get on the court so much.”
While serving a 12-game NCAA suspension because Penny Hardaway – his coach at Memphis and former high school and AAU coach – gave his mother $11,500 in 2017 to help them move while Hardaway was still a high school coach, Wiseman walked away from college basketball.
Since Hardaway donated money to Memphis back in 2008, he was considered a booster, and Wiseman got screwed.
“I wanted to have a great collegiate career,” Wiseman told ESPN. “I wanted to win a national championship. But throughout the course of the first two games, everything started to go down in terms of my mental [well-being]. I was getting depressed. It was dehumanizing for me.”
Wiseman left Memphis last December, and we haven’t seen him play basketball since.
“He didn’t get to play this year, and those are question marks,” said Hardaway in August. “(But) he’s going to be the fastest guy on the floor. He’s going to protect the rim. He’s definitely an instant assist under the rim because of his athleticism. And he’s going to work on getting his shot to where he can get out to the 3-point line and be a threat from out there.”
“I’m not just saying that because I coached him. I just know the NBA and what they’re looking for.”
The Warriors have been quiet about what they will do with the pick. There are rumors that they could send it to San Antonio in a package for LaMarcus Aldridge, and some feel that drafting LaMelo Ball is in play.
It’s all rumors and speculation until Wednesday night.
But if I’m the other 29 teams in the league I’d be making sure that a team that had a 322-88 regular-season record during a run in which they went to five consecutive NBA Finals didn’t draft a player that could be a key to the future of their franchise – a player that this version of the Warriors has always wanted but hasn’t had a chance to get.
The last time the Warriors had the No. 2 overall pick was in 1965, and ironically the team was in San Francisco, as it is now. They took Rick Barry with the selection, as he went on to be named one of the 50 Greatest Players in 1996. The newer version of the Warriors have also done well in the draft as Curry, Thompson, Green, and Harrison Barnes – the core of the 2015 team – were all former picks.
On Wednesday, we’ll find out if James Wiseman will be the newest Warrior. But if the rest of the NBA is smart, they’ll make sure that doesn’t happen.