James Wiseman injury puts Golden State Warriors’ brass under microscope

Back in November, the Golden State Warriors made what was then the sound decision to select James Wiseman No. 2 overall in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Despite seeing limited action at Memphis due to issues with the NCAA and having not played an organized basketball game in over a calendar year, Wiseman seemed to be a natural building block for the Warriors.

Remember, it was earlier on draft day that the Warriors learned Klay Thompson suffered what would end up being a torn Achilles during a workout in Southern California. Golden State did not have much time to plan for that. Mere hours. If said injury had occurred earlier, there’s a chance LaMelo Ball would be hooping up for the Warriors right now. Alas, the timeline made that nearly impossible.

Fast forward several months, and it appears that James Wiseman has seen his rookie season come to an end. The talented center suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee Saturday night against the Houston Rockets. He’s now more than likely going to be lost for the remainder of the campaign after averaging 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds on 52% shooting from the field in 39 games.

Sitting at 25-28 on the season and as the 10th seed out west, this puts the Warriors in a precarious position over the final month or so of the regular season. From a long-term perspective, it also has the Warriors’ brass under the microscope in a big way. Here’s why.

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Steve Kerr already drawing fire from frustrated fan base

Steve Kerr's handling of James Wiseman
Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Having led the Warriors to five consecutive NBA Finals prior to his team dealing with myriad injuries last season, Kerr was once considered among the most successful head coaches in modern Association history. A Golden State fan base that apparently has long-term memory loss has now turned on Kerr in a big way.

“Anything that’s written is fair. It’s just the gig. When we were doing great, I was an offensive genius. Now, we’re struggling and I’m behind the times,” Kerr said last week, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “So it’s all part of it. The truth is always somewhere in between.”

There was also an apparent rift between Kerr and the Warriors’ brass relating to James Wiseman prior to his unfortunate injury this weekend. The head coach believed that he was not ready to play big minutes and pulled him from the starting lineup. General manager Bob Myers and other higher-ups wanted to see him develop. After all, Wiseman is viewed as part of the future in San Francisco with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green not getting any younger.

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James Wiseman pick, inactive NBA trade deadline

While it’s fair that Kerr would receive most of the criticism, former NBA Executive of the Year Bob Myers isn’t immune to it. Take the March NBA trade deadline as an example. The Warriors were expected to be active in an attempt to add another foundational piece. They had the assets and the green light from an ownership group that’s always willing to spend money.

Impending free agent Kelly Oubre was firmly on the block. Reportedly, there was strong interest in his services. Meanwhile, the Warriors were linked to the likes of Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon — two players who would have fit into their long-term plans.

Instead, Golden State created two roster spaces by trading Marquese Chriss and Brad Wanamaker. They did not bring in anyone of substance. The Warriors boasted a 22-22 record at the time of the deadline. They have lost six of nine since and are battling for a spot in the play-in tournament.

Months before, the Warriors opted to select James Wiseman over the aforementioned LaMelo Ball. Both seemed like solid fits. But Myers and Co. wanted that dynamic big man to team up with Curry and Thompson.

While Ball is also currently sidelined to injury, he’s the run away favorite for NBA Rookie of the Year and was in the midst of an historical initial campaign before said injury. These two will now be linked to one another for the foreseeable future. If (and it’s a big if) their two paths continue on the same trajectory we’ve seen this season, it won’t make Bob Myers and Steve Kerr look good.

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James Wiseman aside, huge offseason coming up for the Golden State Warriors

Warriors rookie star James Wiseman
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been reported throughout the season that Golden State would not move Wiseman or their future first-round pick acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves unless the team got a generational talent. Bradley Beal and Joel Embiid were bandied about as two possibilities.

Sure the Warriors could pull off a blockbuster this summer. They have the components to make it happen. Primarily, Minnesota’s pick (top-three protected in 2021 and unprotected 2022) is considered one of the top trade chips in the NBA. However, the Warriors also dropped by ball by not moving Oubre for another asset who is under contract for next season. That’s one of the issues here.

As it stands, Golden State’s brass is going to be under an enormous amount of pressure this summer. It needs to show Stephen Curry that the team is all in. Short of that happening, the impossible could take place. Curry playing out the final season of his current contract and leaving in free agency during the summer of 2022. The pressure is on. How the powers that be in San Francisco handle said pressure will be telling and franchise-altering.