The Golden State Warriors will play the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA's play-in tournament on Wednesday night. After getting 63 games (7/8ths of a season) out of both Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, they were able to clinch the 8-seed on the final day of the regular season. Imagine where they would be if they hadn't wasted that pick on James Wiseman.
I know that's unfair to Wiseman, but it is an indisputable fact that the Warriors threw away a season in Stephen Curry's prime by taking Wiseman. They could have flipped that pick for someone who could have helped them win now, which is what they should be doing as Curry enters his mid-30's and still averaging points in the low-30's.
Wiseman was fine when he was healthy, but he appeared in just 39 games before having season-ending knee surgery in April. He averaged 11.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game. (Rookie Stephen Curry averaged 4.5 rebounds a game.) The seven-footer had double-digit rebounds just three times. (Six-foot-three rookie Stephen Curry did it four times.) Wiseman looks like an NBA player, but he's closer to a project than a future star. Could he turn into a solid piece at some point? Yes, but when the Curry window closes, will it really matter?
There are a number of other players the Warriors could have drafted who would have had a bigger impact and helped them win more games this season. Not that the Warriors took a player who wouldn't have gone second anyway. And Wiseman could still turn into a really good player in the future. It's just that the smart play was probably always to trade the pick when it was all potential. Before it turned into Wiseman and he became the asset.
Could they have landed Jrue Holliday or some other player who can contribute to a title contender now? There are plenty of guys who could have given them what Wiseman gave them this year and now they're headed to the postseason (barely) with nothing to show for the second pick in the draft.
It's been five years since Joe Lacob told the New York Times that they were "light years ahead of probably every other team in structure, in planning, in how we're going to go about things." He was right at the time, but only because the hard work had been done. They signed Kevin Durant. Stephen Curry was under a team-friendly contract. Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were locked in to reasonable deals and didn't care about anything but winning.
That doesn't change the fact that they bottomed out last year. And this year with a healthy Steph they had to fight like hell to get to the postseason. It seems like a team that was light years ahead wouldn't be spending this much time so many games behind the best teams in the league.