The Golden State Warriors have been playing without a natural center for two weeks. Rookie James Wiseman suffered a wrist injury in the Jan. 30 win over the Detroit Pistons. Veteran Kevon Looney went down in the next game against the Boston Celtics.
The Dubs haven’t had a player taller than 6’7 since then but have gone 4-3 over their last seven games. Wiseman will be re-evaluated on Thursday.
“With a sprained wrist you don’t know if it will be one week, two weeks or three, so I’m just following each procedure, but there are no setbacks,” Wiseman said. “I’m just trying to improve and get better each day and it’s definitely getting better so I can’t wait to get back out there.”
Wiseman will miss Wednesday’s game against the Miami Heat but could return as early as Friday when Golden State kicks off a four-game road trip. The 19-year-old has played in 20 games this season, averaging 12.2 points and 6.1 rebounds while shooting 50.1 percent from the field.
While Wiseman has looked good on the offensive end, he still needs to improve defensively. The rookie needs to work on his strength to guard bigger opponents, and his positioning as a rim-protector has to get better. His -5.4 net rating is the second-worst on the team.
Still, the early returns on Wiseman have been good. He has shown flashes of the type of player he can develop into, and his athleticism is second-to-none. Wiseman has shown he is comfortable pulling the trigger from the 3-point line, connecting on 40.9 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
The Warriors got some good news on Looney as well. He and Wiseman both participated in the non-contact drills at practice and are on track to return in the next week as well.
“They’re coming along nicely,” Steve Kerr told 95.7 The Game on Tuesday. “Both guys are looking good and I wouldn’t expect them to be out too much longer. I don’t have a date for you, but I suspect at some point on this road trip coming up we’ll see both guys.”
Golden State’s small-ball approach has worked well, especially on the defensive end, ranking second in opponents’ field goal percentage since Looney got hurt. The Dubs’ 108.6 defensive rating over the past seven games is eighth-best in the NBA.
Without a true center, Kerr has been using Draymond Green as the primary facilitator on offense. Once the two big men return, it will be interesting to see how the head coach changes things up.
The Warriors have been up-and-down this season but have shown glimpses of how good they can be. With Wiseman continuing to get some reps under his belt and improving, he will be a big part of the Bay Area’s future.