Biggest James Wiseman takeaways from 20-point Warriors preseason debut

What stood out most from Wiseman's 20-point preseason debut originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The butterflies were there, but the monkey is now off James Wiseman's back. Entering his third year as a pro, Wiseman's first preseason game couldn't have gone much better.

Wiseman scored a game-high 20 points in nearly 25 minutes off the bench Friday morning, leading the Warriors to a 96-87 win over the Washington Wizards in their preseason opener at Saitama Super Arena. The 21-year-old center did play four Las Vegas Summer League games in July, but this was the first time he faced NBA competition since April 10, 2021. He couldn't have been happier to be back.

"It felt good just to be out there with my teammates and just to be playing," Wiseman said to reporters. "It's been like one and a half years, two years, so just being out there playing feels good.

"It's just a preseason game, so I'm going to keep working. It's only one game."

His points and minutes played certainly are eye-opening. His return was about more than just box score analysis, though. Here's what stood out most.

Simplicity

Time and time again, Steve Kerr has admitted that he and the Warriors have learned from their mistakes after Wiseman's rookie year. They simply asked way too much out of him at such a young age and with such limited experience. His preseason debut was simplified down and allowed him to showcase the knowledge he quickly has picked up.

Half of Wiseman's points came off dunks. He didn't even attempt a 3-pointer, although that skill is part of his arsenal and can be utilized down the road. The big man excelled in pick-and-rolls, setting screens and dribble handoffs. That's especially true when being used with players who will space the floor, à la an alley-oop from Steph Curry.

Wiseman only had two turnovers in the win. One was where Kerr let Wiseman be a playmaker early in the second quarter. Curry gave Wiseman the ball at the of the arc before sprinting off a screen set by Jonathan Kuminga. Wiseman recognized the action and immediately swung the ball back to Curry. The pass was just too high for the guard's extended arm.

The result wasn't what the Warriors wanted, but the process was. Draymond Green immediately turned to Wiseman and gave him a thumbs up, despite the turnover.

"James has had a really good few days of practice," Kerr said. "Just his understanding of spacing and defensive communication, being in the right place -- he just has a much better sense of the NBA game now than he did when he was playing a couple years ago. And for good reason.

"He's been putting a ton of work in. Obviously last year despite the injury he was watching and studying tape and learning from our older guys. Couldn't be happier for James. He's just done such a good job, put in so much work and to see him rewarded in the first preseason game is just fantastic."

Explosiveness

It didn't take long for Wiseman to show off how quickly he can get from Point A to Point B. Look at his first two points as a prime example.

With the ball rolling on the ground, Wiseman takes one step and explodes for the dunk. Two points, just like that.

Now let's watch his alley-oop from Curry early in the second quarter. With the ball in the Splash Brother's hands, the floor is completely clear and spaced out. Wiseman's screen for the pick-and-roll wasn't one that is going to drop Wizards guard Monte Morris.

What to watch is his explosiveness of setting his feet and immediately rolling for two easy points. For being 7-foot, the young big man is lumbering around the court. There's a quick twitch to his game.

Wiseman's full-game highlights show multiple examples of this. On an entry pass from Green, Wiseman is able to catch the pass from his opponent and get up for two points. Halfway through the third quarter, he perfectly executed a dribble handoff with Donte DiVincenzo and rolled with authority for yet another dunk.

All eyes were on how Wiseman looked running up and down the floor. He passed that test with ease. Up and down the floor, Wiseman didn't look like someone who has seen the start to his career hampered by a knee injury that held him out for the final 18 games of his rookie year and all of last season. Athletically, he looked much more like what the Warriors expected when the Warriors made him the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Added Element

What was clear from his progress in summer league and after one preseason game is what an added element Wiseman brings to the Warriors. Even his lone block showed why. The result wasn't a leaping swat, but one where Wiseman can use all of his 7-foot-6 wingspan to his advantage.

Along with his 20 points, Wiseman also grabbed a game-high nine rebounds. As a rookie, he only reached that number five times in the 39 games he played. Warriors starting center Kevon Looney hauled in at least nine rebounds in 24 games last season. But in Year 3, the veteran did only once. In his second season, he never accomplished the feat.

Looney, 6-foot-9, led the Warriors with 83 dunks last season while playing in all 82 regular-season games. In Wiseman's shortened rookie season, he threw down 84 dunks in 43 fewer games. The Warriors shot 26.9 percent from 3-point range in the win. Off nights will happen. Wiseman giving them easy buckets is a giant advantage.

His biggest highlight of the night was a poster dunk on Kristaps Porziņģis, all 7-foot-3 of him. The dunk deserved its retweets, though it also deserves some context. Wiseman went from guarding Porziņģis from deep to recognizing right away the shot was an errant one, running down the floor and getting in position to catch a pass from DiVincenzo and throw it down on Porziņģis.

Warriors coaches begged Kuminga to run the floor with purpose last season to take advantage of his athleticism. If both Kuminga and Wiseman are attacking downhill and striding towards the basket, get out of the way.

RELATED: 'Special' Wiseman details approach after five-dunk game

This still is the preseason, and it's only one game. What a start and what a return for Wiseman. Now, let's see how the big man responds.

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