Mailbag: Should the Warriors feature James Wiseman more?

As always, thanks to everyone who submitted questions. You can submit questions for future mailbags to [email protected] and on Twitter.

Will the Warriors implement plays to feature James Wiseman? — Michael J.

They already have. Wiseman is central to the Warriors’ burgeoning pick-and-roll attack, and we’ve seen Steve Kerr leverage Wiseman’s outside jumper early in games. Through eight games, he has the second-highest usage rate on the team (a figure that measures the percentage of a team’s possessions a player has used when on the floor) behind only Stephen Curry.

But Wiseman, who has averaged 11.3 points on 46.8% shooting (41.7% from 3-point range), 6.0 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 21.3 minutes per game, is not a playmaker like Curry and Draymond Green — he’s a finisher. It’s telling that 28 of his 36 made field goals were assisted and 61% of his shots have come after zero dribbles, according to NBA.com’s tracking data.

That’s not to say he hasn’t flashed the ability to create. There have been moments when he dribbles the ball to push the break or takes a plodding center off the dribble, but those moments are rare. The biggest thing for Wiseman is staying on the court. After playing more than 20 minutes in each of his first four NBA games, Wiseman has eclipsed that mark just once in the last four as he has dealt with early foul trouble and rookie mistakes.

Against the Clippers on Wednesday, the Warriors tried to run a play through Wiseman at the top of the key, but when it took too long to develop, L.A.’s Serge Ibaka stripped Wiseman of the ball and the Clippers broke away for fast-break score. When Wiseman didn’t hustle back on defense, Kerr removed him from the game.

“There was a lot of confusion on the offensive end,” Wiseman said. “I was trying to wait on Steph to come off the screen, but he didn’t come. I was like, should I make a move, or should I wait on Steph? That’s how I kept getting those turnovers.

“It was kind of confusing to me, so I got really frustrated,” he added.

On nights when Wiseman is playing well, I’d expect them to go to him more often. But it’s also important to note that the team is spoon-feeding the 19-year-old slowly, taking a patient approach to his development.

How bad do you think the Warriors would have to be at the deadline for the front office to choose to offload salary (Kelly Oubre Jr. most likely) purely for savings purposes (given that luxury tax is based on the year-end roster, so they’re not locked into the current monster tax bill yet)? — @MidLvlException.

The acquisition of Oubre on the heels of Klay Thompson’s season-ending Achilles tear added nearly $70 million to Golden State’s luxury-tax bill. With this current roster, the Warriors are on the hook for a $137 million check at the end of the season — though they could get some relief as NBA revenue decreases.

Still, using the trade exception on Oubre was a move directed at making the playoffs. They’d have to clearly be out of playoff contention to do anything drastic in terms of shedding salary.

Even if they wanted to move off Oubre or Andrew Wiggins, it’s unclear how’d they do it. Not many teams will want to pay Oubre, struggling with his jump-shot, in the final year of his contract. Wiggins has three years and nearly $95 million left on his contract. Not only is he still viewed as a negative asset throughout the league, but it’s also unlikely (or impossible) because of salary-matching rules for another team to take that contract on and offer the Warriors much relief before the season.

Now, if Joe Lacob decides he wants to reduce next season’s expenses and avoid another tax bill of $100 million-plus, he could seek to flip Wiggins for an expiring contract (such as Otto Porter Jr., LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan). That would save them a $31.6 million cap hit next season and much more in luxury tax. But it would also mean losing two of the team’s top wings in one summer and creating a hole at small forward.

Did the Dubs sign Jeremy Lin to the G League? — Marva.

Yes, but don’t get too excited. Lin is attempting an NBA comeback but, if he succeeds, it likely won’t be with the Warriors, who already have Brad Wanamaker, Jordan Poole and Nico Mannion backing up Curry. The only way for the Warriors to create room for Lin would be to waive Mychal Mulder’s non-guaranteed deal (not happening) or cut bait on Alen Smailagic (which would dig the Warriors further into the tax). All of that for a guy who hasn’t played in the NBA in nearly two years? Not likely.

Why is Kerr allergic to pick-and-roll? — @revengeszn30.

This narrative might start to flip this season, as more than 21% of Golden State’s possessions have come in a pick-and-roll. Yes, Kerr has traditionally been reluctant to run a ton of pick-and-roll, but that’s because he prefers a more unpredictable offense. This roster demands more simple pick-and-roll play, but he also won’t run as much as those Rockets teams that slumped in the postseason in part because their offense was too predictable.

Getting excited about the T-Wolves pick? — Tim Smith.

The Warriors own Minnesota’s top-three protected first-round pick in a 2021 draft that is widely regarded as one of the strongest in a long time. Here’s a question: Are the 2-6 Timberwolves too bad?

How sure can we be that Golden State will use the DPE this season? — @SnipaCurry.

Not sure at all. There’s no one currently available who would greatly improve the Warriors’ playoff chances and, as I pointed out in regards to Lin, the Warriors don’t have an open roster spot. They’ll monitor the buy-out market after the trade deadline in March, but think of the disabled player exception as a “break glass in case of emergency”-type option.

Will Oubre re-sign next season? — Kevin L.

For the luxury-tax reasons laid out earlier and because Thompson should return, probably not. Both sides are using each other this season: The Warriors need Oubre to replace Thompson in the lineup for a few months; and Oubre is hoping to trampoline from this experience into his next lucrative contract.

The Warriors have a very tough stretch of games leading up to MLK day vs the Lakers. Realistically, what record do you think they should have coming out of this to say it was successful? — @allthehypepod.

After this two-game series against the Clippers, the upcoming slate offers no relief: Toronto, Indiana, at Denver, at Phoenix and at the Lakers. In all, seven games against teams that made the playoffs last season and the Suns who, at 6-2, have the Western Conference’s best record. Going 3-4 over the stretch would be a huge success, but showing growth and the ability to compete against these top teams is even more important.

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