James Wiseman’s Imminent Warriors Return Spells Trouble for the Rest of the NBA

The Golden State Warriors have masterfully rebounded from two down years to go 42-17 at the All-Star break. Rather impressively, they’ve managed to do so without any contributions from James Wiseman.

Even on a team with All-Stars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, the 20-year-old Wiseman is still a very important part of Golden State’s present and future. However, the 7-footer hasn’t played all year due to a lengthy recovery from a torn meniscus.

Fortunately for the Warriors, Wiseman will eventually be back on the court. And it sounds like his return will occur very soon.

The Warriors reportedly expect James Wiseman back by March 1

The road to recovery has been rocky for both Wiseman and the Warriors. The young center tore his meniscus last April but was expected to return early on in the new campaign. However, the second-year man went under the knife in December for a second clean-up surgery.

Luckily, there is now an end in sight.

The Locked On Warriors podcast recently had Dieter Kurtenbach of Bay Area News Group on the program. Kurtenbach, who covers the Warriors, told the hosts that sources confirmed to him that Wiseman will return by March 1.

The date itself shouldn’t be all too surprising. Wiseman has been slowly progressing over the last few weeks with no setbacks. His latest achievement came on the Tuesday before the All-Star break when he participated in full-contact five-on-five workouts.

Golden State has two games leading up to Wiseman’s potential return, which will be an interesting road test against Karl-Anthony Towns and the surprising Minnesota Timberwolves.

Wiseman is more of a need than a luxury for Golden State

The Warriors have clearly managed to prove themselves as title contenders without Wiseman. So naturally, it may seem like his return won’t have much impact in the grand scheme of things.

However, Golden State’s slump before the break shows just how much it needs its promising center back on the court.

After winning nine games in a row, the Dubs dropped four of their last five in large part due to their struggles against opposing big men. Nikola Jokic, Julius Randle, Ivica Zubac, and Hassan Whiteside were all able to dominate their matchups against a Warriors team missing Draymond Green. And as a whole, Golden State was outrebounded by an average of 8.8 boards in those final five contests.

Obviously, Green’s back injury — which has cost him the last 20 games and will cost him several more over the next few weeks — is one reason Golden State’s frontcourt has been getting pushed around. But starting center Kevon Looney is also starting to wear down. The veteran, who’s started in all 59 games this season, has accrued just three double-doubles this calendar year.

Wiseman will help with all of the above. The 7-footer will provide some more size in the absence of Green, while also relieving veterans Looney and Nemanja Bjelica of some minutes. Although he won’t be on the court for long stretches, the 2020 second-overall pick should be able to serve as a quality big man on both ends.

A healthy James Wiseman will make the Warriors a greater title threat

Wiseman’s rookie season certainly had its ups and downs. The former Memphis Tiger appeared in just 39 games last year with 27 starts, averaging 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in 21.4 minutes. At times he looked like the future star many expected him to be coming out of the draft, while other times he looked lost on offense and would struggle on the defensive end.

Assuming many of his rookie-year issues are behind him, Wiseman’s return will only make the Warriors better. Which should downright terrify the rest of the NBA.

Despite injuries, Golden State is a highly-impressive 42-17. Its defense sits at the top of the NBA, Curry has been incredible, and the depth contributions from guys like Jordan Poole and Damion Lee have been noticeable. Now add a 20-year-old Wiseman to a shorthanded frontcourt, and suddenly Golden State is a team with few weaknesses if any at all.

When everyone is back, the Warriors could roll out a devastating starting lineup of Curry, Thompson, Wiggins, Green, and Wiseman. Even if they elect to start Looney, Wiseman would then be in a spot to dominate on a second unit featuring standouts like Poole, Lee, Otto Porter Jr., and Jonathan Kuminga. Either way, head coach Steve Kerr has no shortage of weapons at his disposal.

Given the fact it’s been over 10 months since his injury occurred, Wiseman shouldn’t play a major role immediately. But as the year progresses, don’t be surprised if he begins to round into form just in time for the Warriors to chase another championship.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

RELATED: NBA Trade Rumors: The Warriors Are Banking on James Wiseman’s Return as Their De Facto Deadline Acquisition