Warriors Rumors: GS 'Really Liked' LaMelo Ball but Would've Drafted Wiseman at 1March 16, 2021
Despite LaMelo Ball's starmaking rookie season, the Golden State Warriors were reportedly always set on taking James Wiseman with their top pick in the 2020 NBA draft.
On the latest episode of Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective Podcast (starts at 33:40 mark), ESPN's Ramona Shelburne noted the Warriors "really liked" Ball, but they "were always focused" on selecting Wiseman and would have taken him if they had the No. 1 overall pick.
There has been speculation that the Warriors actually wanted to take Ball with the No. 2 pick in last year's draft.
ESPN's Jalen Rose reported on the March 8 episode of the Jalen & Jacoby Podcast (h/t Cody Taylor of USA Today) that the Warriors "told" Ball they were going to select him.
"Right after they got off the phone with LaMelo Ball's team, and telling them they were going to take him, I was a part of the next call," said Rose. "I sent an internal text to our producers on NBA Countdown and told them that. Then the pick happened, and they didn't (take him)."
Following Rose's comment, an Instagram Live video featuring Ball from draft night showed him holding up two fingers, appearing to indicate he was going to be the No. 2 pick.
Instead, the Warriors went with Wiseman and then Ball landed with the Charlotte Hornets at No. 3 overall.
As Wiseman's rookie campaign has passed the midway point, Shelburne also reported (h/t NBC Sports' Dalton Johnson) that there has been "organizational tension" over his usage thus far:
"There's some people in the organization that really want them to put James Wiseman out there more. Not necessarily with the benching and all that, that's a separate matter. But just putting him out there more. Letting him play through mistakes, letting him play more minutes, heavier minutes like the other two rookies even though the Warriors are trying to contend for the playoffs.
"There is this sense of the faster you can get James Wiseman up to speed, the faster he can learn and grow from his mistakes within the system—with Draymond as his big brother mentoring him on the court, off the court...the better the franchise is going to transition."
Klay Thompson was expected to return from a torn ACL he suffered during the 2019 NBA Finals. Stephen Curry was healthy after playing just five games last season because of injuries.
Golden State didn't receive much production at the center position in 2019-20 from Kevon Looney and Willie Cauley-Stein. The 7-foot Wiseman was the most logical pick for the Warriors at the time of the draft because of how their roster was built.
Thompson's Achilles injury suffered during a November workout did change the look of Golden State's roster. Ball's playmaking ability would have made him a better fit with the current group. He's averaging 15.8 points on 44.9 percent shooting, 6.3 assists and 6.0 rebounds in 38 games for the Hornets.
Wiseman has shown promise in his rookie season, but Ball looks like he will end up being the best player from the 2020 class. The Warriors center is averaging 11.8 points on 52.6 percent shooting and 6.0 rebounds in 29 games.