LaMelo Ball’s standout rookie season that ended in the Rookie of the Year award was not only a definitive statement of Ball being the best player in his draft class but a short-term indictment on the teams that passed on Ball, namely in the Golden State Warriors.
While the Timberwolves still landed an impactful rookie in Anthony Edwards, the Warriors struggled through the season with center James Wiseman’s up-and-down play a subject of much criticism. In fact, once Wiseman was lost for the season in mid-April, Golden State surged to make the play-in games.
Despite Wiseman’s struggles and Ball’s impressive season, Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob wasn’t ready to admit a mistake. In an appearance on The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami’s podcast, Lacob discussed Wiseman’s season in comparison to the seasons from Edwards and Ball (h/t NBC Bay Area):
“Where you go matters. The guy in Charlotte, LaMelo Ball, excellent player, had a great year. Probably deserves Rookie of the Year, but I could argue Anthony Edwards too. We thought those were great players, too. Would they have the same years with us? Situation matters. I don’t know. Would you have the same opportunity to just chuck it like Anthony Edwards? I don’t know. I don’t think so. That matters.
“They put up numbers…I’m looking at three, four years down the line. What is this guy going to provide for this team for the next decade or so? And I think this guy that we drafted is going to be great. I think he’s going to be an All-Star level player. Nothing I saw this year diminishes that belief.”
It’s predictable that Lacob would defend his player, but bringing up Ball and Edwards seems to be setting Wiseman up for failure. Wiseman very well could have a bright future as any number of great players in the long history of the NBA have struggled in their first season. Directly comparing him to two players taken in the same area of him that did not struggle in their rookie years is as unfair as the criticisms he was “flabbergasted” about in the same interview with Kawakami.
And while Lacob is right in that situations mattered and allowed Ball and Edwards to succeed, the former was available with the Warriors draft pick and looked to be a perfect fit for Golden State on paper. Golden State passing on him is a move that could really, really backfire in the future if Wiseman does not overcome those struggles.