James Wiseman trade leaves Joe Lacob, Warriors with sense of ‘regret’

Trading a deep reserve for a player who helped them win a championship last season while saving millions in luxury tax payments, at least on the surface, was an easy decision for the Golden State Warriors.

But James Wiseman is much different than most third-string centers, obviously, a reality Warriors owner Joe Lacob is still grappling with weeks after sending the former No. 2 overall draft pick to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Gary Payton II.

When asked how “hard” it was for him to move Wiseman at the trade deadline, Lacob indirectly admitted his personal affinity for the young seven-footer made parting ways with him especially difficult.

“Very hard. Very hard,” he told Tim Kawakami in a must-read interview at The Athletic. “You know, we might very well regret that one, longer term or even intermediate term. But as much as I love the guy, I can’t overrule what our basketball ops and our coaches and our players felt was the right thing to do. So it’s a consensus thing. We’re ‘we’, we’re not ‘me’. And we’re going to do what the best thing is and we felt it would improve our team short term and kind of went for it for Gary.”

Lacob had previously pushed back just in January on the notion that certain factions of Golden State’s front office held Wiseman in higher regard than others. He not only copped to keeping track of Wiseman’s box scores with Detroit of late, but also that other lead decision-makers had to “convince” him to pull the trigger on the trade that brought Payton back to the Bay.

“I think James is a really good young player and we’re not going to get many opportunities to draft a young guy like that again,” Lacob said. “And he really didn’t…let’s be honest, he didn’t really have a chance; it’s partially his fault, partially bad luck, partially our fault for not playing him enough.

“But we’re not getting an opportunity to get a big talent like that with size very often. I mean, it was a very hard decision for the organization, to be quite honest.”

Wiseman was never going to play a meaningful role on Golden State’s quest for back-to-back titles. He’s still far too raw on both ends to get consistent minutes for a contending team, and the Warriors’ preference for small-ball and ultimate trust in Draymond Green and Kevon Looney always ensured Wiseman would spend the playoffs riding the bench—even if he’d impressed during the regular season.

But that never came to pass, obviously, the subtle progress Wiseman made after being recalled from the G League interrupted by a foot injury that cost him a month play leading up to the trade deadline.

Moving him in a straight salary dump might’ve been worth it for Golden State given Lacob’s hesitance to pay a record luxury tax bill come 2023-24. Swapping Wiseman for a proven impact player—the Dubs weren’t aware of Payton’s injury upon agreeing to the trade—should’ve been a no-brainer.

Does that mean Wiseman has no chance to develop into a quality starting center? Opinions differ, but it’d be foolish to do away with that possibility entirely.

What became abundantly clear during the early stages of 2022-23, though, is that he wasn’t ready to play a part in this team’s core winning a fifth ring—the one goal that should be Golden State’s franchise-wide priority until Curry finally ages out of his extended prime.

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