The debate on whether the Warriors should have selected James Wiseman or LaMelo Ball with the No. 2 pick in November’s NBA Draft has raged all season, and but with Ball dropping 30 points last night against Portland and averaging 23.4 points, 7.6 assists, and 5.6 rebounds per game over his last five contests for the Charlotte Hornets, Warriors fans are openly wondering if their favorite team made a grave mistake in their selection.
It’s fair to wonder.
But I think there’s a bigger issue at hand. We’re all asking the wrong question.
Let’s get this straight: Wiseman is not Darko Milicic 2.0. His talent is undeniable and comes through in spurts amid his limited minutes for the Dubs. He’s also 19 years old and played in one serious college basketball game in his career. (No offense to the University of Illinois-Chicago and South Carolina State, but Wiseman might have been able to beat those teams on his own.) Centers with All-Star potential take years — a half-decade, even — to fully actualize, as there’s so much nuance to the big-man game. He’s just beginning his journey and deserves some slack.
The truth is that we won’t know if Wiseman was the right pick until he was 25 years old. Ball might have a head start and a shorter runway, but right now his reputation is based on his unique style on the offensive end of the court, which creates undeniable entertainment value. He’s going to need a few years to develop into even a bad NBA defender.
But that’s the issue. Whether it’s Ball or Wiseman, the Warriors don’t have a few years to wait and see.
Not if they’re trying to win titles in the here and now, that is.
Wiseman will turn 25 in March 2026. Draymond Green and Klay Thompson will be 36 years old at that time. Steph Curry will be 39.
Curry, Green, and Thompson are the golden generation of Warriors’ basketball. And I don’t know about you, but I’d want to maximize every year I have with that triumvirate, because we don’t know how many years they will continue to be great.
Yes, 2026 might appeal to the ownership group — it might extend the Warriors’ run of competence, keeping butts in the seats — but I doubt it will do anything to put more banners in the rafters.
And don’t get me wrong, I’m bullish on Wiseman, but I’m not even sure he’ll be an All-Star in the future (think about how hard it was for Rudy Gobert to make the team), much less an MVP candidate. Even if he’s the next Joel Embiid, is that someone who can lead a team to a title?
As for Ball, I have no idea if he’ll ever develop into a winning basketball player. He might just be the perfect player for the short-attention-span, social-media era — 10-second bursts of unteachable basketball brilliance surrounded by critical mistakes on both ends of the floor.
Time will tell with both. But again, time is not something the Warriors have.
That’s why the argument about Wiseman and Ball should include another player: Tyrese Haliburton.
You can’t tell me that the Sacramento Kings rookie, taken at No. 12, reportedly after tanking pre-draft interviews to funnel his way to Sacramento, isn’t exactly what the Warriors need right now.
Haliburton is currently sidelined with a calf injury, but he, like Ball, has been on a roll as of late, averaging 16 points and 5.3 assists per game in February, putting him and the Hornets guard in a neck-and-neck race for Rookie of the Year.
Haliburton’s numbers might not wow you, but his on-court performance will. He’s undeniable. All he does is make winning plays on both ends of the court, and he’s an efficient scorer, too, posting a 60 effective field goal percentage thanks to excellent shooting from beyond the arc (43 percent on 5.5 attempts per game this season).
Haliburton uses his 6-foot-8 wingspan to be a solid, switchy defender, he can run a second unit as a point guard (3.6-to-1 assist to turnover ratio), and can knock down 3-pointers at an elite rate.
How is that not what the Warriors need?
Look at Sacramento and the team whose 2021 NBA Draft pick might be heading to the Warriors, the Minnesota Timberwolves — you can go decades without finding another Steph Curry, without lucking into Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
Wiseman and Ball might be special players down the line, but neither will be as special as Curry and the Warriors’ championship core have been.
So I don’t care how Haliburton’s development for 2026, because at 21 years old, he would be closing for the Warriors instead of Kent Bazemore — he’d raise Golden State’s ceiling in 2021.
And that should have been the Warriors’ goal all along.