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What’s popping on Air-Ball

James Wiseman


Warriors fans, you guys need to chill the hell out with your criticisms of James Wiseman. The kid plays one game poorly against the Lakers of all teams and now he’s a scrub? Sorry he can’t handle guys like Montrezl Harrell and Dennis Schroeder defensively even though those two have made a career out of victimizing big men. Obviously, this isn’t ideal but the game to game expectations of a kid effectively straight out of high school who has only played 24 games are insane. This year per 36 minutes, Wiseman is averaging 21 points and 10.5 rebounds on 51.5 per cent shooting from the field. Anthony Davis in his rookie year put up 16.9 points and 10.2 rebounds on 51.6 per cent from the field. Keep in mind Davis was that year coming off of an all-time college season where he got a ton of reps and was on a terrible Hornets team just built for him to grow and still his numbers are eerily similar per 36 to Wiseman’s. I’m not saying Wiseman is going to be Davis. What I’m saying is that he’s a young big man trying to find his way in a brand new league and this is hard for literally every one of them other than like Shaq. For the first time in the NBA Wiseman is being guarded by people his size or bigger and guess what, it’s difficult. But he’s holding his own and contributing to a good team. Sure he has lapses sometimes but that’s the life of the young NBA big man. Grow up and give him some time because if he’s ever going to be the player Steve Kerr and Bob Myers envisioned he’s going to need it. 

Theo Maledon


For some reason this season every time I’ve tried to watch OKC, either Theo Maledon has been hurt or on the bench. However, this week I made a point of watching him against Atlanta and I came away impressed. Maledon has a certain maturity to his game that came across in France that is continuing in the NBA. When I watched him in Europe I saw a lot of the Mike Conley middle game craftiness but settled on a comp of Delon Wright (who is killing it in Detroit by the way) just because I hate giving All-Star player comps to guys in the middle of the first round. When I saw him fall to the second round I was surprised, wondering if maybe I missed something in the evaluation. Yet here we are and I can say confidently I’m happy I had him as a strong first-rounder. It shouldn’t come as a surprise but Tony Parker’s disciple is crafty and smart and those are two things that clearly translate at the guard spot. There’s a lot to like in his game and the fact OKC got him in round two is crazy value. I mean we’re 29 games into the season and he’s already had a game with 24 points, one with six steals, one with 12 assists and one where he made six threes. It’s pretty unusual for a rookie to find a way to impact different games in so many ways early, especially for a second-rounder. Maledon’s ceiling is tough to predict because his athleticism is meh and his skill doesn’t seem to be good enough to make up for it on a star level but the fact I still see a strong contributor on a good team is quite the value play from Sam Hinkie and something that Thunder fans should be really excited about. 

Tyrese Maxey


Last week I wrote about how the Raptors are ruining Malachi Flynn so it only makes sense to dunk on the Sixers for doing basically the same thing. In the last 10 games, Tyrese Maxey hasn’t played more than 18 minutes once, has only broken 17 minutes twice and has three DNPs. I just do not understand the value of having him sit on the bench instead of getting real reps in the G-League. Like why is basketball the last sport to figure out you need to actually play to improve? In hockey and baseball, they both have famously large minor league systems that a majority of the players play a full season at minimum. Even in football now people have basically given up on the idea of not playing a rookie for a year and letting them learn for throwing them in the deep end and seeing what they have. Yet somehow in basketball we still take these players with tons of talent and stick them on the bench for years and then wonder why they have no confidence when they get in. Look at a guy like Malik Monk who was never given a real run, ruined his confidence and has somehow miraculously saved it in his fourth season. Monk has been a mess for eighty per cent of his career and he’s the exception to this rule. Usually, guys like him run into the Ben Mclemore, Nik Stauskas situation and are out of the league in five years. Instead of NBA teams learning from previous mistakes and giving these guys real reps with pro coaching in the G-League, they sit them on the bench and hope they learn by what, osmosis? I understand there’s value in being around Doc Rivers and his staff and veterans like Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Danny Green and more but I just will never understand why these NBA teams poor millions of dollars into a system like the G-League and not maximize it. If Maxey isn’t good enough to get real minutes as a rookie, fine. But at least let him get game reps in moments that matter instead of only playing him for an extended stretch when his team is up 37 against Indiana on a Monday night. 

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