Who is James Wiseman and Can He Become the 2020 NBA First-Overall Draft Pick?
After just three college games the teen-aged center is taking his talents to the NBA
18-year-old basketball phenom James Wiseman has decided to end his college career after three games to pursue an NBA career in next year’s draft. Despite his lack of experience, can he parlay his talent into becoming the first overall pick and a future star?
The 7’1” and 240-pound Wiseman was a highly-coveted freshman for Memphis University. Unfortunately, just 69 minutes into his collegiate career, he was suspended 12 games after an NCAA investigation determined that current coach, and former school booster, Penny Hardaway, made an $11,500 payment to the youngster and his mother in 2017 (before Hardaway had been named coach) to assist them in being able to move closer to the school. The youngster was also required to pay back the sum in question.
After serving the first seven games of his suspension, Wiseman decided college was not to be for him after all and took to his Instagram account on December 19th to announce his plans to seek employment in the NBA- including hiring an agent and preparing for the 2020 draft.
During his brief tenure with Memphis, he offered a tantalizing glimpse of what the professional ranks might expect if they decide to draft the athletic center. In those three games, he averaged 23 minutes, 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, three blocks, all while shooting 76.9%. It is significant to note that only one of those games came against a ranked team (Oregon), while the other two were against proverbial soup cans (University of Illinois-Chicago and South Carolina State).
Even with a lack of big-game experience, Wiseman has extremely desirable physical attributes. In addition to his height, he has a 7’4.5” wingspan and 9’6” standing reach. In other words, he’s massive. However, it’s not all about size. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor made an exhaustive scouting report of the big man’s game, noting “Wiseman’s appeal is in his ability to create plays for himself off the dribble. The problem is he doesn’t make jumpers at a high percentage, and he takes them far too frequently.”
Being 18 means that the big man’s game is far from complete. Interested teams will have to base their decision on workouts, limited game tape and dreaming big on projecting his physical attributes. O’Connor went on to say, “It’s hard not to fall in love with Wiseman’s game. He can do a little bit of everything as a scoring big, and he looks the part of an enforcer on defense.”
Barring a major turn of events, it appears Wiseman is a lock to be a high lottery pick, but his goal will obviously be to be taken first overall. There should be no shortage of teams drafting high who could use a talented center like him. He would be an intriguing fit, if not a project, for current bottom-dwelling teams like the New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Perhaps, the most interesting possible scenario would be pairing him with 2019 first-overall pick Zion Williamson with the New Orleans Pelicans. Currently sitting at 7–23, the team is still waiting for the injured Williamson to play his first NBA game, and even when he does return, it’s hard to envision them being able to climb out of their hole and the lottery. Pairing two such physical young forces would be the makings of a marketer’s dream, if not a dynamo contender.
Owning a high draft pick, and especially the first-overall selection in the NBA draft, is an incredibly valuable commodity. Many teams prefer going with players that they can fall back on more scouting and game tapes to validate their decision. That can’t be the case with Wiseman. The best young players are worth taking gambles, and he may well be such a leap of faith.
Wiseman has the interesting distinction of being both well known and also having a number of question marks given his unorthodox path to the NBA. He will certainly be among the top few names discussed as the first overall pick in next year’s draft and has the potential of changing the fortunes of whichever team selects him if he develops into the player many believe he is capable of.