James Wiseman is the epitome of the top of the board in this year’s NBA Draft.
Like LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards, Wiseman has flashes of all-star potential. Similarly, he has massive questions on mentality, the competition faced and the ability to sustain excellence that has scouts perplexed.
Wiseman at this point is much more a projection than player and that has to scare even his biggest fans.
He played only three games at Memphis, looking like most elite young bigmen look early in college. At times he looked like a first-team All-American while others, veterans like Payton Pritchard abused him defensively.
Wiseman is about as raw a prospect as you’ll find for a number one player out of high school coming to the NBA. The truth is, despite the fact he’s a year out of high school, he really is coming straight out.
That’s part of what makes his evaluation so difficult.
When watching him at that level, he looks like a young Kevin Garnett mixed with DeAndre Jordan. But the question is, what top prospect isn’t going to look like that in high school, especially when Wiseman is such an athletic freak at seven feet tall.
He runs the floor like a gazelle according to my notes and finishes at the rim with ease. There are moments when you watch him when your jaw simply just drops. It’s very unusual to get athletic marvels like this entering the NBA.
No one is questioning that though.
It takes about 12 seconds watching him before you see the obvious talent. Even on top of all the athleticism he has, his jump shot shows the technique of real promise going forward. He also seems to be well on his way to defending the rim at an impressive level.
What holds me back from falling in love though is I just don’t feel the fight or love and desire I look for in top prospects.
In the state semi-final I watched, Wiseman was defensively abused by a bunch of players who barely touched his shoulders. For half a quarter plus they were giving it to him and he really didn’t push back until one of his jumpers fell and it kind of woke him up.
Before that though, watching a player of his ilk and size be pushed around is more than just concerning. I struggle to justify a top three pick on a guy who gets pushed around in high school at times.
How do I hope to have him box out a guy like Joel Embiid or even PJ Tucker when kids who will struggle to get a D1 offer give him troubles?
At some point, as great as the talent is, I need to see some fight and competition. It’s difficult to draft a guy with the hope of being a big-time defender when he just doesn’t show the fight or desire.
I really have serious questions for him about how much he loves the game.
People love to blame the NCAA for his career at Memphis ending but always seem to leave out he was only suspended 10 games. It was his choice to leave school as by Christmas he would’ve been eligible again.
Look at guys like Cole Anthony and Zion Williamson who got hurt in college and we all would’ve understood if they sat out. Instead, the two fought to return for their love of playing the game.
If I’m going to take a project with the idea of him developing to that elite level, it’s difficult to rationalize it when his love for the game has to at least be questioned. I understand the frustration of that suspension but 10 games is hardly a disaster.
As great as his flashes are, the mentality of Wiseman truly worries me. He lacks the fire and desire to be great and to me that puts him dangerously inline to be the next Javale McGee instead of Joel Embiid.
You’d be hardpressed to find a player with more athletic tools and gifts than Wiseman has coming in. Couple that with his potential to shoot at a high-level, touch around the rim and obvious gifts that should lead to top notch defence and he should be the lock number one pick.
Time and again in this draft we’re shown that as tantalizing as talent may be, that talent is attached to a human being. If that human isn’t a worker or at least love the game, I’m not sure the risk is worth the reward.
Wiseman gives me serious vibes of a guy who plays basketball because he’s a freak athlete and seven feet tall instead of a basketball player that happens to have those gifts. I just can’t shake that idea out of my head, no matter how truly special what he brings to the table may be.
- Franchise cornerstone big-man inline with the Joel Embiid’s of the world (best-case)
- Impressive rim runner that never really added to his game and is still inconsistent defensively, essentially Javale McGee (worst-case)
- Kevin Garnett: The measurables, athleticism and offensive gifts are eerily similar to a young KG
- Deandre Jordan: Elite rim runner, lob threat and rim protector who despite other offensive limitations is a really valuable piece
- Javale McGee: Disappointing based on pre-draft ceiling but still mananges long journeyman career as useful role player that lives off athletic gifts
- Freaky athlete
- Perfect body for NBA
- Jump shot stroke shows major potential for pick and pop range all the way out to three
- Outside standing lob threat with great touch in and around the basket
- Impressive footwork for size and age
- Inconsistent effort
- Can be pushed around
- Defensive awareness is questionable
- Overall feel on the court at both ends leaves much to be desire
- Despite positive jump shot projection, relies on it way too much right now