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NBA Draft 2020 Player Profile: James Wiseman

It wasn't Anthony Edwards, or La'Melo Ball, or even Cole Anthony who ranked as ESPN's No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2020. No, it was James Wiseman, a seven-footer out of Memphis East High School who hoped to stay in the city for his college years. However, Wiseman ran into problems with the NCAA before he ever really got rolling with the Tigers, playing in just three games before announcing he would instead focus on the 2020 NBA Draft. That means it will likely be nearly a year between Wiseman's last game of organized basketball, only adding to the intrigue surrounding the 19-year-old. There are no questions about the big man's talent, but will his game be able to translate to the modern NBA?

Quick Facts
James Wiseman
From: Nashville, Tennessee
Height & Weight: 7'1", 250 pounds
Position: Center
Team: Memphis Tigers


  • Size and rim protecting ability. It may sound like an empty complement, but James Wiseman looks like an NBA player. He stands at 7'1" with a 7'5" wingspan and 9'6" standing reach. Those are all favorable measurements for the NBA, even in a league that seems to focus on size and length like never before. Wiseman also uses that size in a way that can impact games; he's a great shot-blocker and he's incredibly active around the rim. Even if he doesn't block shots, Wiseman is the type of player that will effect every single shot that goes up. That's an obvious plus for him, and NBA teams are always looking for proven rim protectors.
  • Excellent touch and finishing around the rim. In three games for Memphis, Wiseman recorded 19.7 PPG on 77% shooting from the field. Obviously, those numbers are going to be inflated when you play a total of just 69 total minutes, but they were generally consistent with what Wiseman was able to do in high school. He has a wide variety of post moves that allow him to get his shot off, and he has a nice, soft touch. Wiseman is also terrific at finishing off lobs and put-back jams. His reach allows him to play above the rim, and he has the natural instincts and athleticism to get those easy put-back opportunities. 
  • Terrific rebounder, particularly on offense. You would hope that a seven-footer built like Wiseman would be effective on the boards, but that doesn't take away from his strengths. Again, his instincts and feel for rebounding are impressive for his age, and pretty advanced. He's also an incredibly hard worker, which makes him a real force on the offensive glass. It's tough to move him off the block, and he finds ways to get tips off the basket. In those three games with the Tigers, Wiseman recorded 4.3 offensive rebounds per game in just 23 minutes per game. Again, those numbers are going to be a little bit inflated, but that's still pretty mind-boggling production that he should be able to carry over to the NBA.
  • Mobile big that can run the floor in transition and defend multiple spots. This is the thing I find most impressive about watching Wiseman. Despite his size and length, he moves incredibly well, and has significant rim running potential for the next level. On defense, he's going to be used as a rim protector but in the modern NBA, he'll also be asked to move around quite a bit and defend on the perimeter. He has shown that he can do that, and he should be even more effective with NBA-level coaching.

  • Zero floor stretching ability at this point in his career. This is going to be the most prevalent knock you'll see against Wiseman, and it's somewhat understandable. The way the game of basketball is moving, big men are forced to play on the perimeter and create more than they ever have before. Sure, Wiseman has proven he can defend away from the rim, but can he consistently hit 20-footers? At this point in his career, it doesn't appear so. That doesn't mean he can't grow that part of his game, but his offensive game is still relatively limited right now. It will take at least a few years of development for him to really show his offensive potential, and I think he'll need to land in the right situation to do so.
  • Still very unproven beyond the high school level. This is a weakness that I wouldn't qualify as a major negative for the big man, as a number of people have made the jump to the NBA without much difficulty even without playing college ball. With that being said, you'd like to see how Wiseman matches up against top competition prior to his jump to the pros. His athleticism and pure talent made him so dominant in high school, but the type of defenders he'll see in the NBA are significantly different. He is going to have to grow and evolve different parts of his game in order to succeed at the next level. That doesn't mean he can't do that, but you'd like to see a fuller body of work from Wiseman. Just look at La'Melo Ball, who didn't go to college but still got important basketball experience by playing in Australia's NBL the past season, going up against real professionals in meaningful games. Again, I wouldn't categorize this as a major downfall for Wiseman, but it will be on NBA team's minds when they consider taking the big man.
  • Questions about consistency, focus game-to-game. Naturally, 19-year-old basketball players are going to be fairly inconsistent, as they continue to hone their craft and round out their games. Such is the case for Wiseman, who had a reputation in high school for incredibly streaky play. He obviously had his dominant moments and lots of them, but he did lose his focus at times and get into early foul trouble, which completely took him out of the game. This is something we see from young bigs often, particularly those who are considered good shot-blockers, because they can often be so eager to make defensive plays. He's going to have to show he can play a lot of minutes and maintain his focus on both ends of the floor. That is another issue that could be solved with more time, but it's certainly a question mark for Wiseman at this point, and one we didn't see improvement on in his short collegiate time. 
My Take
Of the three prospects I've featured so far in my "NBA Draft 2020 Player Profile" series, Wiseman is the one I feel the least confident in. If we had seen a player like him entering the NBA a decade ago, he'd probably be a shoe-in for a Top 3 selection, with his blend of athleticism, size, and overall upside. But, the center position in the league today is just so different. There's so much emphasis put on floor-spacing, and being able to do a lot of different things, and Wiseman is pretty limited at this point in his career. Of course, he has the upside to really grow into his game, but he's just so unproven right now, and he hasn't been able to change that narrative by impressive in pre-Draft workouts or the NBA Draft Combine, yet. Currently, he ranks No. 4 on my NBA Draft Big Board (behind Ball, Anthony Edwards and forward Deni Avdija), but perhaps he could change that as the NBA calendar begins to return to normal over the coming weeks and months.

Where He'll Go
Even with notable question marks, there's a very good chance Wiseman lands somewhere in the Top 5 of the 2020 NBA Draft, maybe even Top 3. This year's class is very underwhelming in terms of big men, with the only other name seriously rivaling Wiseman being USC's Onyeka Okongwu. Wiseman could really benefit from the fact that a number of the likely teams at the top of this Draft need another big. That includes Golden State, who reportedly really likes Wiseman, Atlanta, Minnesota and the New York Knicks. If things break right for Wiseman he could even be considered a strong candidate for the No. 1 pick, depending on how the pre-Draft process plays out.

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