Age: 19 (March 31st, 2001)
Weight: 240 lbs
There is a lot to like physically at 7’1 with a great 7’6 wingspan. He also moves incredibly well for someone at this size. On offense, he is a great rim runner as he can beat his man down the floor regularly and is a huge target for finishing. James has the ability to finish with both hands solidly on the move as long as his momentum is towards the rim. This translates to his game in the pick and roll as he can catch lobs and take advantage of his athleticism. Wiseman was also setting hard screens at college with the understanding that the better screen he sets, the more likely he is to finish the play, which can be a hard concept to understand for a lot of young bigs. Wiseman’s actions at Memphis showed that he wants to learn and wants to adapt. His effort level spiked once he reached Memphis. It’s common for a lot of the most talented AAU players to not play team ball because they want to showcase their talent. Penny Hardaway (Memphis head coach) influenced him to play his role and was teaching him the little things. Wiseman has matured and understands the nuances of basketball. He is most proud of his defense and wants to be special on that end of the floor and has the tools to do so. He moves very well laterally. I think his footwork and angles can improve at times, but there is massive potential for his ability to switch defensively. Then as a rim protector, he has great timing and the length to come in day 1 and execute that role. He has impressive hops to get up too which makes it even more difficult to get the ball over him. Another area he has improved since high school is his awareness. He sees ball and man very well now and can slide over quickly and be ready to contest. As a rebounder, he is elite. He can get up and has good timing. He has the motor to grab rebounds on the offensive glass and get around box-outs. Offensively, Wiseman has a promising start to developing a potential-jump shot. With a high, quick, and fluid release, the mid-range has become one of Wiseman’s bigger strengths. His jumper is a staple of his game. From the fadeaway to the baseline J, Wiseman has proved himself inside the arc. I think it’s only a matter of time before we see him become a reliable 3 point shooter. Other areas of strength include his ability to bring the ball up the floor. He has impressive handles for a center. I also believe he can be a good teammate and team-player. This is crucial for centers nowadays as it’s rare to win when playing through your center. James Wiseman’s grown up a lot since his AAU days and I believe he understands a lot of these things. Most of his weaknesses people consider are from his AAU days, because he was more selfish, but I don’t see them as weaknesses. I see them as strengths because he went through that process and faced the obstacles head-on and experienced that overcoming moment with Penny Hardaway that he can’t do it on his own. That’s a humbling experience you can’t replace.
His biggest weakness is his assertiveness on the offensive end at times. He settles for fadeaways and jumpers too often for someone his size. He needs to get his momentum towards the basket more often when he is within 8 ft. Wiseman is also not a great threat to just throw the ball to on the block, because of that lack of physicality and his footwork. He has the room to develop a post-game, but it is not there now. Another area of growth must be his concept of spacing. He gets caught standing close to teammates or just standing at the rim too often. Then as a passer, this is one of the areas where I believe there’s a very low ceiling because passing doesn’t come naturally to him. He can be willing but it’s awkward looking for him at times and has a low IQ in this area. I think this could limit his usage rate in the NBA. On defense, his feet and angles are his biggest weaknesses, but this is something that should be fixed fairly early in his career. It probably wouldn’t be a weakness if he had played the whole year and gotten that experience. It’s mostly just needing to watch film and then it’s just about repetition because he moves very naturally for someone his size. Wiseman also tends to be jump happy on pump fakes which is a concern against a Joel Embiid on the block, but this will not be a detriment to how good of a rim protector he’ll become. The last weakness I would say is just his ability to change games at the next level. It’s hard for centers to do that. He can’t be the #1 option on a championship-caliber team because of the nature of the game and that is a disadvantage for his stock compared to all of the guards at the top of this class.
Despite those last points mentioned, I have Wiseman #1 on my board. He has the best chance of becoming an all-star out of anyone in this class. With James, I see a mature person that is built like one of the most perfect centers for today’s game in terms of his frame and physicals. He is tall, long, and agile which is rare to this extent. Wiseman can also clean the glass very which should help him develop into becoming a more physical player at times especially on the offensive end. Then with the addition of the jump shot potential, it’s hard to not love him as a prospect. Obviously, there are minor concerns such as footwork on both ends and I don’t see him as the first option for an offense, but in ways, that’s a positive. Playing through centers just doesn’t work in today’s game generally so his game allows teams versatility to go with different lineups and he will instantly make everyone around him look better. Also, many think of his personality in a negative way, because he got suspended (not his fault) for his parents accepting a bribe from Penny who was not the coach at the time to move out to Nashville, and then people also didn’t like that he stopped playing with the NCAA. In his defense, I think the NCAA mishandled the situation and he felt betrayed. Then Wiseman decided to sit out the year and train on his own. It’s possible he didn’t want to do the schoolwork if he wasn’t going to be able to play, but he was only getting one year of education that would not benefit his NBA career. When you hear him talk, you really understand the love he has for the game as he talks about watching many previous generation big men such as Shaq, Hakeem, and David Robinson and talked about wanting to just play his role, specifically defensively. This might be considered playing it safe to some, but Wiseman is the type of player I would feel comfortable drafting this high and knowing I’m getting a great return.
Article Written by Bradley Patten
Measurements found on SBNation (https://www.sbnation.com/nba/2019/12/21/21031750/james-wiseman-nba-draft-2020-memphis-tigers-scouting-report)
Photo Credit to Joe Murphy/Getty Images (https://www.forbes.com/sites/brendonkleen/2019/11/08/memphis-center-james-wiseman-potential-top-nba-draft-pick-legal-battle/#7a55d5523b5e)