James Wiseman was like a comet this year, bursting onto the scene as the #1 recruit from the 2019 class and posting huge numbers right out of the gate for Memphis. And then just as suddenly as he appeared, he was gone, suspended by the NCAA after only 3 games, never to play in the college ranks again.
In those 3 games he showed why he was the top recruit in the nation. He has a massive 7'1", 240 pound frame. He runs like a guard and has soft hands. He looked David Robinson-esque at times, towering over his poor, overmatched opponents as he flew by them on the way to another dunk. He put up numbers that would've placed him squarely in the National Player of the Year discussion if he'd been able to maintain them over the course of a full season: 20 PPG / 11 RPG / 3 BPG.
So does our model see these 3 games as a sign of things to come or as an aberration against weak competition?
- Wiseman was a huge positive on offense in the games he played. He had an Offensive BPM of 10.7, which was second all time to only Zion Williamson for bigs in our database. This makes sense, as having a massive lob threat and powerful offensive rebounder occupies a ton of defensive attention
- He lived at the free throw line. He shot 14.1 attempts per 36 from the line, enough for #1 in our entire database. He also made them at a respectable rate, shooting 70%
- He had the highest ever True Shooting percentage in our database at 74%. Again, it makes. sense that he's an efficient scorer considering how many dunks he made and free throws he took
- Our model graded him as a 97/100 on defense. His Defensive BPM was solid if unspectacular at 5.8 (86th percentile for bigs), but he did block 4.7 shots per 36 (98th percentile for bigs). It's a tiny sample size, but these numbers support the theory that he'll be a great rim protector but could stand to improve his defensive awareness.
- He rated as a 100/100 in our model as a rebounder. He also posted the most boards per 36 in our entire database at 16.7 per 36
- He hasn't shown that he can be a threat as a shooter. The 70% he shot from the stripe and his high school highlights provide hope that there's untapped potential there. But do you really want him on the perimeter anyway?
- He was a black hole on offense. He only averaged 0.5 assists per 36 (5th percentile for bigs).
- The tiny sample size. Again, he only played 3 games. Our model's making some generous inferences here.
- There have been quiet but persistent character concerns about him. Whether they're about his inconsistent effort level in high school, the NCAA suspension, or his high school suspension, the hiccups have been enough to make one pause
Wiseman will be a useful player from day one. He'll rack up points, rebounds, and blocks regardless of who selects him. He has a body and an athleticism that ensures that he'll occupy defensive attention as the roll man on pick and rolls, and that he'll swat plenty of shots into the stands.
That being said, I'll always worry about any prospect where effort has ever been a concern. And Wiseman hasn't shown enough of a jump shot or a post game to give credence to the idea that he'll ever be more than a top-tier rim runner on offense. On defense, he'll protect the rim right away, but he lacks the quickness and technique to avoid being played off the floor in the playoffs a la Rudy Gobert. Wiseman will be a highly productive player in the NBA, but not one worth betting the farm on.
- Our Comp: Hassan Whiteside
- Suggested Draft Range: Top 5
- Immediate Impact: High (imposing lob threat and rim protector, will struggle defending pick and roll)
- Long Term Potential: Moderate (elite rim runner and rim protector, 18 PPG / 14 RPG / 3 BPG)