With the NBA in the process of outlining serious plans to resume their suspended season by July, the Spurs playing competitive basketball sometime soon seems like an unrealistic possibility, especially given their circumstances. San Antonio was well out of contention before coronavirus put everything on hold, and a 71-year-old Gregg Popovich is among those at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.
Even if games restarted at a singular location, is there any incentive for the good guys to return to action? Winning games could hurt their lottery odds, losing games wouldn’t improve their chances, and risking the health of their players doesn’t feel like a risk worth taking. Instead of fighting for an inevitable exit, wouldn’t it make more sense to regroup and prepare for the 2020 Draft and the crucial offseason that lies ahead?
James Wiseman | Memphis | Freshman | Center |
Weight: 237 lbs
2020 Stats (3 GP)
Per Game: 19.7 PPG/10.7 RPG/0.3 APG/0.3 SPG/3.0 BPG
Per 36: 30.8 PPG/16.7 RPG/0.5 APG/0.5 SPG/4.7 BPG
Shooting Splits: .769 FG%/.000 3P%/.704 FT%
James Wiseman is a fairly unrefined offensive talent with the potential and physical tools to become a greater all-around scoring threat as he develops. While the freshman center showed aptitude as a primary option in his markedly abbreviated stint at Memphis, he would best fill a limited rim-running role as he transitions to the next level.
Wiseman possesses exceptional mobility at the center position, and his ridiculous catch radius coupled with a distinct ability to run the floor in transition makes him a uniquely gifted prospect. Although his vertical pop doesn’t stand out as much in crowded spaces, his timing, length, and pursuit of the ball resulted in an eye-popping 6.7 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes and several second-chance points.
The big man was dubbed a “unicorn” in high school for his captivating inside-out game, but he reduced his long-distance attempts considerably and played to his strengths for Coach Penny Hardaway. Despite minimal post moves and a clear desire to go to his left hand, Wiseman demonstrated the capacity to finish around the basket and seal his man for better positioning in the paint. With that said, exhibiting more physicality in mismatches instead of bailing out smaller defenders with fadeaways would be a nice step in the right direction.
As for his jumper, consistency rather than mechanics appear to be the biggest obstacle to it evolving into a legitimate weapon. Although Wiseman isn’t a player you want shooting off the bounce, he has a high smooth release from midrange when set, and his solid free throw percentage hints at some promise as a pick-and-pop and spot-up three-point shooter.
James rarely dribbled or created opportunities for others, and rudimentary handles and sub-par court vision imply putting the ball on the floor or acting as a facilitator in any capacity may never become part of his repertoire. Still, his low turnover rate was an encouraging sign for someone who doesn’t accumulate many assists, and smart front offices won’t ask him to operate as anything more than a screener and finisher at this stage.
The Spurs struggled mightily in a variety of defensive categories this season, but one area they fared well in was rim protection. San Antonio ranked 16th in DFG% within six feet of the rim, and 8th in blocks per game. Adding James Wiseman wouldn’t improve their ailing perimeter defense, though he could provide a huge boost to their dependable rim protection.
James might be the best shot-blocker in the 2020 Draft Class, and an imposing seven-six wingspan combined with his explosiveness will give even the best finishers problems. While he tallied 3.0 blocks per game in college, the towering center habitually bought ball fakes, which could lead to foul trouble in the NBA as smarter players will look to draw fouls with Wiseman up in the air.
For all his shot-swatting prowess, Wiseman doesn’t project to have much of an impact elsewhere on the defensive end and hasn’t displayed satisfactory switchability. His awareness is lacking, his team defense leaves much to be desired, and he looks uncomfortable guarding smaller players in space. His footwork is shoddy, he can be slow to rotate to the open man, and he tends to take poor angles when attempting to contain ballhandlers in the pick-and-roll.
Wiseman undoubtedly needs to work on several aspects of his defensive package, but his low foul rate is reassuring. Part of the reason he commits so few fouls is his regular practice of verticality when contesting shots around the basket. And in theory, his 237-pound frame should be sturdy enough to take a beating from bruising centers like Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid, though he sometimes shies away from contact.
Continuing to watch game tape, soaking up knowledge, and making strides will be incredibly important to his growth as a defender. The 19-year-old is far from a finished product, and his ceiling could reach Defensive Player of the Year candidacy if put on the right track. Wiseman isn’t ready to save a downtrodden franchise, so putting him in a position to succeed should be the top priority.
Player Comparison: Hassan Whiteside
The seven-one center out of Memphis has drawn comparisons to Rasheed Wallace, Anthony Davis, and San Antonio Spurs legend David Robinson. Those are lofty expectations for a first-year prospect with only three college outings under his belt, and honestly, Wiseman doesn’t measure up to the skills and discipline of those multi-time All-Stars.
Don’t be offended, but Hassan Whiteside is easily the better parallel for the bouncy big man. Yes, Wiseman is already the better shooter, and he hasn’t shown any character or work ethic related issue. However, their physical profiles, skills, and role are a near-identical match. Both can rebound, protect the rim, and finish at an elite level, and they share similar weaknesses too.
Wiseman is a virtual lock to come of the board within the top three picks of the draft, and a Whitesidesque player may not be somebody teams hope for with that kind of investment. Nonetheless, it’ll be difficult for teams to pass on the 19-year-old’s measurements, motor, and promise. The Silver and Black would need a lucky bounce of the ping pong balls or a blockbuster deal to acquire his services, though something tells me their developmental staff would have a field day if they got their hands on James Wiseman.
To check out more potential 2020 draft targets, click here.