James Wiseman’s college basketball career is over almost before it got started. The University of Memphis freshman announced on Thursday that he would forego his NCAA eligibility to begin preparations for next summer’s NBA draft.
In three games this season, Wiseman averaged 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks per game, shooting a staggering 76.9% from the field.
Wiseman’s freshman season obviously didn’t go as planned. But now that he’s turned that page, it’s time to evaluate Wiseman’s potential at the next level – and which lottery team could help him reach it.
The Golden State Warriors’ status as a league-wide bottom-dweller won’t last long.
Steph Curry insists he’s returning from a broken hand before 2019-20 comes to a close, and Klay Thompson will be back full-strength next fall.
Golden State may not be the juggernaut it was for the past half-decade, but with a trio of Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green, Steve Kerr’s team will undoubtedly compete for a playoff spot next season – and perhaps much more.
That variability depends a lot on how the Warriors approach D’Angelo Russell’s future. He’s an odd fit next to Curry and Thompson on the perimeter, and Golden State has hardly quieted rumors about potential plans to trade him since acquiring him last summer.
But regardless of whether Russell or another impact player rounds out the Warriors’ core, their first-round pick will likely prove more instrumental to the organization’s short and long-term prospects – especially if it’s James Wiseman.
At just over seven feet with broadening shoulders and arms that hang at his knees, Wiseman possesses elite physical tools. He’s a blur running the floor in transition, and boasts aerial body control normally reserved for high-fliers six inches shorter.
What’s long held Wiseman back most is his tendency to shy away from the grunt work required of big men, and an overall lack of intensity and commitment. He improved on those deficiencies during his brief time at Memphis, but if he’s not the No. 1 overall pick, it will likely be because teams doubt his desire to do what it takes to reach his ceiling.
That’s why Golden State seems like such a perfect fit for Wiseman. Not only would he enter a locker room with an established veteran culture, but playing for a contender would force him to embrace the numerous little things on both sides of the ball that make big men effective.
Needless to say, Wiseman wouldn’t be subject to that kind of pressure playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers or Atlanta Hawks.
An imminent lob threat around the rim, he’d score several baskets a game simply by setting screens and rolling hard to the paint. Golden State loves to run, too, giving Wiseman ample opportunity to show off his athleticism in transition.
Unfortunately, mutually beneficial partnerships don’t decide the draft order. Even if they retain the league’s worst record, there’s no guarantee the Warriors will get the chance to pick Wiseman.
But keep your fingers crossed come lottery night in May. The marriage of Wiseman and Golden State wouldn’t just be a boon for the Warriors, but for all basketball fans who hope the game’s most gifted prospects reach their utmost potential.