James Wiseman: Raw NBA Big Man with Prototypical Center Size

James Wiseman: Raw NBA Big Man with Prototypical Center Size

James Wiseman is yet another polarizing prospect in the 2020 NBA Draft. Listed by ESPN as the number 1 player in his recruiting class, Wiseman went on to play extremely well at Memphis University. Averaging 19.7 points per game along with 10.7 rebounds per game and a sky high 76.9% field goal in only 23 minutes per game. The problem is he only played 3 games for Memphis. 

Wiseman being suspended for taking money to help relocate his family to Memphis ultimately led to him leaving the university to prepare for the draft. It’s hard to say whether this will impact his draft stock or not. While he definitely would have benefited from a development point of view, by ending on a high note the holes in Wiseman’s game were never exposed. This makes it incredibly hard to gage how good Wiseman is and whether he has what it takes to become the NBA star he has projected to be since his high school days.

Over the three games Wiseman did play in the NCAA we got to see a dominant player in the paint who can rebound and block shots with ease. However we never got to see Wiseman face another high calibre big man. The three schools we saw Wiseman play against were South Carolina State, UIC Flames and Oregon. None of these teams run particularly tall lineups. The only team that may possess NBA talent is Oregon with their point guard, Payton Pritchard. 

If Wiseman is as good as many of us fans hope, he will become a great rebounder and rim protector who can score inside. However the sample size of his skills may not be large enough to convince Golden State, Minnesota or Charlotte to draft him.  

Physical Profile

Wiseman is listed between 6’11 and 7’1 barefoot. He is also around 250 pounds and possesses a 7’5+ wingspan. If these measurements are accurate then Wiseman will be coming into the NBA with perfect prototypical big man size. The body of the prototypical big man in the NBA is probably best exemplified by Anthony Davis. AD is 6’10 with a 7’5.5 wingspan. The fact that Wiseman possesses similar measurements has scouts salivating. There isn’t much else to say about Wiseman’s measurements, they are just straight up impressive. We do need to be careful though, as DeAndre Ayton also was listed at 7’1 with a similar wingspan before his barefoot measurements were released. However with Wiseman’s length I don’t think measuring at 6’11 would hurt his stock all that much. 

James Wiseman appears to have excellent coordination for a player of his size. He is able to time his rebounds very well. He also appears to have great boxing out ability. Unfortunately there is very little footage of him competing against other players of his size. Out of all of Wiseman’s skills I think that his rebounding will translate the most seamlessly to the NBA. While Wiseman has often rebounded against much shorter competitors, his timing and positioning looks to be excellent. 


Wiseman’s ability to defend is also hard to judge. While statistically he appears to be a great shot blocker, footage of him in both high school and college suggest that he is too willing to jump on pump fakes. This highlights his lack of defensive awareness. Guards are also very willing to attack him on defence. Wiseman appears to struggle to defend on the perimeter with quick guards taking advantage of this. In the modern era of the NBA it is hard to keep a big man on the floor when they aren’t able to switch on a pick and roll. When the Miami Heat let Hassan Whiteside (a similar player to Wiseman) go they improved with a big man like Bam Adebayo who can switch on pick and rolls and on the perimeter. When the Lakers want to defend against small ball lineups (like they did against the Houston Rockets,) they move Anthony Davis to center as he can defend inside and out. From the available footage I have watched of Wiseman I don’t think he is currently capable of defending in a switch defensive scheme. 

Due to this slow footedness and lack of perimeter defence I can’t envision Wiseman playing power forward. 

Statistics Interpretations

Wiseman averaged 19.7 points per game along with 10.7 rebounds per game and a 76.9% field goal in 23 minutes per game. These stats would look like those of a future NBA superstar if we had been able to watch him play more. Per 40 minutes Wiseman averaged 34 points per game, 18.6 rebounds per game and 5.2 blocks per game. Again, these stats indicate stardom. But the NBA is a different beast than college ball. A player like Lonzo Ball thrived against shorter point guards who couldn’t defend his shot, but NBA level defenders like De’Aaron Fox would lock him down. We never got to see Wiseman face NBA level defenders. 

Skal Labissiere is a player who thrived early on at Kentucky in 2015, who burned out as the season went on. While I don’t necessarily think that Wiseman would have done the same thing, with only a 3 game sample size we can’t know.

Wiseman’s 76.9% FG is really impressive. While it is partially due to the fact he only really shoots around the rim, it does also indicate he takes smart shots and is capable of making shots close up. His ability to seal off defenders is also impressive. But once again there is little footage of him being able to do this against true big men. 

Shooting Potential

Wiseman’s free throw percentage may indicate that he has the potential to become a shooter. Wiseman made 70.4% of his free throws at Memphis University. This could indicate that he has the shot mechanics required to develop a jump shot. It is important for big men to be able to hit their free throws in order to play them in the fourth quarter. Players like Dwight Howard and Clint Capela are targeted with fouls due to their low free throw percentages. Wiseman has also previously compared himself to Chris Bosh on ESPN’s The Jump, which shows that he aspires to be a big man who can shoot. Wiseman’s lack of games played brings his free throw percentage into question. If you take out Wiseman’s game against South Carolina State, he only made 65% of his free throws. This game against South Carolina State where he made 6 out of 7 free throws could potentially be a statistical outlier. However we have seen Wiseman make jumpshots in high school. Wiseman’s shot mechanics look solid and can hopefully develop into an NBA level jumper. 


James Wiseman is a hard player to find comparisons for. The comparisons always feel too exaggerated, whether they make him look too good or too bad. Personally I would compare Wiseman to a JaVale McGee with a much higher ceiling. McGee was a young athletic center with similar measurements who was never allowed to play to his strengths. 

For a reminder of how good a young JaVale McGee was, watch the BallisLife video below:

Wiseman possesses the same ball handling, rebounding, shot blocking and athleticism that McGee had, but he possesses a much better shooting touch. A JaVale McGee-esque player with shooting range could be a valuable player in the NBA. Wiseman has all star potential, and I would not be surprised if he became a 20pts and 11rbs player. However I think that teams are going to need to be patient with him as he does not possess many advanced skills just yet. 

Photo of JaVale McGee by Keith Allison

In his first few years in the NBA I expect Wiseman to be a similar player to Mitchell Robinson of the New York Knicks. Again, Wiseman has more potential, but people expecting him to be an instant Anthony Davis are expecting too much. Anthony Davis is possibly Wiseman’s ceiling, but it is unlikely he reaches these heights.

As the number one college recruit in his class I don’t want to underrate Wiseman, but in recent years we also saw Harry Giles go from number one recruit to an NBA back up. And yes, Giles has both shown glimpses of his talent and had to deal with very serious injuries, I don’t know if a big man without a proven jumpshot or unique skill can thrive in today’s NBA. However I wouldn’t rule out Wiseman developing these skills.  

If Wiseman can transform into the Bosh-like player he wants to become, and certainly has the potential to be, he would justify a top 3 pick. Perhaps even becoming the best player in the draft. If Wiseman can’t develop that jump shot, he will become just another rim running big in the NBA, good but not great. 

Team Fits


I don’t see James Wiseman going first overall in the draft unless Karl-Anthony Towns is not part of the Timberwolves future. The only team running two traditional bigs in the NBA and still being successful is the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers success with two bigs is largely due to Anthony Davis’ ability to defend on the perimeter. The only way for Towns and Wiseman to coexist defensively is if either of these two young bigs can drastically improve their lateral quickness and perimeter defense. While I do think that Wiseman could potentially develop his perimeter defense up to an acceptable level, I am uncertain that he could do it to a level where Towns and himself don’t become a defensive liability. However if the Timberwolves are impressed enough with his lateral quickness during workouts, they could create a deadly frontcourt pairing.  


There are rumours floating around that Golden State have no interest in James Wiseman. I find this hard to believe. While I think that they should draft the player with the most value for a trade, I think that Wiseman could easily fit into the Golden State system. Wiseman is as athletic as 7 footers come and would play well in a fast paced offence such as Golden State’s. The floor spacing provided by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson would also allow for Wiseman to have more room to operate inside the paint. We have also seen Draymond Green be successful with his passes in the post and lobs to other bigs such as Marquese Chriss and JaVale McGee. With the Golden State coaching staff developing Wiseman I believe that he can become a future all star who would also be able to have an instant impact. 


Charlotte is Wiseman’s most likely draft destination. This is due to the fact that Edwards and Ball are likely the top 2 picks and Charlotte does not have a long term centre. Wiseman would have a good young pair of point guards to run the pick and roll with in Charlotte. Terry Rozier and Devonte Graham could both mesh well with Wiseman. Miles Bridges and PJ Washington would also be a decent pair of forwards to play next to. This could create a nice young core for Charlotte to build around. 

In my opinion Charlotte is the best fit for Wiseman aside from possibly Golden State. Being a smaller market there is also less pressure for him to be a star straight away.


I can’t see Wiseman fitting next to either bigs in Chicago. Lauri Markkanen and Wiseman would be terrible on defence together. And I’m not convinced that Wendell Carter and James Wiseman could space the floor enough. 


It sounds like Cleveland is very keen on keeping Andre Drummond and Kevin Love. There are also rumours that they are looking to resign Tristan Thompson. If Wiseman falls to Cleveland I don’t think there is any logical reason for taking him unless you don’t have those three bigs in your long term plans. Unfortunately for the Cavs I don’t see any perfect fits for them in the draft. They need a wing and there just doesn’t appear to be any who fit their roster. If they don’t trade down and Wiseman is available, they may take him as the best player on the board.


Wiseman appears to be a very similar player to Clint Capela. If Wiseman falls this far I don’t expect Atlanta to draft him unless they plan on trading him. 


Detroit will draft the best player available as they have no franchise pieces in place. If Wiseman falls, which is unlikely but very possible, Detroit won’t hesitate to draft him. Sekou Doumbouya is a great young prospect (who could hopefully be developed into a high quality starter in the long term) who would fit next to Wiseman. 

New York:

Due to his similarities to Mitchell Robinson I would not draft Wiseman if I was the Knicks. They should look at finding a player who compliments RJ Barrett and Robinson. 


This is the furthest I can see James Wiseman falling. Washington does not have any centers good enough to make them not draft Wiseman. If Wiseman falls to the Wizards the Washington fans should be very excited. 

Photo by ‘The Hoosier’


I believe that in most scenarios James Wiseman will be a quality starting center in the NBA. Wiseman is an incredible rebounder, solid rim protector with perfect measurements for an NBA big man of any era. However for Wiseman to become an NBA All Star he is going to need to keep working on his jump shot and free throw. Due to his shot release I think this is possible, but it will require time and hard work. Wiseman is also going to need to improve his pick and roll defence and perimeter defence. James Wiseman has the chance to be a special player. He could be a multiple time all star, but he is going to need to put in the work to round his game out.