As soon as the Hornets were awarded with the 3rd pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, a lot of talks started around the top projected prospects. There’s been a lot of back and forth between James Wiseman and even though he has his knocks he is a really polarizing young player. Let’s try to understand what Charlotte should do if he is available when they are on the clock.
James Wiseman is known for his impressive build as he is a 240 lbs 7′ 1” Big with a 7′ 4” wingspan. His frame stands out and is already at an NBA size at just 19 years of age. Unfortunately, too many times he is not able to exploit his physical advantages. The past season he played only three games at the University of Memphis because of trouble with the NCAA. This increased the uncertainty around his evaluation and hurt his draft stock. During this little stretch and in his high school years he displayed a good amount of issues both on defense and offense.
Defensively he has problems at reading the opposite offense and finding the right position. This is underlined when he needs to defend in space or during PnR situations.
The next clip is perfect to understand his problems. The opposite team targets him with various cross screens and he gets lost instead of switching and comunicating with his teammates. The reslut is an open three.
If you add these problems to his lack of lateral mobility the result is a bad defender in the league, especially with the direction the NBA is taking with centers on the defensive side of the court. Penny Hardaway tried to force Wiseman out of the drop coverage in the few games for Memphis but the result wasn’t great. In the next clip you can see that he was demanded to hedge during Pick and Rolls: his footwork is a mess and he is not able to move properly in order to execute the plan.
His inability to understand difensive angles will give him a ton of problems even in basic PnR situations. Too many times his positioning is worrisome and this aspect is going to be exposed at the pro level. Here you have a clear example:
Drafting Wiseman would force his team into the drop coverage, at least for his first years in the league. Optimism about him executing others defensive schemes is really low basing on what we have seen in his short basketball career. Going for this type of defensive organization would allow Wiseman to use his frame in a proper way as he could just sits near the basket and exploit his presence.
A lot of NBA teams go for drop coverage as it is way easier to execute by the centers in the league, but as the playoffs are going on stage right now we are seeing that it gets less effective moving torwards the final games of the season where the level is higher. Using your highest pick in recent history in something that would probably not be effective at the playoff level is not smart at all.
The frame really helps Wiseman during rim protection, but even with this fundamental he showed some issues. Too many times he is not disciplined and very jumpy on fakes as he gets beaten by way less athletic player. Instead of always chasing the big block he should try to stay vertical in order to be much more effective while protecting the rim, some examples of his impatience in the next video:
Offensively he is still very raw. His vertical spacing and rim running will obviously be there from day one in the league but for everything else the path is rough.
During high school he was playing with the ball in his hands a lot and this didn’t help his developement as a good rim runner. In the few games at Memphis he had his role changed and we saw some of his potential as a roll man during PnR. His technique as a screen setter is still raw, but again the frame really helps. Being able to play this type of game will be the key for him in the league offensively because it could open him different possibilities: rolling to the basket, being in position for offensive rebounds and maybe play some pick and pop game.
Penny Hardaway was aware of this aspect and designed different scenarios in order to help him setting easy screens that would allow him to roll to the basket without any problem. The clips display how he is not the most natural screen setter but as soon as he hits the defender the lane is open:
This still raw ability lead us to one of his biggest weaknesses on the offensive side: physicality.
As i said earlier Wiseman’s high school play style hurt a bit his developement and this is clear while watching him exploiting his physical advantage. Too many times he just doesn’t recognize the possibilities his body gives him and goes for a much more difficult style of play. Look at how he run away from some easy mismatches in order to shoot difficult fadeaways:
However this constant search for finesse plays has underlined some sort of touch potential in order to expand his range. During HS he showed some ability to shoot from the three point line, this wasn’t the same for his shortened college career but it is not impossible to see him expanding his range in that direction. His shooting form is okay, however he still needs to work on overall touch.
One of his best offensive trait is open lane speed. This aspect is too often cofused with overall quickness and mobility but Wiseman is just good at running in a straight line, whole different story for lateral mobility as we saw in the defensive part. His body is again the key here, his strides will allow him to follow transition and to play a fast paced game even in the NBA:
What will Mitch Kupchak do?
With the uncertainity around the first picks in this year draft and the problems we saw around this player, it will be possible to find Wiseman still available when the Hornets are on the clock with the 3rd pick.
As soon as Charlotte got the 3rd pick in the lottery, Kupchak did not lose time to clarify what will be the position of the team:
Kupchak stated that the Hornets are not in the stage to draft by position and will choose the best player available when they will be on the clock. The argument of “long time need for a Center” seems to not be in play for our General Manager but possibilities still exist. Let’s try to understand the motivation behind a possible selection of James Wiseman.
First of all Wiseman has a good media reputation as he was the #1 recruit for ESPN in 2019, he has been on the radar of scouts and draft analyst for a long time. Add this to his impressive body structure and you understand why he is always in the top of the most famous mock drafts. You really don’t see that many player physically gifted as he is , that’s why General Managers will feel a little nervous when they are on the clock and he is still available.
This whole upside cloud around him clashes with the film description we had in the first part of the article. Kupchak and his staff should really stay with their feet on the ground and follow what they saw during these years instead of chasing dreams about his potential outcome.
Another element that could tempt Kupchak at selecting him is that Charlotte Hornets best player PJ Washington is one of the best power forwards to pair with Wiseman considering teams at the top of the draft (Besides Draymond Green). PJ’s ability to read and react on the defensive side of the floor could really help Wiseman with rotation, even in hard drop coverage situations. On offense, we saw our number #25 showing great passing ability especially on dump offs to the other bigs. Wiseman on his side, could solidify the issues PJ has in rebounding and rim protection.
Lastly, picking Wiseman would ensure the Center position for quite a long time. Despite the great difficulties we described in the first part, he could be an average player in the league for like 10 to 15 years, even with hitting his medium outcome.
If you’ve been following, I am clearly against using our 3rd pick on James Wiseman. Drafting a Center with defensive and physicality issues that high is not the best use of your franchises highest pick in quite some time. Charlotte is in desperate need of a game changer, a star that can carry the team on his shoulder and Wiseman is not that type of player even if he has a little probability to reach a high ceiling. Kupchak seems to be on the same page as he’s stated a good amount of times that Charlotte is going to select the BPA when they will be on the clock, and I don’t think that guy will be Wisemen.