Report: James Wiseman Still Viewed as Top-5 NBA Draft Pick After Leaving Memphis

Blake SchusterContributor IIIFebruary 14, 2020

Memphis' James Wiseman watches the game from the bench in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Ole Miss Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Karen Pulfer Focht)
Karen Pulfer Focht/Associated Press

James Wiseman presents one of the more interesting cases for a lottery pick in recent NBA draft history. The highly touted prospect played just three games at Memphis before an NCAA investigation left him sidelined before he ultimately left school to prepare for the draft. 

The lack of game play may not tank his lottery status entirely, however. Sam Vecenie of The Athletic notes NBA teams still project the center as a top pick in 2020.

"Most executives league-wide see him as a likely top-five pick, and as one of the favorites to end up in the top-three," Vecenie wrote. "I do believe there to be a lower floor, though, on his draft prospects... 

"This is now going to be a much more interesting pre-draft process for Wiseman than anticipated, and as noted previously in these parts, the lottery is going to play the absolutely critical piece in where he's selected."

As Vecenie points out, two of the teams most likely to finish high in the lottery—Atlanta and Cleveland—already addressed their frontcourt needs by acquiring Clint Capela and Andre Drummond, respectively, at the trade deadline.

In what's being considered a weak draft class, however, Wiseman's potential may keep him at or near the top of most draft boards. As far as the lack of competition leading up to the draft, that seems to be par for the course this year. Fellow highly touted prospects LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton have missed most of the season in Australia's National Basketball League without their stocks suffering. 

Wiseman's case is a bit different, to be fair. The consensus top recruit last year was ruled ineligible after it was discovered current Tigers coach Penny Hardaway gave $11,500 to Wiseman's family to help them relocate to Memphis when the center was looking to join a high school team then coached by Hardaway.

Rather than deal with the NCAA's punishment, Wiseman decided to leave school. 

That Wiseman's draft position is most likely tied to the lottery results and potential fit rather than the NCAA's opinion of him speaks to how little amateurism matters once the NBA gets involved. There are still a number of lottery teams that could use a big man in the 2020 draft. 

The Golden State Warriors immediately come to mind. As do the New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards. 

The market for Wiseman should remain strong throughout the NBA combine. Once it gets to that point, whatever happened in the NCAA will no longer matter.   

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