NBA Draft 2020: Predictions for James Wiseman, Onyeka Okongwu, Top Centers

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistApril 2, 2020

PORTLAND, OREGON - NOVEMBER 12: James Wiseman #32 of the Memphis Tigers and Anthony Mathis #32 of the Oregon Ducks battle for position during the second half of the game at Moda Center on November 12, 2019 in Portland, Oregon. Oregon won the game 82-74.  (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Bleacher Report's

Craig Mitchelldyer/Associated Press

James Wiseman is in a unique position heading into the 2020 NBA draft. 

The 19-year-old center participated in three college basketball games before he was forced to serve a 12-game suspension

Instead of coming back to join the Memphis Tigers, he opted to focus on the draft process, leaving NBA front offices with little tape on him.

In previous seasons, a handful of collegiate players have entered the draft after minimal playing time due to injuries, but Wiseman does not have any significant health concerns. 

Because of his pure talent, Wiseman is in the discussion for the No. 1 overall pick alongside Georgia guard Anthony Edwards.

Even if he does not land in the top position, Wiseman should be the top center off the board. USC's Onyeka Okongwu is the only other center projected to be a lottery selection at the moment. 


Predictions for Top Centers

James Wiseman

Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

During his brief stint with Memphis, Wiseman showed how dominant he could be in the paint. 

He had a pair of double-doubles, including a 14-point, 12-rebound performance against the Oregon Ducks in what turned out to be his final collegiate appearance. 

But the combination of few college games to scout and the need at other positions from teams high up in the lottery could stop him from being selected No. 1 overall. 

If the Cleveland Cavaliers or Minnesota Timberwolves win the lottery, it would make more sense for them to draft guards since Andre Drummond and Karl-Anthony Towns, respectively, command the paint. 

The Detroit Pistons could look at other positions first since Christian Wood was playing well after Drummond was traded to Cleveland. 

While the Golden State Warriors could use a big man, they could be more inclined to go after Edwards or LaMelo Ball to fit their style of play. 

The Atlanta Hawks might be a decent destination for Wiseman since he would plug up a frontcourt need and combine with Trae Young, John Collins and others to attempt to move the team up the Eastern Conference standings. 

Like most of the top prospects, NBA draft experts have differing opinions on where Wiseman will be selected. 

Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman has Wiseman ending up at No. 5 with the Pistons, while Sports Illustrated's Jeremy Woo has him going at No. 2 to the Cavaliers. 

Cleveland has experience in selecting players with minimal college minutes, as it chose Darius Garland in the first round of the 2019 NBA draft.

Garland, who suffered a season-ending injury at Vanderbilt, is averaging 12.3 points and 3.9 assists per game. 

While Detroit may not have a positional need, it may go the best player available route if Wiseman is still on the board when it picks. 

Other options could be considered, but the Pistons lack an abundance of scoring talent behind Wood, Blake Griffin and Luke Kennard. 

Prediction: No. 5 overall to Detroit. 


Onyeka Okongwu

John Locher/Associated Press

Okongwu put his name in the lottery discussion with a strong freshman campaign at USC.

The 6'9" center averaged 16.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game while shooting 61.6 percent from the field. 

The 19-year-old was consistently in double figures throughout Pac-12 play and he was a defensive force with his rim-protecting ability. 

The Chicago Bulls and Charlotte Hornets appear to be the most likely landing spots for him at the moment.

Wasserman has Okongwu ending up at No. 7 with the Bulls, while Woo positioned him at No. 8 with the Hornets. 

The Bulls already have a young center in Wendell Carter Jr., but his numbers around the glass are average.

Carter is averaging 9.4 rebounds and 0.8 blocks this season, while Okongwu finished with 8.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game. 

If the Bulls do not draft competition for Coby White at point guard, Okongwu, Isaac Okoro and R.J. Hampton would likely be their best options. 

Charlotte may benefit from Okongwu's talents the most since it could pair him with P.J. Washington and give its guards another target down low. 

A combination of Devonte' Graham, Terry Rozier, Miles Bridges, Washington and Okongwu could propel the Hornets in the right direction.

Prediction: No. 8 overall to Charlotte. 


Isaiah Stewart

Which player will be the third center off of the board is more of a mystery. 

Washington's Isaiah Stewart, who declared for the draft Wednesday, is one of a few candidates that could be selected in the middle-to-late first round. 

Stewart averaged 17 points and 8.8 rebounds per game in his lone season with the Huskies, which ended with a 29-point outing in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament.

Even though Washington failed to find success on a team level, Stewart was one of the constant producers, as he reached double figures in all but two of his appearances. 

Stewart's physical presence in the paint should draw teams to him, and it might be an advantage for him when compared to Maryland's Jalen Smith, Duke's Vernon Carey Jr. and other center prospects. 

The main thing he will have to improve is his three-point shooting, as he went 25 percent from beyond the arc in his freshman season. 

If he develops his three-point shot and continues to impress down low, Stewart could be a valuable piece for a team in the latter third of the first round.

Prediction: No. 21 overall to Denver.


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.