James Wiseman wasn't going to play in March Madness even before the NCAA tournament was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. And that's because the 7'1" center's career at Memphis lasted only three games, and he now plans to enter the NBA.
Despite his lack of college experience, Wiseman should be one of the first players selected in the 2020 NBA draft. He was a top recruit coming out of East High School in Memphis and still has a load of potential, meaning he could develop into a dominant big man once he begins his professional career.
Wiseman's lack of college play had nothing to do with health, either. He was suspended due to Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway giving Wiseman's family money to aid with relocation. Wiseman then decided to withdraw before the end of his suspension, opting to instead prepare for the NBA draft.
Here are predictions for where Wiseman and several other top center prospects will land in this year's draft.
James Wiseman, Memphis
Along with guards Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman will be under strong consideration for this year's top selection. However, it's more likely that Edwards or Ball will get drafted first, with Wiseman coming off the board shortly after.
According to The Athletic's Sam Vecenie, Wiseman is viewed as the best center in the draft class by "a majority of evaluators," and he "has unquestionably the best tools."
"Wiseman is 7'1" and moves extremely well for his size," Vecenie wrote. "His 7'6" wingspan allows him to protect the rim at a high level. He also has solid shooting potential and will be an elite rim-runner as a roller."
Although the Cavaliers currently have Andre Drummond and Kevin Love as their starting post players, they could be a great fit for Wiseman should they be able to draft him at around the No. 2 or No. 3 pick. Cleveland could use a dominant big man to develop for the future, and with Wiseman's lack of experience, he could learn from a pair of quality veterans in Drummond and Love.
Prediction: Wiseman goes No. 2 to Cleveland
Onyeka Okongwu, USC
An exciting 6'9" prospect who can play both center and power forward, Onyeka Okongwu is likely to be one of the first centers selected in the draft, potentially going as a top-10 pick.
In his first and only season at USC, Okongwu averaged 16.2 points and 8.6 rebounds in 28 games while shooting 61.6 percent from the field. The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor has Okongwu as the No. 5 player on his big board for this year's draft, praising the former Trojan's finishing and scoring abilities.
"Do-it-all big with rare versatility as a defender," O'Connor wrote. "Always competes and has a knack for making big plays."
The Hornets need to add some better players down low, and they should be a team that owns a top-10 selection and will likely have interest in Okongwu. He could pair with PJ Washington in Charlotte's frontcourt to help it have a pair of solid post players to develop into the future.
Prediction: Okongwu goes No. 8 to Charlotte
Isaiah Stewart, Washington
Like Okongwu, Isaiah Stewart had a strong 2019-20 season as a freshman in the Pac-12. And now, he's likely to be a first-round pick in this year's NBA draft.
In 32 games for the Huskies, Stewart averaged 17 points and 8.8 rebounds a game while shooting 57 percent from the field. One of his best showings came in his final game, when he tallied 29 points and 12 rebounds while shooting 9-of-11 from the field and 10-of-11 at the free-throw line.
"College coaches whose teams played Washington this year came away raving about Stewart," Vecenie wrote. "They love the way he plays the game. He's tough, physical, has absolutely terrific hands, is as strong as any other player in the country at 18 and even has some ball skill and touch to go along with it."
It could be a smart decision for the Mavericks to draft Stewart around the No. 18 pick, when they should have a selection and he could be available. They could pair him with Kristaps Porzingis in their frontcourt. Stewart would add to Dallas' solid core and become a dominant force down low for the Mavs for years to come.
Prediction: Stewart goes No. 18 to Dallas