Pistons

James Wiseman’s Potential Fit with Detroit

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Given that the Pistons’ season is over in terms of competitive potential, looking forward to the draft makes sense.  Detroit is playing for ping-pong balls at this point.  Because of this, we will be doing a series of articles profiling potential picks for the Pistons depending on where they land in the lottery.  When you are in the midst of another lost season, all you can look for is hope.

This season is talked about as one of the weaker drafts in recent memory, so it only makes sense that this is the year the Pistons begin their tank.  Sometimes injuries come at you at the worst possible times.  The top-tier talents all seem to come with more red flags than normal, so where does a team looking ahead even begin?  Obviously with the only center projected to go in the top three, since the Pistons just moved on from that position.

Where the Wiseman Are?

James Wiseman has had his name in the headlines plenty this season, even though he only played in three games before leaving the University of Memphis.  Controversy will do that for you.  Regardless of how you feel about the way the NCAA handles things, the point stands that there is not much tape on Wiseman.  This is unfortunate, given that his biggest red flag coming out of high school was his motor. He did not get a chance to change that narrative.

That being said, he was extremely impressive in those three games, posting averages of 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and three blocks per game on 76.9% shooting.  The early comps to Mitchell Robinson came in and it is easy to see why.  A blocking machine who is extremely raw and mold-able should be interesting to a coaching staff known for doing such.  So let’s make the case.

Why He Fits

Obviously, the roster this summer is in a fluid situation.  Breakout power forward Christian Wood is a pending free agent, so we will be making the assumption that the front office re-signs him, as they have indicated is their plan.  A front court of Christian Wood, Sekou Doumbouya and James Wiseman is a lot of length for anyone to overcome.

Since the Andre Drummond trade, Wood has averaged 20 points, 10.8 rebounds and a block per game.  While this is a small sample size for sure, it shows that he is able to fill up the stat sheet given an increased role.  The biggest bonus of the pairing is Wood’s 38.5% shooting from long range.  While Wiseman has not shown that capability in the limited footage from high school and college, Wood being able to bounce out to the perimeter will create more space for the young guy to do what he does best.

Furthermore, Wood has shown the ability to play some center, allowing the team to bring Wiseman along slowly should he struggle early on.  Currently, Wiseman would be the only true center on the roster before any offseason moves would be made.  The opportunity would be there immediately for Wiseman and the expectations next season are relatively low.  Unlike if he is taken by someone like the Warriors, he would not be expected to immediately contribute to a championship-caliber team.   A slow burn after not being able to contribute on the floor for so long could be perfect for the young big man’s development.

Why to Shy Away

There is a lot to like about James Wiseman’s game.  That is without a doubt.  However, that does not mean the Motor City is the best place for him.  The lament of the Andre Drummond era was an inconsistent motor and poor shot selection from the former all-star.  Coincidentally, those are the two biggest red flags for Wiseman.  If he had played more, teams would have been looking for him to debunk that reputation.  He did so to an extent in the three games against mid-majors.   True competition would have put him under the magnifying glass.

This is not necessarily an indictment of the young man.  However, if the fans are predisposed to disliking this, he could be set up to fail.  The outsider complaint of Drummond for the longest time was the lament that centers can be got cheap for starter-caliber play.  Spending a top pick on someone like that is not necessarily the best use of assets.  Dwight Howard is making $2.5 million this season.  If the Pistons were to take Wiseman first overall, they would be looking to pay him nearly $10 million per season based on the current rookie scale.  Is this the best plan for the team?

There are exceptions to every rule.  Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic are the anchors for potential contenders.  But you have to build the team around them expertly.  As much as fans may love Wood, Doumbouya and Luke Kennard, none of them are Ben Simmons or LeBron James.  Wiseman would be the first piece in a long overhaul.  Fit matters, and for a raw talent like Wiseman it will be essential for him to last in the league.  Oftentimes it is the difference between becoming Ben Simmons and Dragan Bender in the same draft.

Last Call

There is a lot to love about James Wiseman.  He profiles as the kind of center who could be the prototype for defending the rim and dominating in the pick and roll.  Unfortunately there is a lot of unknown as well.  Fit and opportunity will matter.  If the Pistons believe this will be a quick rebuild, one of the guards makes more sense.  Should it turn into something Process-ish, Wiseman could be the perfect building block for the future.

Personally, the Drummond era made the fan base rethink what they look for in a franchise cornerstone.  Selecting a center this high months after moving on from Drummond seems like a questionable call.  Only time will tell, but wise money would go elsewhere.

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