2020 NBA Draft: James Wiseman's stock won't change by leaving Memphis, but that's not necessarily a good thing

After announcing Thursday afternoon that he will leave the University of Memphis to prepare for the 2020 NBA Draft, James Wiseman, the No. 1 overall recruit in the Class of 2019, can rest assured that his draft stock isn't likely to change much in the coming months leading up to next summer. That could be both a good and a bad thing.

The best case for Wismean

The good news -- and there's plenty of it -- starts with the most obvious: Wiseman is a can't-miss prospect who was playing college basketball in exchange for free tuition and a stipend, despite being months away from being worth millions of dollars in contract and endorsement money. Why risk it for such little reward? By stepping away, the risk of injury preparing with trainers for the NBA Draft, as opposed to playing 40 grueling minutes against amateur athletes on a nightly basis, is significantly lessened with this decision.

Secondly and most importantly, Wiseman's college sample is small but elite. Ask Darius Garland, the Vanderbilt star who played just five games last year, if that matters. Garland's response would likely be the money-mouth emoji. Despite his five-game collegiate sample a year ago, he went No. 5 overall and the uncertainty and mystique surrounding him -- the potential that he could be as great at the NBA level as his short stint at Vandy was -- actually helped his stock. Ditto for Wiseman, who averaged 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and shot 80% from the field in his three games with the Tigers. You think scouts are dubious because he played just three games?

Wrong. And even if that did cause some hesitation, his per-40 stats would throw you right back onto the Wiseman hype train:

  • 34.2 PPG, 18.6 RPG, 5.2 BPG

Still yet, Garland and Wiseman aren't quite a fair comparison. Garland was a blue-chip recruit, sure, but Wiseman is a self-dubbed unicorn: 7-foot-1, 7-foot-6 wingspan, potential oozing out of those long and wiry arms. Unlike Garland, NBA scouts have had their eyes on him for years. Literally. His first college offers came flooding in in the summer of 2016, and the intrigue surrounding his pro prospects have only blossomed with his maturation.

The worst case for Wiseman

Is there a chance this decision hurts him? Sure. Wiseman has now willingly removed himself from the conversation, which last year with Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett was proven useful. He may get some buzz in individual workouts and behind closed doors from scouts, but training individually and playing for a visible program like Memphis aren't the same.

Where Wiseman may wind up hurting himself is by limiting his ceiling. Even with as much scouting work that's been done on him over the last few years, there's more to be put on tape. Scouts always want to see more. NBA teams, owners and executives want to see players play.

In the end, this could all just open the door not for him to drop, but for others to surpass him. As he's sat the last month, Georgia freshman Anthony Edwards has separated himself as a clear-cut top-two prospect in this 2020 NBA Draft class. UNC freshman Cole Anthony and overseas star LaMelo Ball are in the mix, too. Even with Anthony and Ball sidelined with injury, they've been putting up tape and are expected to return to the court. More opportunities await, which opens the door for them to impress NBA teams while Wiseman rides the pine. 

That's a risk Wiseman likely weighed heavily when making his decision. Could he still be the No. 1 overall pick come next summer? Absolutely. Are the chances lessened with his decision to withdraw from college? Probably a bit. But Wiseman has the cache as a can't-miss prospect to take this risk knowing his draft stock likely won't slide too low, either. When the ping-pong balls settle, the lottery order is set and NBA teams begin making their selections, you can bet Wiseman won't be waiting long for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to call on his name.

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