Former NBA superstar Penny Hardaway beat tough odds to land the No. 1 overall recruit in the nation in James Wiseman. Now, just over a year later, the Memphis men's basketball coach strongly believes Wiseman should be the No. 1 overall pick in his draft class (h/t Golden State of Mind).
“I feel like he’s the No. 1 pick in the draft," Hardaway said of Wiseman during a recent media availability. "I think he has a high upside. He didn’t get to play this year. There are question marks, but he works his butt off, man. He’s a unicorn, that’s what he calls himself. He’s rare.
"He’s a guy that he’s gonna be the fastest up and down the floor, and protect the rim. He’s definitely an instant-assist under the rim because of his athleticism. He’s going to work on getting his shot, to where he can get out to the 3-point line and be a threat from out there as well. I’m not just saying that because I coached him, I just know the NBA and what they’re looking for."
Wiseman appeared in only three games with the Tigers before he was suspended 12 games by the NCAA for receiving $11,500 from Hardaway prior to enrolling. He averaged 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 3.0 blocks over those three games, including a 14-point, 12-rebound effort against Oregon. Scouts didn't get to see him go up against any other top competition due to the suspension and his ensuing decision to forgo the rest of his collegiate eligibility by signing with an agent.
That obviously makes it more difficult to evaluate Wiseman as a prospect. But as Hardaway mentioned, the 7-foot-1 big man offers tantalizing potential that currently has him in the mix to be the first player off the board in the 2020 NBA Draft. The Warriors certainly will do their diligence on Wiseman, but would need another prospect to be selected ahead of him in order to land him with their No. 2 overall pick. Hardaway, however, thinks he'd be a great fit with the Minnesota Timberwolves, who hold No. 1.
"So to me, he’s the No. 1 pick overall, and that’s Minnesota," Hardaway continued. "Him and Karl-Anthony Towns, they could work really well together. They would be unbelievable two-some with the way the league is going now. They’re both mobile, they’re both active. I think that will be a difference-maker having two rim-protectors and guys that are highly, highly skilled on the perimeter."
While pairing Wiseman with Towns certainly is an intriguing combination that the T-Wolves will have to consider, Hardaway is incorrect; that is not the direction the NBA currently is heading. Playing two bigs has increasingly become a rarity, and that's partly why Minnesota already is playing Towns at the five. Consequently, most draft pundits expect the T-Wolves to go in another direction with the top pick -- possibly Georgia's Anthony Edwards -- which could result in Wiseman falling into the Warriors' lap.
If that's the way it works out, you can be sure they see much of the same promise in Wiseman that Hardaway does.