James Wiseman is a consensus top-five prospect. The New York Knicks have a promising center in Mitchell Robinson. Something’s got to give.
The New York Knicks will enter the 2020 NBA Draft with a clear need for talent. That may seem like a rather bland and ambiguous statement, but it’s the best way to summarize the current state of New York’s favorite basketball team.
Even with up-and-coming players who represent a brighter future, the Knicks are somewhere in-between methodical evaluation and a desperate need for talented athletes.
This unfortunate truth brings New York to a crucial question: What if James Wiseman is the best player on the board come the NBA Draft? It’s possible that the orange and blue will miss out on Wiseman entirely, but what if they don’t?
What if the Knicks have a chance to select a player who’s being hyped as a potential perennial All-Star—at a position that could be described as a current strength?
James Wiseman could be the best center in the 2020 NBA Draft
For those unfamiliar, Wiseman is the highest-graded center in the 2020 NBA Draft by virtual consensus. He’s a projected top-five draft pick whom some believe could’ve been a lock to go No. 1 overall had he not faced an NCAA controversy that drastically limited his availability.
Wiseman also plays the same position as Mitchell Robinson, however, and may play a game that’s too similar to the Knicks’ coveted big man to be able to play alongside him.
Wiseman is comparable to Robinson both on and off the court. Much like Robinson, he’s a physical anomaly at upwards of 7’0″ and 250 pounds with a massive 7’5″ wingspan and the fluid athleticism to move around the floor with relative ease.
Wiseman is also heralded for his ability to crash the offensive glass and block shots, as well as his potential to blossom into an all-around threat on both ends of the floor.
The comparisons continue in that the sample size for evaluating their pre-NBA game was limited. Much as Robinson opted against playing his freshman season, Wiseman ultimately hired an agent and prioritized the NBA over his pursuit of a collegiate career.
In turn, Wiseman played a grand total of three games at the collegiate level—meaning his high school tape is the most extensive footage available to NBA teams.
The primary difference between Wiseman and Robinson is refinement. Wiseman is regarded as a player who can readily operate as a pick and roll finisher and low-post scorer, albeit with a need for further improvement to his fundamentals.
Wiseman is also regarded as a player who’s capable of knocking down shots from midrange, with the form and willingness to expand his range to beyond the arc.
Wiseman has commendable footwork for a player his age, which bodes well for the entirety of his game. That seemingly shows that he’s working to develop his skill set, rather than resting on his laurels or simply depending on his athleticism for success.
This doesn’t mean that he’ll be an instant 20 and 10 in the NBA, but it’s believed that he could be the complete package at the center position over time.
What works in Robinson’s favor is that he appears to be a more explosive athlete. He’s been working to improve his offensive game, but he bottoms out as a player who can defend the interior and perimeter alike, with the length to disrupt any play run against him.
That’s an appealing truth in an NBA that has prioritized spacing and has generally marginalized low-post players as offensive focal points.
Furthermore, Robinson will be in his third NBA season in 2020-21, and has shown signs of significant promise. Giving up on him for an unknown commodity could be a costly decision that sets the Knicks back even further.
There was risk involved with selecting Robinson, yes, but New York only utilized a second-round draft pick for that gamble—not a lottery pick.
It’s possible that Wiseman will end up being the better player between the two. Perhaps he will become an All-NBA center who finds his niche as a LaMarcus Aldridge type with superior shot-blocking skills, whereas Robinson will be more of a DeAndre Jordan type presence at the 5.
Perhaps Robinson will regress or simply fail to develop, and will thus become a player whom the Knicks could’ve replaced with a superior option.
The Knicks will have choices beyond Wiseman, however, including players at positions of actual need. Even if the team simply finds an impact player at the 1, 3, or 4 spots, it could almost immediately create a balanced unit that can appeal to potential free agents.
In other words: All isn’t lost if the Knicks refuse to take a chance on Wiseman, and instead opt to believe in Robinson—for better or worse.
One simply can’t help but wonder if Wiseman truly is what so many once advertised him as: The No. 1 prospect on the board. He’s a massive physical presence at a 5-spot that may be out of style, but still has the potential to provide teams with matchup nightmares.
Finding a big who can compete with the likes of Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, and Karl-Anthony Towns could prove essential if or when New York returns to prominence.
While Robinson has showcased Defensive Player of the Year potential, Wiseman looks like a potential stud on the other end of the floor. Every player is appealing on a highlight reel with a small sample size, but few stand over 7’0″ with a well-rounded skill set.
It may prove to be much ado about nothing, but the New York Knicks could have a decision to make between Mitchell Robinson and James Wiseman.
The right selection could be the key to Leon Rose’s tenure as team president.