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2020 NBA Draft: James Wiseman’s stock won’t change regardless of NCAA ruling

For many draft prospects looking to crack into the NBA, all they need is a chance. A chance to showcase themselves in front of scouts. A platform to perform and generate buzz. A spot on a roster in hopes of being more than just an end-of-bench player. For a select few — like Memphis freshman James Wiseman — chances like those are far less important.

It’s not that Wiseman doesn’t need the chance (although, really, he doesn’t). Like other draft-hopefuls, he still needs to impress scouts in the lead-up to the 2020 NBA Draft and show himself worthy of being a top pick. There are still questions that linger about Wiseman and his game that to this point have gone unanswered.

But let’s be real here: Wiseman doesn’t need those same opportunities for obvious reasons. He’s a 7-foot-1 center with a ridiculous 7-foot-6 wingspan. He’s a pest in the post and a projectable monster defensively. Sure, there are questions about his game. How will he develop as an offensive player? Will concerns about his motor be overblown, or better yet, unfounded? There’s still plenty to learn that we haven’t in two games on the court against lackluster competition. But when you’ve got the tangibles he’s got, those questions can linger all they want. He’ll still get scooped up in the single digits of next year’s NBA Draft.

And that’s why despite this week’s ruling from the NCAA saying that Wiseman is ineligible, the byproduct of the NCAA deeming Memphis coach Penny Hardaway a booster, his draft stock will largely be unaffected. In fact, if we look upon recent history, it may actually be improved.

Wiseman’s draft stock

If it weren’t through the roof, there wouldn’t be as much made about the NCAA’s ruling this week. He debuted at No. 4 in my preseason prospect rankings and at No. 1 in my first mock draft of the season, and to this point he’s amongst the early contenders to go No. 1 in 2020.

The 2020 draft doesn’t yet have a surefire No. 1, though. Last season that player was Zion Williamson. Right now, there’s a handful of players, including Wiseman, who could wind up earning the same Zion-level respect. He could go as high as No. 1. I’d be shocked if he dropped any lower than No. 5. Not playing a full season would presumably hurt his chances to become that guy in this class, but not playing might guarantee he won’t drop far, either.

The Garland effect

Darius Garland, a five-star recruit hailed as one of the best freshmen in college basketball at Vanderbilt last year, looked like he fit the part. But he did so in only five games before a season-ending knee injury, during which he averaged 16.2 points, 2.6 assists and 47.8 percent from the 3-point line. When he went down, he was considered to be a first-round talent, but as time wore on and the draft class began to unfold, Garland’s stock rose. The amalgamation of the mystery and potential surrounding him, coupled with the lack of star power at the position in the draft outside Ja Morant, made him one of the notable late-risers in the process. He was selected No. 5 overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

That could be the blueprint for Wiseman. While Wiseman’s considered to be more of a sure thing at this stage of the process than Garland was, it’s not unreasonable to think that just two games of tape on him could wind up being a benefit to his stock in the same way. He hasn’t been exposed at all — far from it. In two games of action, he’s averaged 22.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocks. If the NCAA’s ruling eventually wins out, he’ll have a short resume, but one that won’t be lacking statistically. It’ll have NBA folks wondering what if in the same way they did with Garland, only Wiseman unquestionably has the better pedigree and bigger upside.

Wiseman’s eligibility status

All of this will he, won’t he talk could soon be moot. Despite the NCAA’s ruling, Memphis coach Penny Hardaway says Wiseman will play. How long he’ll play, though, remains the question. His lawyers received an emergency temporary restraining order this week that allowed him to play on Friday night, but that restraining order is only in place until the next court date, which is set for Nov. 18. At halftime of Memphis’ game Friday, the NCAA weighed in by saying he is “likely ineligible.” As Gary Parrish noted in an overnight column Friday night, Memphis is prepared to fight hard against that notion. Whether or not they win that battle will certainly impact the outlook for Memphis’ season, but it may not have the same cascading effect on Wiseman’s draft stock. If he plays two games more or 20, he’ll still be regarded as one of the best prospects in this class worth gambling on.