Following his first official practice with the team Tuesday, Detroit’s newest addition expressed his excitement in joining his second franchise:
“I’m embracing all of the opportunities here…It’s a new start for me, I’m embracing it.”
With a clear investment from the franchise’s front office, Wiseman’s newfound home promises to be full of opportunity. General Manager Troy Weaver was resolute in his press conference following the trade for the former second overall selection:
“We think we can unlock him here…We want James to come here and exhale, unpack his bags and go to work.”
Wiseman becomes the team’s fifth big man on the roster, adding to the already log-jammed position also featuring Jalen Duren, Isaiah Stewart, Marvin Bagley and Nerlens Noel.
On the surface, minutes appear limited, but aside from Duren—who has certainly earned his starting spot—none of the aforementioned players has locked down a major role at either front-court position.
Therefore, Wiseman should receive ample playing time, starting tonight, to prove his worth and forge a role in the crowded front-court. Keeping this in mind, I’ve put together 3 things you can expect from James Wiseman tonight.
1. Apply pressure to the opponent in transition
At 7 feet tall, Wiseman possess a unique cross-section of size and fluidity. The grace he transitions from one end of the floor to the other is part of the reason scouts were enamoured by the former five-star recruit coming out of high school in Tennessee.
For all his documented struggles at the NBA level, flying up and down the court in transition has been a strength for the 21-year-old. Wiseman’s primary goal when galloping down the court is simple: get within the launch zone and dunk the ball.
In the above clip, upon the Golden State Warriors gaining possession, Wiseman immediately hits full-stride, powering from baseline-to-baseline in the blink of an eye. Outpacing 4 of 5 Phoenix Sun defenders, while the fifth—DeAndre Ayton—argues with the official.
Per Synergy Sports, a shade under 13% (12.7) of Wiseman’s offensive possessions have come in transition, and his scoring efficiency in such situations ranks in the 97th percentile.
It’s worthwhile noting these statistics have been produced on a limited sample-size, but when strictly speaking about his play on the break, the eye-test backs up the aforementioned numbers. For instance, if the first option of running and dunking is unavailable, Wiseman often looks to seal or post up his man at the basket, like below:
There’s really nothing earth-shattering about Wiseman’s play on the break, however, it’s encouraging that he’s aware of his physical gifts and looks to leverage them when barreling in transition.
2. Some good and more bad defensive possessions
In his limited action as a pro, Wiseman’s defensive aptitude has been underwhelming at best. His shortfalls on the defensive end don’t come from a lack of physical tools, rather, the third-year big struggles to process core aspects of team defense.
When he’s locked in and in tune with his teammates defensively, Wiseman’s physical dominance in the painted area is profoundly clear. Every now and then, he’ll provide help and swat an opponents shot in the front row:
Unfortunately, these plays are often followed by a series of miscues like the below:
His lack of awareness and overall timing has resulted in the 7-foot stalwart grading out as a below-average rim protector. Per Cleaning the Glass, in 233 minutes with Wiseman on the court, opponents shot 68.6% within 4-feet of the basket. A disappointing percentage considering his physical profile.
Additionally, the lateness of his rotations have often lead to Wiseman being out of position, with the big man either fouling or being in poor rebounding position as a result.
With all this said, there’s still hope that with lowered expectations and increased opportunity, Detroit’s newest center can unlock his tantalizing defensive potential.
3. Plenty of pick-and-roll opportunities
For the most part, Wiseman is an excellent finisher out of ball screen actions. Aside taking a charge, there’s little defenses have been able to do when faced with Wiseman rolling downhill toward the painted area. Many times, it’s been Wiseman himself whose prevented scoring opportunities, often bailing out opponents with a fumbled pass.
Alas, the overall numbers are impressive when the 21-year-old is the nominated roll man. In 25 possessions as the dive-man this season, Wiseman has registered 40 total points, equating to an efficient 1.6 points per possession. Placing him in the 99th percentile of finishers in this category, and it’s easy to see why:
Unfortunately for the former lottery pick, this efficiency was somewhat hallow in Golden State, with coach Steve Kerr electing to prioritize ball movement and weakside actions. The antithesis of James Wiseman’s strengths offensively. Per NBA.com, Steve Kerr-run offenses have placed 27th or lower in each of Wiseman’s three seasons.
Luckily for Wiseman (and Piston fans?), Dwane Casey’s style of attack is the antithesis of the Warriors free-flowing, pace and space offense (editor’s note: lol). Detroit currently ranks 3rd in the NBA for pick-and-roll frequency, with 20.7% of play-types involving the aforementioned set, per NBA.com.
With young pick-and-roll maestro’s; Killian Hayes and Jaden Ivey, assuming the bulk of ball-handling duties. buckle-up for a ton of Wiseman jams.