Love it or hate it, the deal is done.
James Wiseman, the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, is a Detroit Piston after much consternation between the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers. For the Pistons, it’s about two things: Saddiq Bey leaving and Wiseman arriving.
Many, nay, most, of you weren’t pleased with Troy Weaver’s latest move. I’m right there with you. Moving on from Bey was no skin off my back, but I felt getting another developmental big man was unnecessary for a team that desperately needs to start finding good basketball players — not more who might be good someday.
But, it’s done. It happened. The time to bitch and moan and cry has passed. Wiseman is here. So, what do we do now? What can we expect? What should we expect?
Even after four days of thought — and consuming as much Wiseman film that exists on YouTube — I’m not sure what to tell you. I’m not going to sit here and breakdown how nuanced his offensive game is or how well he plays defense on ball screens.
I’m just trying to figure out what Wiseman is, what he wasn’t in Golden State and what he can be here in Detroit. It starts and ends with expectations so, essentially, I’m here to try and make the best of it.
WEAVER LOVES A BUY LOW
I’m a fan of Weaver taking swings on depreciated assets like Wiseman, as he did with Marvin Bagley III, Kevin Knox, Trey Lyles and Josh Jackson. Those are the moves you should make when you’re rebuilding — former lottery picks represent high-upside acquisitions.
They also have a low floor.
Knox remains, well, Knox and Jackson is already out of the NBA, but Jackson and Lyles — who I thought was a pleasant surprise for the Pistons and continues to be useful in spots for the Kings — were shipped out to Sacramento for Bagley.
Say what you will about Bagley’s limitations, but he’s been a productive player for the Pistons on the offensive end. He’s limited defensively, but this entire franchise is limited defensively. He had great chemistry with Cade Cunningham as a vertical spacer last year, and the Pistons have won at a 30% clip with him on the floor since his arrival.
Wiseman kind of throws a wrench into that though, and, in time, the Pistons will have a major logjam at PF/C. You hope it won’t hurt Jalen Duren, the crown jewel of this front court, but it’ll definitely impact the still-developing Isaiah Stewart and probably is the beginning of the end for Bagley and his freshly-signed contract this summer.
Deserved or not, it sounds like a starting job already belongs to Wiseman. Hopefully that comes alongside Duren and not in place of him. It’s hard to say how he’ll fit next to him because we simply haven’t seen much of Wiseman.
WE DON’T KNOW WHAT WISEMAN IS
Wiseman is more of an idea than a reality.
He didn’t fit in Golden State because Golden State didn’t have the patience for a project. It’s an unenviable situation for any young player to be put in, but especially a big man who only played a handful of games at the college level before being drafted under the most chaotic of environments amidst the pandemic.
I think there’s enough on tape to say Wiseman will be the Pistons best screen-and-roll big. He’ll give either Killian Hayes or Jaden Ivey a huge target on rolls to the rim. He looks like a tight end going up for a lob around the rim. He’s big enough, fast enough and long enough to finish over guys and to do so from beyond the dunker spots.
That’s a good thing.
I think his potential as a shooter is interesting, too. Maybe he’s what Bagley hasn’t panned out to be: a bouncy big with consistent range out to the 3-point line?
While his surface-level numbers (19.9 points, 10 rebounds per 36 with a 17.1 PER) look good, the advanced stats are very bad. His -19.3 net rating this year is jarringly terrible, but just like the surface numbers, how much can you glean from that when he plays so little and so few of those minutes are of consequence?
I’m confident his defense is far from a finished product because you don’t learn defense from watching. You learn defense from playing. It’s instinctual. You need to be on the floor and playing to get a feel for when you need to rotate or when you need to switch or how to protect the rim.
I’m not that worried about Wiseman on the offensive end because I think he brings something to the table as a power forward that no one else on this team can. Whether he sticks at that spot is another question, of course, but that’s what this test run is all about.
Defense will ultimately decide his best position, but he can’t be that much worse than Bey getting circles run around him on that end of the floor. The Pistons have been staved for functional size and length for years.
It’s been a while since the Pistons have had a pair of big men who possess both size and agility. They’ve experimented with various “twin tower” approaches over the years, such as the combination of the more point-forward Blake Griffin and the athletic Andre Drummond, or the pairing of the sluggish Greg Monroe and Drummond.
But again, I have no idea if that works. It’s worked for Boston with Al Horford and Robert Williams, and I’m excited to see what it looks like against one of those Celtics, one of the big East contenders that Weaver referenced as a reason for making this trade tomorrow.
THE BEY DEBATE
I’m sure some of you are just mad about trading Bey to make this happen. I get it, I guess. Bey had good moments in Detroit and he’s an NBA player, but he’s just a guy. We’ve seen reports of how little trade value he had, how members of the organization weren’t fans of his insistence on being a one-on-one scorer and that they didn’t want to pay him down the line.
Trading him for something rather than losing him for nothing makes sense, but, again, I empathize if you didn’t want the something to be Wiseman.
Either way, you can find okay shooters who hijack possessions and miss easy passes without playing defense every summer in free agency. Bey works hard, maybe he’ll break those habits in Atlanta.
Like Bruce Brown, Luke Kennard, or Christian Wood before him, moving on from Bey does not make or break this rebuild. It’s part of Weaver’s process, one that, admittedly, I’m not really following right now, but at least he’s consistent with it.
WISEMAN’S TIME FOR DEVELOPMENT IS NOW
Another thing people often reference with Wiseman is that “he spent a lot of time in the G League and never dominated.” Frankly, as someone who covered that league in a past life, I'm not sure dominating the G League does anything to help guys grow.
Sekou Doumbouya looked like a man amongst boys down there. It didn’t mean anything in the NBA. Developing players need to learn to be great at their role. Your expectation for Wiseman shouldn’t be that he’s coming here to be Kevin Garnett of 2023.
It should be that he can fill a role that the Pistons need. If he comes here, rebounds the ball, gives some size-based resistance on defense and can dunk the shit out of the ball when he gets it near the rim, he’ll have a role.
If he makes some threes and spaces the floor, that’s a cherry on top.
Having a role will allow him to get the much-needed reps he needs to develop, the stuff he never had the chance to get in Golden State. Is this a former top pick who needs a change of scenery to blossom into a star like Jermaine O’Neal after leaving Portland or is this Darko 2.0, who went from legendary Pistons bust to serviceable backup journeyman?
This all brings me back to the idea of expectations. Wiseman has vastly underperformed what was expected from him as the No. 2 overall pick. That doesn’t matter anymore. His draft pedigree is irrelevant aside from his salary.
Only time will tell how Wiseman will fare in Detroit, but one thing is certain: he now has the opportunity to start fresh and prove himself on a team that is still rebuilding. In a season that has been filled with more than its fair share of disappointment, a successful debut for Wiseman would be a welcome change of pace.