In the 2020 NBA draft, the Detroit Pistons selected (or traded for) Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, and Saddiq Bey in the first round. Hayes went seventh, five spots behind a raw but talented 7-footer named James Wiseman, who played all of three games at the University of Memphis before turning pro.
Despite his lofty draft status, Wiseman found himself in a difficult situation. He landed on a veteran Golden State roster that intended to compete for a championship after an anomalistic, injury-marred season that saw the Warriors finish with one of the league’s worst records. Typically, a youngster like Wiseman would be given plenty of rope to log big minutes and learn on the fly with a cellar dweller like the Pistons, similar to the path Jalen Duren and Jaden Ivey have been on this season. In Golden State, however, he would have to contribute in a hurry.
That never happened, despite occasional flashes of brilliance. But now, after a deadline day trade that saw Bey shipped out of Detroit and Wiseman brought in, he’ll finally be free to experience his growing pains without fear of being vociferously dressed down by the likes of Draymond Green.
While he still boasts tons of upside, the 21-year-old Wiseman’s addition will do nothing to diminish Detroit’s status as one of the betting favorites to finish with the NBA’s worst record. And it has struck some as a bit perplexing, considering Detroit already had three big men (Duren, Stewart, and Marvin Bagley III) under the age of 24 on its roster before trading for Wiseman.
The glass half-full view: Wiseman, Duren, Stewart, and Bagley come into their own within the next of couple years, giving the Pistons as fearsome a big-man foursome as can be found in the NBA.
The glass half-empty view: The quartet trips all over each other, clogging not only the paint but their collective development as they cost each other precious playing time.
Hey, at least it won’t be boring!
My hometown team, the Detroit Pistons, are building a nice young core with the addition of James Wiseman.
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) February 10, 2023
So are Jalen Duren and Wiseman going to stand next to each other on the court, both setting screens and then running down to stand next to one another under the basket? Duren is good! Why would the pistons eat into his minutes even more?
— kang (@jaycaspiankang) February 9, 2023
If you thought having four enormous humans competing for playing time at two positions was a crowded proposition, what about five such players? Such a scenario — and a welcome one at that — could befall the Pistons if they land the top pick in the upcoming NBA draft and select 7’4” French phenom Victor Wembanyama, the prohibitive -8000 favorite at FanDuel to go first overall.
Nobody would be crazy enough to bet against Wembanyama going No. 1, right? Wrong. As of Friday, Wembanyama accounted for only 7.8% of FanDuel’s tickets in that market, trailing Scoot Henderson (25/1 to go No. 1, 27% of all tickets), Amen Thompson (200/1, 20.6%), and Cam Whitmore (200/1, 10%).
On the surface, it’s surprising that 100% of these bets aren’t on Wembanyama to be the first player taken in June. But those -8000 odds are poisonous, and should the teenager suffer some sort of injury setback that delays his NBA entry by a year, bettors who took a flyer on Thompson at such a juicy price will indeed be saying “Amen.”
Photo: Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images