The Toronto Raptors have been working guys out like crazy this week in preparation for this month's NBA Draft. Even though the Raptors have just one pick (13th overall), the team has brought in twice as many players that are projected to be picked in the second as players that could go in the lottery.
That theme continues today with the arrival of former Bakersfield Jam player Jeremy Wise - quite possible the draft prospect flying lowest under the radar.
Wise, a 6-foot-1 point guard out of Southern Mississippi, left the Golden Eagles after his junior season to embark on a professional career that I guess would consider the "Mike Taylor route."
The NBA Draft eligible guard fared quite well in college as he was named the Conference USA Newcomer of the the Year as a freshman, earned Second Team All-Conference as a sophomore and averaged 16.7 points and 4.7 assists during his junior season, but the majority of those accolades were achieved as an undersized shooting guard.
Wise knew, for better or worse, that he would have to prove to NBA decision makers that he could run the point in an NBA-style offense in order to make it to the NBA.
Enter the NBA Development League.
Wise was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers' D-League team, the LA D-Fenders, as the third pick in the third round of the 2009 D-League Draft. Wise was released before the season started, however, likely because his up-tempo style conflicted with the triangle offense the team had planned to run.
This move actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Wise as he was soon acquired by the Bakersfield Jam and quickly handed the reigns to their offense. In just his second game with the team, three days after joining them on the road, the point guard scored 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting in 25 minutes of action off of the bench while adding five rebounds and four assists. Best of all? He didn't turn the ball over once.
Wise continued to improve over the next couple of months, but his team was in such a state of turmoil (they made a total of 20 roster moves on the season) that Wise's impact was difficult to see in the first half of the season.
At least that's the reasoning I've decided to use with myself to explain why I didn't really take notice of Wise as an NBA draft prospect until early February. In case you're not interested in following my links (and watching Bakersfield Jam highlights), I'll excerpt what I had written about him at the time:
Jeremy Wise hasn't been mentioned much here at Ridiculous Upside, but that's mostly due to the Jam being, let's say, uneasy on the eyes - which isn't really Wise's fault. Still, last night he did things that merit talking about the Jam: 10-of-10 from the field, 5-of-5 from the free-throw line and seven assists with just two turnovers while matched up against Mustafa Shakur, one of the better point guard in the D-League. If he can prove that he's a capable point guard, his stock improves quite a bit. I'm not sure if he'd be drafted, but Mike Taylor did it, and I don't see the talent-gap being that large between the two.
The part that should give merit to Wise as an NBA prospect is that he had that game against Shakur who was probably one of the top two defensive point guards in the D-League last season (he'd eventually end the season with the Oklahoma City Thunder). If you're familiar with D-League box score reading, you could actually surmise that Wise stepped up to the level of his competition quite often last season:
- 25 points in 24 minutes off of the bench against future call-up Sundiata Gaines
- 24 points and five assists against defensive stopper, and former/future Atlanta Hawk Mario Wes
- 27 points, seven assists and three steals against the LA D-Fenders, the team that cut him in training camp
- 30 points, six rebounds, six assists and just one turnover against current Spur call-up Curtis Jerrells
- 24 points, 11 assists, two blocks and a steal against Jerrells the next night
- 27 points, five assists and four blocks again against Jerrells a couple of weeks later
- 29 points, four rebounds and four steals against David Bailey, peskiest defender in the D-League
Wise would finish the season averaging 16.6 points and 5.1 assists while shooting 52% from the field, 38% from beyond the arc and 85% from the charity stripe in just over 32 minutes per game. Putting that into perspective, he averaged 16.7 points and 4.7 assists in his final season at Southern Miss while shooting worse from the field (42%) and the college three-point line (31%) in just under 36 minutes of action.
What does all of this mean, you ask?
In short, the D-League worked - Wise became more efficient while learning a new position in a league more suited to the NBA style of play.
The above sentence, along with the fact that he's been traveling all over the country showing what he can do in pre-draft workouts (he's either already worked out or will work out in the future with Boston, Detroit, Houston, Memphis, Milwaukee, Portland, Sacramento, San Antonio and Toronto - and those are just the teams I've been able to find out about), shows that he's definitely a viable candidate to be picked in the second round later this month.
While surveying a few of the teams Wise has worked out with thus far, the only real knock on him is his size. Not just because he's only a tad over six feet tall, but he's also on the lighter side (he was listed at a soaking wet 165 pounds this season).
The positives, though, seem to outweigh the negatives by a decent margin - if nothing else, he's catching people off guard. There were three main things scouts were intrigued by when talking about Wise:
- his ball handling skills ("the kid is crafty and clever with the ball" and "he can get to anywhere he wants on the floor")
- his athleticism ("his game has plenty of bounce to it")
- he shoots the ball better than planned - though that should have been evident just looking at the jump in shooting percentages from his time in college to this past season in Southern Miss.
Still, if Wise isn't drafted, I won't be shocked - this draft is pretty deep and the D-League still seems to have an unwarranted stigma about it.
When he eventually does make an NBA roster, however, you shouldn't be shocked either.