Note: This piece is the continuation of an ongoing series where Ridiculous Upside examines some undrafted 2017 prospects that fans need to keep an eye on. The first four segments of this series was on former Weber State guard Jeremy Senglin, Badgers alum Bronson Koenig, former Utah State forward Jalen Moore and former Michigan guard Derrick Walton Jr. and William & Mary alum Daniel Dixon
In the buildup to every single NBA Draft, there’s like a three week span where I just go nuts with watching game tape of the prospects. Obviously, most of that time is spent trying to study up on the elite players that will be selected in the lottery. However, there’s always an unknown prospect or two that always catches my eye during that draft buildup.
Back in the summer I noted how Vince Hunter was a recent example as I absolutely loved him before the 2015 NBA Draft. That was because of how he stood as a strong 6’8 forward that was fabulous at crashing the glass and could also run in transition. Although Hunter has yet to play a second during an NBA regular season, I’m still optimistic about his future as he’ll be entering this year under a two-way contract with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Two years after my infatuation with Hunter, there was another 6’8 forward that caught my eye. That player was Eastern Washington alum Jacob Wiley who really impressed during his lone season with the squad. In 34 minutes per game, Wiley exploded as he put up 20.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.7 blocks per game on 64% from the field. Wiley’s phenomenal play pushed him to be named as the Big Sky MVP.
Despite that spectacular season, Wiley didn’t catch my eye until after the college season wrapped up when DraftExpress dropped a video about him a few days before the draft. From the jump, I noticed how he’s able to combine tremendous intensity with pretty great athleticism. That combination allowed him to be a capable offensive rebounder, help defender and someone that can work his way to the basket in pick-and-rolls. Although he was a raw prospect due to playing one season of Division 1 hoops, you could get the sense that he definitely had a good amount of upside.
Unfortunately, that potential didn’t intrigue teams in the Association enough to have him get selected during that year’s NBA Draft. However, his status as an unsigned rookie didn’t last long as the Nets signed Wiley to a partially-guaranteed deal just three days after that year’s draft on June 25th.
While both CBS Sports and ESPN immediately reported that Wiley’s contract was a two-way, that wouldn’t become official until the Nets announced it in mid-August. Until then, Wiley had an opportunity to make his mark in Summer League where he was looked at as one of the bigger parts of the squad. However, Wiley wasn’t able to produce in Vegas as he only put up 2.5 points and 4.5 rebounds on 20% from the field in 15.6 minutes per game.
Despite that rough play during the summer, it didn’t deter the Nets from keeping Wiley within the organization on that two-way, something you can’t say about NBA squads. Currently, he’s with the big league club to hopefully get some playing time in during their preseason games. After preseason concludes on October 13th, he’s expected to transition his way over to the G League to play with the Long Island Nets.
Due to his status as being one of the two players that the team has on a two-way, Ghanaian guard Yakuba Ouattara is the other one, Wiley is expected to stand as a integral part of the Long Island Nets. While Ouattara will probably get a bigger role within their offense, Wiley should be asked to stand as a major weapon on both ends of the court.
From an offensive perspective, Wiley displayed a pretty diverse skill set during his lone season at Eastern Washington. Over the course of that season, he shined as a post-up threat, offensive rebounder, on-ball driver, and even as a facilitator. Although each of those skills pushed him to average 20.3 points as a senior, WIley’s best skill is undoubtedly his work in the low-post.
Although he only played one season of Division 1 basketball, Wiley’s confidence as a low-post presence is actually more comparable to an NBA veteran like Al Jefferson or LaMarcus Aldridge. Moments after receiving a post-entry pass, Wiley can quickly recognize his position on the court and decide whether he wants to go into attack mode or try to dish it off to one of his teammates.
In regards to that second example, Wiley does a nice job of quickly scoping out the floor and which teammate he should dish it of too. Whether those players are driving to the rim or waiting on the perimeter, Wiley does a great job of being able to throw these precise passes. That solid work as a facilitator led to him averaging 2.7 assists per 40 minutes, which is a pretty decent average for a 6’8 forward.
While solid as a facilitator, Wiley made his bones in the low-post as an actual scoring threat. Whether working on the left or right block, he’s in full control as he seems to know what he’s going to do before he even receives the ball. That confidence was mainly due to how skilled he is in this aspect of the game as he loves to utilize drop steps, spin moves or even up-and-unders to try to trick the opposing defenders. Even if those moves don’t work, Wiley can still has success due to a hook shot that was essentially automatic at Eastern Washington. Although most of those shots occurred when he was just backing up on the opposition, he’s more than capable of pulling off a running hook shot like this.
Staying inside the paint, another way that Wiley impressed on the offensive end of the court is working his tail off on the offensive glass. Despite being a relatively undersized 6’9, 225 pound forward, he was able to snag 3.3 offensive boards per 40 minutes due to his solid athleticism and just being able to outwork the competition.
The final way that Wiley’s able to perform from inside the paint is through his work as both an on-ball driver and a pick-and-roll cutter. From an off-ball perspective, Wiley does a great job of quickly finding an opening inside the paint where he can receive the perimeter. Even if he isn’t totally open,he’s able to use his 7’0 wingspan and soft hands to retrieve a pass that might go over his head. After retrieving a pass, he’s quickly able to finish at the rim whether that’s due to a layup, small hook shot or a thundering dunk.
On the other end of the spectrum, Wiley shines as being a pretty decent on-ball driver for a 6’8 forward. To start, he’s able to utilize a quick first step to breeze his way past most front-court players that are tasked to defend him. After that is where Wiley really impresses as he seems to be able to find a way to get to the rim no matter the obstacles. Is there an opposing forward waiting near the bottom of the key? He can just pull off a pretty spin to move around him.
What about if there’s a big that’s just waiting to block him? Well, he’s more than able to utilize his strong 225 pound frame to drive right into him and score around contact. If Wiley doesn’t face interference, well he’s more than capable of finishing with a thundering slam (below). Those tools allowed him to shoot 72% from around the rim, according to Hoop-Math.
Although Wiley’s relatively solid in each of those aspects of the offensive game, there’s one glaring hole: mid-range or perimeter shooting. While he’s shown some small glimpses of being able to spread the floor and honestly possesses a decent 16-foot jumper, Wiley will need to expand on this when he reaches the Long Island Nets. Because in the current era, undersized forwards like Wiley need to have a reliable mid-range jumper in their arsenal to be considered as a full-fledged offensive threat.
While solid on the offensive end of the court, a lot of Wiley’s potential as an NBA player rests with his work on defense. Despite standing relatively undersized as a 6’8 power forward, he actually makes up for his lack of height with great energy and 7’0 wingspan. That combination helped allow him to be versatile on this end of this court as he seems to be as comfortable with trolling on the perimeter as when he’s working inside the paint.
As a perimeter defender, he does a nice job of utilizing his long frame to deter the opposing guard from trying to shoot, whether they’re working from beyond the arc or mid-range.
Once Wiley deletes that method from the opponent’s scoring hard drive, that player could just decide to drive. While opponents might be a little faster, Wiley’s quick feet allows him to keep up as they move from the perimeter to the paint.
Wiley’s defensive competence persists when he’s working against front-court players inside the paint. As a low-post defender, Wiley’s regularly able to prevent the opposing big from gaining the type of advantage that they need to put up an open jumper. While most of that defense is from him utilizing his strong frame, he’s more than willing to stop the opposition with a key block. Those traits pushed him to average 3.2 blocks per 40 minutes as a senior, which topped the Big Sky conference.
While definitely solid on this end of the court, there are some things that Wiley needs to work on. For one, there were numerous cases where he just seemed to get out of position or just lose track of where his designated player is. Of course, that leads to the opposing team scoring points that they really shouldn’t be able to.Alongside that, he just sometimes seems lackadaisical as a defensive rebounder. While he’s a hard worker on the other end, there just seems to be that occasional disconnect with him working on the defensive glass. An example of that is seen below as the Weber State big quickly collects the board and make the easy basket.
Like most players that are on two-way deals, Wiley stands as a pretty solid prospect that his clear flaws. From a positive perspective, WIley’s a solid offensive threat that’s excellent in the low-post while also being able to shine on the offensive glass and as a cutter. However, Wiley will need to utilize the opportunity with Long Island to improve as a mid-range shooter so he can truly be a multi-faceted offensive threat.
The same can be said about his work on the other end of the court. While Wiley stands as a versatile defender that can guard on both the perimeter and paint, there’s still some flaws that he’ll need to get rid off. There are far too many occurrences where he just loses track of the opposition’s offense which ultimately leads them to score some easy buckets.
Despite those flaws, Jake Wiley still stands out as a prospect that every fan should keep their eyes on when the NBA G League begins next month.