Things haven’t gone as planned for James Wiseman. 

He went from being hailed as the Golden State Warriors’ hope for prolonging their dynasty to becoming a third-string center for much of this season for the Detroit Pistons, who currently own the worst record in the league at 8-47. 

But the 22-year-old knows he can still turn things around. 

“I believe I can be a great player,” Wiseman told FOX Sports. “But just staying humble, though. Just taking it one day at a time because the NBA is a long process and life’s not easy. So I just gotta put in work and keep getting better every day.”

Wiseman’s NBA journey has been turbulent. 

After the Warriors selected him out of Memphis as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 draft, owner Joe Lacob told The Athletic, “He’s a once-in-a-decade kind of guy.” Lacob added that over the last decade, he wouldn’t put any other center prospect in the same category as Wiseman other than Joel Embiid, who was named MVP last season. 

The Warriors were thrilled about the 7-footer with a 7-foot-6 wingspan. He looked athletic, fast and had notable leaping ability. But Wiseman, who had joined a Warriors team on the heels of its fifth straight NBA Finals appearance, failed to live up to his lofty expectations. 

He was mainly derailed by a torn meniscus that he suffered as a rookie in April 2021 that sidelined him the following season. Illness, a lack of NBA preparedness and the pandemic also stunted his development. 

It became clear that his tenure with the team was reaching its nadir when the Warriors won their fourth championship in eight years without him on the floor in June 2022. Then, he failed to make a splash in his return from injury in the 2022-23 season. In fact, the team’s net rating fell by 19.3 points per 100 possessions during his 262 minutes.

The Warriors eventually dealt him to Detroit on Feb. 9, 2022 in a move to essentially re-acquire Gary Payton II, a defense-first player who had gone undrafted in 2016. The sword was officially driven through the heart of the team’s two-tiered plan to keep its proven core while developing its young talent, of which he was the focal point. 

“Most of the stuff been out of my control,” Wiseman told FOX Sports of his struggles. “For real. But it’s been a journey. Just taking it one day at a time. Just trusting in God and keeping my faith in God. And keep my faith in myself. Just working hard every single day. It’s life. Stuff is going to happen. Stuff is going to be out of your control. You’ve just got to keep going.”

Wiseman is determined to avoid the fate of so many other top prospects who have flamed out in this league, such as former No. 1 picks Anthony Bennett and Greg Oden or No. 2 selection Hasheem Thabeet. 

Wiseman’s former Warriors teammates made it clear that they’re rooting for his success following him playing in only 60 games in nearly three seasons for the team. It was assumed that he’d get more playing time in Detroit, as opposed to a franchise with a win-now mentality that had very little tolerance for mistakes.

“I know James has greatness ahead of him,” Klay Thompson told reporters in November. “It can be hard at times when you’re a young player and you’re trying to establish yourself.”

But Wiseman has also struggled to find his footing in Detroit. 

After showing promise by averaging 12.7 points and 8.1 rebounds in 25.2 minutes a game with the Pistons last season, Wiseman fell out of the rotation for much of this season under first-year coach Monty Williams because of a lack of consistency and defensive sharpness. 

At the top of this season, Jalen Duren and Isaiah Stewart were the starting frontcourt and Marvin Bagley III got the nod over Wiseman as the third big man in the rotation. But the Pistons dealt Bagley to the Washington Wizards in February, meaning Wiseman should now have a bigger role, good news for someone who is averaging only six points and four rebounds in 14.1 minutes a game. 

Wiseman has heard all the criticism. 

He knows some people view him as a failure. As a big who won’t play physically. As the Warriors’ worst mistake under former general manager Bob Myers, who picked Wiseman over All-Stars LaMelo Ball and Tyrese Haliburton. As an overhyped top prospect who was a bust.

But he’s blocking that out. 

In a performance against the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 13, Wiseman had 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting, nine rebounds and one blocked shot. At times, his talent shines through and his initial projections don’t come across as hyperbole. 

“He’s not someone that we’re just holding onto as a body,” Williams told reporters after the game. “We see him working his tail off every day.”

As for Wiseman, he believes his time will come. He’s young. He’s talented. And above all else, he still believes in himself. 

He hopes to reverse his narrative, and not be among the long list of highly touted players who never lived up to their potential in the NBA. 

“Just blocking the noise out and just working on what I’ve got to work on,” Wiseman told FOX Sports. “Like I said, stuff is outside of your control. But it matters on how you respond to it. And I’m just going to keep going every day, keep my head up, stay positive, be happy – and that’s really it.”

Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.

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