For the past two seasons, Luka Garza has been the undisputed star of the Iowa basketball program. However, Garza may find himself playing second fiddle to one of his former teammates in this week’s NBA Draft, as another Hawkeye could find a home in the NBA before the Naismith Award Winner’s name is called.
Joe Wieskamp was projected as a late-2nd round draft pick by most NBA analysts prior to his incendiary performance at the combine in which he notched the fourth-best numbers in the max vertical leap (42 inches) and lane agility drill (10.7 seconds) and dropped 26 points on 6-7 shooting from deep in a combine scrimmage. Wieskamp’s stock shot up considerably after that showing, with some experts hinting that he could even sneak into the back of the first round. With Wieskamp landing anywhere from #36 to #52 on leading NBA Draft big boards, where can Iowa fans expect to watch their favorite sharpshooter play basketball next season?
Hawkeye fans have long known that Wieskamp was an elite shooter, but his advanced statistics are wildly impressive and show precisely why the NBA is becoming so infatuated with his potential as a prospect. Among Division I players last season, Wieskamp finished in the:
95th Percentile in overall offense
91st Percentile in spot up shooting (1.18 PPP)
97th Percentile Catch and Shoot (1.466 PPP)
95th Percentile Catch and Shoot when guarded (1.403 PPP)
88th Percentile coming off of screens (1.29 PPP)
90th Percentile in transition offense (1.33 PPP)
Simply put, Wiesy can flat out score. Wieskamp made 46.2% of his threes last season (up from 38.4% during his freshman and sophomore campaigns) and boasted an impressive true shooting percentage of 61.6%. His effective field goal percentage of 60.2% was second only to Kofi Cockburn among Big Ten players last year, while his career number of 56.6% is one of the best in conference history and the best of any Hawkeye player not named Garza. Wieskamp is a multilevel scorer who can make his three-point shot off the dribble or the pass, can punish opponents in the midrange, and improved dramatically finishing at the rim over the course of his Hawkeye career. He moves exceptionally well without the ball and is consistently active on offense, not needing to be the focal point of the possession to stay heavily involved. With offense and three-point shooting at a premium in the NBA, Wieskamp is a sure bet to provide both in spades to whichever team drafts him.
However, unlike most Hawkeye players who have made the NBA in recent years, Wieskamp defies the label of the “average athlete” who overachieves his limited physical gifts. Though certainly a high-achiever in his own right, Wieskamp’s combine performance showed that he is also an NBA-caliber athlete with both the elevation needed to play above the rim on offense and attack the basket in transition, as well as the quickness to shake defenders. Wieskamp’s vertical leaping ability will also allow him to rebound well for his position (he averaged 6.6 boards per game last year), particularly if he ends up as a shooting guard.
Finally, Wieskamp has the tools to develop into a good NBA defender. His excellent agility and 6’11” wingspan will allow him to stick with his man on the perimeter while also enabling him to close potential passing lane and thrive as a help defender, an area where he frequently shined at Iowa relative to his fellow guards. Wieskamp is not a finished product on defense but plays hard on that end of the floor and certainly has the measurables to grow into a prototypical 3-and-D player at the next level.
Wieskamp may be an excellent shooter, but he is far less of a threat to handle or play-make with the ball in his hand. Wieskamp has the physical tools to beat opponents one-on-one but lacks the ballhandling skills necessary to shake his man and get to the rim in many instances. His passing statistics also leave much to be desired, as Wieskamp averaged only 1.5 assists per game over the course of his career and had nearly a 1:1 assist:turnover ratio at Iowa. If NBA defenders are able to stick with him off the ball and prevent him from creating space by coming off screens, it is unclear how effectively he will be able to create shots for himself and teammates off the dribble.
Furthermore, Wieskamp’s defensive production did not always match his measurables during his time at Iowa. While Wieskamp may struggle to beat defenders off the dribble, he was certainly vulnerable to that himself throughout his college career, and he could struggle defensively when matched up against quicker guards or wing players with an explosive first step. Equally concerning are Wieskamp’s struggles defending against size and strength. Wieskamp is susceptible to being overpowered by bigger opponents and may have difficulty guarding some of the larger small forwards in the NBA. These issues could certainly fade as Wieskamp continues to grow as a defender and add strength of his own, but failure to improve in these areas could prevent him from reaching his 3-and-D potential and relegate him to a more one-dimensional role as a bench scorer.
Wieskamp is precisely the kind of prospect NBA teams dream about nabbing in the second round; a GM can easily identify his role in the NBA, he has a high floor due to his excellent shooting and plus athleticism, and he could develop into a more complete player if he improves as a defender and playmaker. But could Wieskamp go earlier than round 2? The playoff team that would be the best fit for Wieskamp might be the Dallas Mavericks, a squad desperately in need of more 3-and-D players to surround Luka Doncic. However, the Mavericks are without a draft pick in 2021, and the Wizards (a team with similar needs who covets someone to play the role they hoped Dāvis Bertāns would fill) are probably picking too early for him to be the choice at #15. The Nets could fit the bill at #27, though they may prioritize bolstering their front court in the first round and save their search for bench scoring for picks #40, #49, and #59. The Lakers could be in the market for perimeter shooting and wing depth at #22, particularly if they follow through on their efforts to trade Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
However, the smart money has Wieskamp going somewhere in the second round. The Pelicans have four 2nd round picks ranging from numbers 35-53 and need improved shooting to surround Zion Williamson, as are the Grizzlies (pick #51) who hope to do the same with fellow 2019 draft pick Ja Morant. The Raptors have back-to-back picks at numbers 46-47, and Milwaukee or Chicago could both view Wieskamp as a solid bench scoring option in the early second. Worst case scenario: Wieskamp falls to the late 2nd round and the Pacers scoop him up at pick #54 or #60. Barring an unforeseen slide, Hawkeye fans can safely expect to hear Wieskamp’s name called on Thursday night and watch his smooth jumper as he tries to light up scoreboards in either the NBA or the G League next season.
Draft Projection: Early-mid 2nd round