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Victor Wembanyama is a once-in-a-generation prospect who has the potential to contend for MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the not so distant future.
Welcome to the Wemby Show. Next season will mark the beginning of a potentially historic career: at least, that’s what the NBA Draft hype machine would have you believe. Expectations for Victor Wembanyama, the soon to be 19-year-old center from France, are through the roof. And it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement.
To watch Wembanyama play is to have your understanding of physics, your very understanding of the human form, pushed to the limit. He defies logic. We’ve never seen a player his size move so fluidly. He’s near the top of his French league in usage rate, constantly creating from scratch with the ball in his hands. Wemby can navigate tight spaces with his handle, or just embrace his gobsmacking size to score over the top. Smaller defenders have no chance. Slower defenders have no chance. Taller defenders don’t exist.
Barring something catastrophic, Wembanyama will be the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. It’s normally unwise to make such definitive statements this early in the process — even Luka Doncic mysteriously fell to No. 3 a few years ago — but even the Sacramento Kings aren’t dumb enough to mess this one up.
Victor Wembanyama NBA Draft bio
Weight: 220 pounds
Birthdate: Jan. 4, 2004
Position: Center/Power Forward
Offensive Role: Go-to scorer, pick-and-roll finisher
Defensive Role: Rim protector
Projected Draft Range: Top 3
NBA Draft highlights
The root of Wembanyama’s special upside is evident at first glance: he’s gigantic, listed in the 7-foot-5 range with a standing reach tall enough to dunk without leaving the ground. He can fulfill various roles offensively, from simple lob threat and play finisher to legitimate go-to scorer.
Metropolitans 92 will have him bring the ball up the floor and create off the bounce. He can transition smoothly from his dribble into his pull-up jumper, he’s capable of navigating screens and shooting 3s on the move, and any concerns about his slender frame are negated by untouchable length and feather-soft touch around the rim. He can go through, around, or over the top of defenders depending on the circumstances.
Defensively, Wemby has nimble feet in space and elite recovery speed. A ball-handler needs several steps on Wembanyama before he actually has the advantage. It’s not uncommon for Wemby to get beat at the point of attack, only to come out of nowhere for the swat from behind. He should average several blocks per game and successfully anchor a defense in the NBA.
Physicality could be problematic for Wembanyama when faced with high-level NBA athletes. Stronger centers like Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic will attack his chest and bump him off his spot. He’s long and quick enough to recover, but those situations will test the limits of his 8-foot wingspan and his vaunted ability to erase disadvantages.
Wemby has also struggled at times on the glass, where strong-willed box-outs can push him out of range. NBA teams will bet gladly on his offensive upside and rim protection to negate the ill effects of mediocre rebounding, but it will be interesting in general to see how Wembanyama’s string-bean frame holds up at the highest level.
The main concern for a lot of scouts will be injury-related. He doesn’t have the troubling history of Embiid, but we’ve seen tall athletic centers succumb to lower-leg maladies time and time again: Chet Holmgren being the most recent example, still fresh in everyone’s mind. That’s a valid worry, but it shouldn’t dissuade teams from investing in Wembanyama with the No. 1 pick.
Victor Wembanyama’s name is practically written in sharpie on the No. 1 pick envelope already. He’s going to be the talk of the town between now and June, and whichever team wins the lottery will have a potential franchise player for the next decade-plus. We’re talking about a seriously special player here.
Recent years have been unkind to highly-touted centers. But Wembanyama is different. The weaknesses are few and far between. He’s athletic enough to dominate the modern game, he has razor-sharp defensive instincts, and his offensive skill set is wide-ranging. He can impact the game in multiple ways, with the potential to adjust his approach depending on the personnel around him. He can play out of the post and operate as his team’s playmaking hub, or he can fill the lane playing off of elite ball-handlers. He will be the No. 1 pick, and the safe bet is on future stardom.