Generational. Transcendent. Unique. These are a few of the words used when discussing Victor Wembanyama.
Ahead of the 2023 NBA Draft, Wemby is one of the most unique and talented prospects in the history of basketball. He stands out on the court, literally, with a dazzling bag of tricks that make him an elite-level shot-maker and creator for a player who’s been publicly listed anywhere between 7-foot-4 and 7-foot-6.
Wembanyama’s name is put in the same breath as LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, so he’s clearly doing something right. The dynamic athlete from Le Chesnay, France is a special talent and virtual lock to end up the first pick of the 2023 NBA Draft.
- Uses his length to score over everyone – This happens when a player is blessed with an 8-foot wingspan and coordination. Wembanyama is virtually impossible to defend down low because he has the skill to get around or finish right over you.
- Developing shooter with a high release – His shot can be sort of a mixed bag at times, but the form looks good and on the right night he’s one of the best in the world. There are a lot of moving parts at his size, but there’s definitely an upside in his jump shot.
I mean, this is just stupid…
- Elite passer – One of the more underrated parts of his game, I love Wembanyama as a passer. He can play out of double teams, from the perimeter, or in a high-low setting with another big because he sees the floor so well and anticipates the defense.
- Excellent ball handler for his size – His size will probably inhibit him from ever being one of the best ball handlers in the league, but Wembanyama knows how to use the dribble to get to his spot and get a clean look. He’s got an impressive off-the-bounce game that is reminiscent of Durant.
- Elite rim protector – It’s not hard to envision someone with his size leading the league in blocks one day. Wembanyama doesn’t quite have the anticipation and skill of Chet Holmgren or Evan Mobley as a defensive rim protector, but he’s very good in that department and makes up for it with more length.
- Moves laterally well enough to hang in switches
- Will be one of the best pick-and-roll defenders in the NBA from day one – This is my favorite part of Wembanyama’s game. The NBA is a pick and roll league, and Wembanyama is a one-man wrecking crew to the pick and roll. He can drop in coverage to defend the roll man and still have the length and anticipation to block the ball handler on the shot.
- Fine-tune the process. Everything is in place to put Wembanyama as one of the best in the game, it’s just cleaning up things in his game. He can be a little inconsistent with his shot and force things, he’s still developing as a ball handler and can turn it over by overplaying. For the most part, it’ll work itself out.
- Rebounding. His one glaring hole is that Wembanyama can kind of be a lazy rebounder. He doesn’t get great positioning and can get pushed off his spot rather easily. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like he minds giving up an offensive rebound, because it gives him another free block.
- He needs to bulk up more to reach his full defensive potential.
We’ve heard everything from Lew Alcindor to Ralph Sampson to describe Wembanyama’s transcendent talent. Both work for me, but I personally like the Kevin Durant plus five-inches comparison. He has that sort of offensive upside, with an even higher defensive upside that’s comparable to Rudy Gobert. This is a rare player and we’ve already seen several teams openly tanking for the Frenchman.
The most interesting thing for Wembanyama is how he’ll be able to play with other bigs. Durant is unique because he’s athletic enough to play wing with other bigs on the court, or allow a team to play smaller like his time with the Warriors. A smart team and coach will find similarly creative ways to use Wembanyama.
Everywhere. Every team not actively competing for an NBA title should consider tanking for the first overall pick, even if you already have a starting center in place. This isn’t just the top prospect in the draft.
Wembanyama is the kind of prospect that alters the trajectory of an entire franchise, city and league for the next decade-plus if he stays healthy. He could end up the best player in the league within the next 10 years, something that can’t be overstated enough. Similar to Tim Duncan in the 1997 draft and LeBron James in the 2003 draft, teams should be preparing from game one with the idea of getting Victor Wembanyama on their team.
Mediocre or bad NBA teams are doing their fans a disservice if they are not actively trying to find a way to win the lottery. If you’re a fan of a bad team currently, write to your local congressman and get your favorite NBA franchise to tank right now.