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2023 NBA Draft Player Profile: Victor Wembanyama

Victor Wembanyama

It seems like every year, there is a new NBA Draft prospect that seems to take the world by storm. In just the past decade, names like Luka Doncic, Zion Williamson, the Ball brothers, and Anthony Edwards have captivated the attention of the basketball public and been high selections in their respective drafts. Yet, not since LeBron James has a single prospect earned as much hype and as much adoration as French big man Victor Wembanyama. The 7'5" 19-year old is widely considered one of the best NBA Draft prospects of all-time, and is a shoe-in to be the No. 1 overall pick in late June. However, the reality is that any player of his age is going to have notable weaknesses to go along with his strengths, and there are no sure things in professional sports. Before we anoint Wembanyama the next LeBron, it's important to take a more measured, realistic view of what to expect from him in the coming years. As much as current sports media is prone to hyperbole, I've tried to take a grounded view in my evaluation of the French forward.


Unicorn-esque athletic frame - I'm not sure we've ever seen a prospect built the way Victor Wembanyama is, at least at this stage of his career. The term "unicorn" has become thrown around quite a bit in basketball circles these days, but it's an apt definition for the 19-year old. He measures in at 7'5" with a wingspan projected to be larger than 8 feet long. In fact, Wembanyama is so gigantic that he seemingly towers over another well-regarded French basketball player - Minnesota center Rudy Gobert. Despite this enormous stature, Wembanyama is a smooth athlete with excellent leaping ability. He's surprisingly nimble on his feet and has a high motor; don't expect to see him sitting important minutes because he can't keep up. Simply put, he's the type of basketball player you might create in the latest edition of "NBA 2K", not the type you see in real life.

Diverse, well-rounded offensive game - Wembanyama is your prototypical new age NBA big man. Of course, we haven't seen a player quite like him, but his game encapsulates what the modern NBA is looking for. He's a superb shooter, even if his three-point percentage of 28% during the 2022-23 LNB Pro A season (the highest league in France) leaves bit to be desired. His long arms and high point-of-release allows him to get off the most difficult of shots, even against skilled defenders. And, his athleticism and finishing is reminiscent of some of the game's top rim-runners. But, what really sticks out to me about Wembanyama? As impressive as all the physical attributes are, he's one of the most skilled passing bigs I've ever seen, especially at his age. His assist numbers of 2.4 per game might not wow you, but he has an excellent understanding of how to put his teammates in the best position to score, while limiting bad decisions. Wembanyama is not going to be some black hole offensively; he's the type of player that is going to make everyone around him better offensively. 

Elite rim protection ability - It goes without saying, but a 7'5" player with an eight-foot wingspan is going to be a menace around the rim. Wembanyama is currently averaging three blocks per game in the LNB, and does so despite limiting his fouls. He has a terrific understanding of how to use his body and how to change direction to avoid contact. Even when he doesn't block a shot, Wembanyama impacts everything an offense is trying to do and forces difficult possessions. The way he effects the game defensively can't be put into a stat sheet sometimes, he's just that good. I have little doubt that he will be able to bring that rim protection ability to the NBA and do so on a high level. Teams will likely attack him differently than they currently do in France, but he has the type of frame and overall ability that he should be able to evolve his technique over time and remain effective.

A calm demeanor and impeccable poise - Another thing that has always jumped out to me about Wembanyama is the attitude he has on the basketball court. He's not the type of player who is going to get rattled and sped up, out of his rhythm. No, Wembanyama has a very calm and controlled manner on the court, which seems to rub off on his teammates. This poise and maturity is important, especially once you get to the NBA and are facing a physicality and intensity you've never seen before for nine months out of the year. That's not say that Wembanyama can't turn it on when it's needed, but more so that his composure and calm style of play should set him up for long-term success at the next level.


Slender, slender build - It's hard to get an accurate measurement of Wembanyama's weight. You will see some outlets reporting him under 200 pounds, while others have him over 230. Either way, you can see when he plays that this is not a physically overpowering basketball player. He relies more on finesse than raw power, which is understandable considering the way his game is built. Yet, I think it's rare to wonder if his frame is going to be ready to hold up over the course of an 82-game NBA season. The physical, rough nature of the NBA is a wake up call to a lot of young big men and those guys aren't going to entering the pros with the hype of Wembanyama. He's going to need to add weight and muscle to his slender frame, which may impact other aspects of his game. Your best hope is that he takes the Giannis Antetokounmpo route, where he's able to add muscle and definition without sacrificing quickness. But, the reality is that such a route isn't an easy one, and Giannis has a much different game than Wembanyama. I'm curious to see how the San Antonio Spurs chose to address this weakness, as it will have major impacts on his long-term future.

Injury concerns? - When you're talking about a frame that we haven't seen before at the NBA level, it's only natural that durability becomes a concern. Players of Wembanyama's stature have a lengthy history of injuries derailing their respective careers, and the Frenchmen already has dealt with ailments. Last June, he missed part of the LNB Pro A postseason due to issues with his psoas muscle in his lower back. The December prior, it was shoulder problems that caused him to miss two months. Then, there's the stress fracture in his fibula the December before that, which caused him to miss three months. It seems fair to be concerned about such a checkered injury history for a 19-year old yet to make his NBA career. One doesn't have to go back far to see how many promising bigs have had their careers altered by injury, and it's only natural to have similar concerns for a 7'5" big with his body composition.

Can he handle the pressure? - It may not be fair to label this as a "weakness" for Wembanyama at this point in his career. From everything we've seen, he's been able to handle the massive hype surrounding him, and has been able to stay a level head amid all the chaos. But, the reality is that the NBA is going to be a whole different animal. Wembanyama is going to face a hype machine of seismic proportions early on in his NBA career, the type of pressure that few 19-year olds have ever faced before. Nobody is able to predict whether a young player such as himself will be able to handle such a spotlight. Now, I do think that San Antonio securing the top overall pick was major win for Wembanyama. This way, he'll be able to go to a "smaller" market and play for an organization with a proven track record with Hall-of-Fame big men. Even so, this type of pressure can crack even the most level-headed players, and social media has added a whole new layer of demands that many past superstar prospects may not have had to deal with.


Ceiling: Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, with shades of Dirk Nowitzki

How do you come with an accurate ceiling for a prospect like this? It seems unfair to label any young prospect a future Hall-of-Famer, but that certainly feels like it could be in Wembanyama's range if everything goes right. He's that well-rounded, and it feels like he has the type of game that is going to age quite gracefully. I've tried to tamper down the hype and expectations in my analysis of him up to this point, but the reality is that he has an opportunity to be a truly special, one-of-a-kind talent.

Floor: Kristaps Porzingis

Wembanyama actually reminds me quite a bit of Kristaps Porzingis, although I'd argue "Wemby" is a much better athlete than the Latvian. Yet, the two have similar physiques and their ability to space the floor feels almost revolutionary, even in modern day NBA. In many ways, Kristaps has exceed many of the expectations placed on him when he was drafted fourth overall by the Knicks back in 2015. But, it certainly doesn't feel like he has been able to quite reach his ceiling and the unfortunate reality is that he likely never will. A combination of injuries and external factors stalled the development of the promising forward and now he enters free agency at 27 years of age with an unclear future. Could the same thing happen to Wembanyama? I don't think there's any chance he is a complete bust considering, but an average to slightly above-average career could certainly be the range for his floor.


No. 1 overall to San Antonio Spurs (Latest Mock Draft)

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