NBA Draft

All eyes on projected top pick Wembanyama ahead of NBA Draft


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All eyes on projected top pick Wembanyama ahead of NBA Draft

GENERATIONAL TALENT. Victor Wembanyama excites basketball fans.

Benoit Tessier/REUTERS

Victor Wembanyama, a 7-foot-4 French teen, possesses a unique combination of size, athleticism and all-round talent that will make him a matchup nightmare for opposing teams

When it comes to the 2023 NBA Draft, there is Victor Wembanyama and then there is everyone else.

Wembanyama is considered a slam dunk to be taken first overall in Thursday’s NBA Draft by a San Antonio Spurs team that would be counting on the French basketball phenom to restore the franchise’s winning culture.

A so-called generational talent who can quickly change the trajectory of a franchise, Wembanyama is the most anticipated and hyped NBA Draft prospect since LeBron James, the league’s all-time leading scorer, in 2003.

“For me, San Antonio is synonymous with winning,” Wembanyama said at Wednesday’s pre-draft press conference in New York. 

“On lottery night, when the Spurs got the No. 1 pick, I was just thinking, I was feeling lucky that they had the pick as a franchise that has that culture and that experience in winning and making, creating good players. So I really can’t wait.”

The 19-year-old Wembanyama possesses a unique combination of size, athleticism and all-round talent that will make him a matchup nightmare for opposing teams in the NBA where he could one day be considered one of the game’s all-time greats.

“Wembanyama is unique. I’ve never seen anything quite like him on a basketball floor,” ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas said on a conference call.

“At 7’4″ with a wing span of close to eight feet with fluidity and athleticism and mobility, I just can’t fathom a combination quite like that on a basketball floor.”

‘High expectations for myself’

The Spurs have won five NBA titles under coach Gregg Popovich and have previously hit the No. 1 overall draft pick jackpot twice with the selections of David Robinson (1987) and Tim Duncan (1997).

Both players are members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as is Popovich.

Another appealing thing about the Spurs to Wembanyama is that French players Tony Parker and Boris Diaw had successful stints with the Spurs.

For the Spurs, the chance to select Wembanyama could not have come at a better time given they have missed the playoffs in each of the last four NBA seasons and not advanced past the opening round of the playoffs since 2017.

Wembanyama isn’t the least bit rattled by all the fuss about him leaving France to play in the world’s top basketball league.

“I don’t let this, all this stuff, get into my head because I got such high expectations for myself that I’m immune to all this stuff,” Wembanyama said. “So I really don’t care.”


Part of what makes Wembanyama so intriguing is the fact that he is not your typical 7-foot-plus player.

Wembanyama likes to bring the ball up court and fire three-pointers. He doesn’t mind getting physical in the interior but he prides himself on his all-around skillset.

“No one is going to stop me from dribbling the ball, bringing the ball up and shooting threes,” Wembanyama said. “Nobody is going to stop me from doing that. Even though sometimes coaches in my career would try to stop me from doing that because they had to win right now.

“So it was really an everyday fight to stay true to myself, and, yeah, this is something that I’m never going to lose, for sure.”

While the Spurs, who got the opportunity to select first overall after winning the NBA Draft Lottery last month, have not publicly announced who they will pick, their fans are already planning for the arrival of Wembanyama.

According to reports, San Antonio have seen a surge in season ticket sales along with 10 times the amount of web traffic and Spurs app downloads since the lottery results.

Built for the modern game

The term “unicorn” has been tossed around in NBA circles for years to describe rare prospects who have both the size to dominate as a power forward or center and also the dribbling, passing, shooting and speed that resemble a guard.

But four-time NBA champion James felt that term had been used too loosely and went in another direction to describe Wembanyama, who is one of the highest-ceiling prospects many scouts have ever seen.

“Everybody’s been a unicorn over the last few years, but [Wembanyama’s] more like an alien,” James said last October. “No one has ever seen anyone as tall as he is but as fluid and as graceful as he is on the floor.”

Wembanyama is coming off a solid campaign with Metropolitans 92, a professional team in the French League, where he averaged 21.6 points and 10.4 rebounds per game and won several awards, including being named Most Valuable Player.

“What makes this draft different is Victor Wembanyama is in it. I have not seen a draft like this since my first one when LeBron was drafted” said Bilas.

“Wembanyama is built for the modern game. We’ve never seen anything quite like him.”

The Charlotte Hornets own the second pick in the NBA Draft while the Portland Trail Blazers are set to pick third overall.

There will be 58 picks across two rounds in the 2023 NBA Draft instead of the usual 60 because Philadelphia and Chicago forfeited a second-round pick due to violating rules governing free agency discussions. –

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