When the 2023 NBA Draft comes around, there’s not going to be much debate on who everyone believes will be the first overall selection. And he comes with intrigue wrapped in an international flavor.
Victor Wembanyama of France is an international star with a ton of potential, who has experts’ eyes popping out of their heads. His ability is off the charts. On top of it all, at just 19 years old, he will have plenty of time to grow.
That’s “grow” as in maturity, not height.
Wembenyama is already measured at 7’2″, although some scouts believe he might be an inch (or maybe even two) taller. Regardless, his tremendous length allows him to get up and down the court in just a few strides, and he’s got good footwork for his amazing size. But his wingspan may be what suits him the best at the pro level, as it not only allows him to easily block shots, but also to shoot over most opponents.
And oh yeah…When Victor Wembanyama does shoot? He’s got the silky, soft touch of a perimeter player. He’s such a mixed bag, that he’s often just as good from behind the arc as he is when he’s working down low in the paint.
He’s an accomplished international star already, in spite of his age. He has led the French team to two silver medals, including at the 2021 FIBA Under-19 World Cup.
So with all that size and those intangibles, it’s no wonder why Victor Wembanyama is widely viewed as the most surefire NBA draft prospect since the Cleveland Cavaliers choose LeBron James as the number-one pick back in 2002.
But what will the future hold for Wembanyama when he finally steps on the NBA hardwood? Will he live up to the hype and become an All-Star or maybe even fulfill his destiny as a generational talent? Or, will he be the same kind of flop other very tall big men have been in the past?
Here’s a look at three scenarios for Victor Wembanyama’s NBA Future. Will he be a boom, bust, or brilliant?
Let’s face it: It’s pretty easy to be cynical on this one.
A skinny kid from France, playing inferior competition overseas is NOT going to come into a league full of grown men and dominate. The odds against it happening are pretty easy to argue. And being unproven against superior talent isn’t the only thing working against him, either.
Wembanyama’s physique is also a factor. Most spindly, super-sized guys break down due to the wear and tear of an 82-game schedule. They may have enough to go in spurts, but they aren’t made for the marathon. It’s why we’ve seen players like Ralph Sampson and Yao Ming give out in the past. And even when some of these types of players add weight and muscle, their frames aren’t really capable of carrying. That leaves them both clumsy and susceptible to more injuries.
Very few athletic anomalies who are considered ‘video game’ players have ever really translated into mega-stardom in the NBA, so why does everyone suddenly think Victor Wembanyama will be the one to break the mold?
He may be a contributor, or possibly a good player. But his fairy-tale physique probably won’t translate much when it comes to real life.
The NBA will do everything in its power to make the youngster one of the faces of the sports. He not only represents the future, but he also represents France. And having another super successful Euro player (like we have seen with Luka Doncic and Nikola Jokic) is a further example that the League is an international empire.
So, it’s easy to see him getting a lot of fanfare out of the gate, and all of his positive achievements will be magnified. Not just for his own good, but for the good of the game as a whole. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
No matter what happens, he’s guaranteed to be an All-AStar, at least in his rookie campaign. The young star will receive so much love from his fellow countrymen (as well as star-crossed young basketball fans) that he’s a shoo-in off the bat. And if he does well enough? He will be there year in, and year out.
‘BOOM’ is probably the most likely scenario for Victor Wembanyama. He’s a talented player who will be put in a good position right away. He’ll likely take advantage of that, and have a long career as an upper-echelon player. To expect more than that from an unproven teenager is just unrealistic. So, in reality, there’s much more of a chance that he will be like Arvydas Sabonis than Hakeem Olajuwon.
However? If you really, REALLY want to dream big, then you might want to look toward the tallest thing in France not named The Eiffel Tower. While it’s hard to put a rubber stamp guarantee on anything, Wembanyama has as good a chance as anyone of making history and being a once-in-a-lifetime talent.
First off, there are the numbers. As we have seen with James’ long career and his eventual breaking of the scoring record, these teen draftees have the chance to stick around a long time. Much longer than their predecessors. With Wembanyama’s wingspan and cat-like instincts, he could own the blocking and rebounding records. In fact, his long arms could put them far out of reach for decades. And possibly even forever.
In terms of being considered a ‘generational’ or ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ player, it means he could literally change the way the entire game is played. In much the same way that Stephen Curry has made outside shooting and the perimeter game the style du jour, Victor Wembenyama represents something even more futuristic. More revolutionary. He’s a 7-foot-plus center who can play like a little man. He could be the ultimate hybrid player and a blueprint for what the NBA becomes as this century unfolds.
So, in the case of Victor Wembenyama, there are three different paths that he, the NBA, and the fans will soon embark on together. One could see him potentially being a huge flop, but the other could lead to him being a perennial All-Star performer.
Or, the most magical path of all – the golden road. It’s the one where he transcends the game and ultimately changes it. Forever remembered as not just a legend, but an icon.
And while there’s no way of knowing which destination it will end up in. But one thing’s for sure… It will be a heck of a journey to get there.
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