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NBA Draft Prospect Review: Victor Wembanyama

Ryan Hinske

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The year 2023 marks the realization of an era of the NBA that we thought we entered

half a decade ago. With the 4th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks took a big risk

when they drafted Kristaps Porzingis rather than established bigs such as Mario Hezonja, Willie

Cauley-Stein, and Frank Kaminsky. Knicks fans booed the young Latvian from the moment he

was drafted, as he was unaccomplished and unknown. The Knicks drafted the 7’3 sharpshooter

because they saw the future of the NBA in him.

Fast forward to today, and a “potential unicorn” is on just about every NBA team. The

Ringer defines a “unicorn” as a freakishly tall player with a “unique blend of size, skill, and

athleticism.” In Porzingis’s case, it was spot-up shooting that made the big man a remarkable

prospect. In back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic’s case, it’s fluidity and grace with his playmaking. In

back-to-back MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo’s case, it’s strength and downhill speed. The

Oklahoma City Thunder have two “unicorns” in Aleksej Pokusevski and Chet Holmgren. Well,

Victor Wembanyama is the unicorn of unicorns, standing at 7’4 with an 8 foot wingspan while

also bringing shooting, agility, and strength. The future is now.

Wembanyama is the clear-cut 1st overall pick, but this time, it’s not just because of what

he COULD be. Unlike Porzingis, Vic isn’t a “project,” he’s proven. Averaging 24.9 points per 36

minutes and shooting 47% on 18 attempts, Wembanyama is already a high-volume scorer who

is genuinely LEADING his team, Metropolitans 92, to the 2nd best record in the Betclic Élite

league while leading the league in total points and points per game. In a professional league full

of experienced players, Vic is also leading the league in blocks per game, free throw attempts,

and rebounds per game. What may be most notable is that Wemby is 3rd in the league in

minutes per game, which is remarkable for any center, especially one that is 7’4 and 19 years of

age. If this guy isn’t special, I don’t know who is.


Looking at Wembanyama’s scoring, the first thing that sticks out is the way he handles

the ball. He is compared to Ralph Sampson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but unlike those two, he

is not a back-to-the-basket big. Although he can work in the post and convert hooks and faders,

he tends to face up his defender like a guard and keep his shoulders square to the basket

whenever possible. This opens up his potential to rise up over defenders and shoot, and his

shot looks unguardable. His shooting percentages are low, but yours would be too if you were

19 years old with an 8 foot wingspan. What’s truly mind-boggling is that Wemby is not a spot-up

shooter like Porzingis; he can create his own shot off the dribble. I mean, what are you

supposed to do? If you guard the shot too close, he can also quite literally explode to the

basket, and his gravity leaves shooters wide open, where he has adequate enough vision to

kick the ball out.

Defensively, Wembanyama may simply be a taller Evan Mobley. His vertical quickness

is unbelievable for his size, making it nearly impossible to get a shot up over him. What he lacks

in quickness he makes up for with his instincts. Also, don’t be fooled: Victor’s slim frame does

not mean he can be pushed around easily by other bigs. Because of his elite footwork,

Wembanyama can hold his own in the paint against agile centers.

Ok, I can’t wait any longer to say this: Victor Wembanyama’s ceiling truly is one of the

greatest to ever do it. There are absolutely no indications that Vic will come up short in literally

any facet of the game except playmaking, but who needs playmaking when you’re a once-in-a-

millennium type player? If a team is constructed the right way around Victor (floor-spreading 3 and-D guys and a playmaking, shifty guard), this guy could genuinely average 30 and 12. This

leaves just two possible shortcomings: longevity and durability. Yes, these do go hand in hand,

but I separate them because - let’s say Vic is injured five full seasons but still plays until he’s 38

- he’ll still be a Hall of Famer. The only way this guy doesn’t go down as one of the greats is if

he spends his career plagued by injuries, but there’s no way to predict this, and worst case

scenario, he will still be an anomaly that not only can’t be explained, but also the guy that

represents the unicorn era in NBA basketball. When my final class ranking drops at the end of

the school year, you will already know who is at the top of the list.

To learn more about Victor Wembanyama, the rest of the 2023 draft class and the

future of the NBA, tune in to NBA Tomorrow on Radio DePaul Sports every Tuesday at

12:00 PM Central, and because Vic is such an anomaly, I just had to bring on a special

guest for February 27’s show: fellow Radio DePaul Sports staff member Dexter

Blanchard. You don’t want to miss this one.

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