NBA | May 31, 2023
At this point, even casual basketball fans are familiar with the phenomenon that is Victor Wembanyama. The 7-foot-4 Frenchman is one of the most hyped basketball prospects of all time, generating significant buzz in the 2023 NBA mock draft. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski went so far as to say that he “maybe not only the greatest prospect in NBA history, maybe the greatest prospect in the history of team sports.” Saying that may be a disservice to legendary players like LeBron James but expectations are very high for the man they call “Wemby.”
"This is the most highly-anticipated player to ever enter the NBA. ... Maybe the greatest prospect in the history of team sports."—@wojespn on Victor Wembanyama 😳 (via NBA Today) pic.twitter.com/LNuOG2RdHR — ESPN (@espn) May 16, 2023
For teams that were never going to be the playoff seed this season, the focus was on how they could put themselves in a position to land Wembanyama. The San Antonio Spurs were one of the premier teams in the NBA for decades under head coach Gregg Popovich, having won five championships since 1999. Many of those championships came thanks to the contributions of foreign players like Tony Parker and Manu Ginóbili. The team fell on hard times and has missed the playoffs for four straight years.
Just when it looked like Popovich was done competing for championships, the basketball gods gave San Antonio a major blessing. The team earned the No. 1 pick in the draft lottery and is all set to bring Wemby onboard. On the surface, it’s a match made in heaven. Parker was one of the greatest French NBA players ever and a player Wembanyama grew up being a big fan of. Despite his excitement, are the Spurs truly the best fit for the young phenom?
There are reasons to be concerned. Popovich is 74 years old now and hasn’t won a playoff series since 2017. There’s no questioning the fact that he’s one of the greatest coaches of all time and was recently elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame but could be nearing the end of his career. Wembanyama may only be coached by Popovich for another season or two. The coach has been integral to the team's success over the years so who knows what will happen when he retires.
With that said, the other likely options in the NBA Mock Draft for Wembanyama were either the Detroit Pistons or Houston Rockets. Going to the Spurs is a much better landing spot for him than either of those two teams. San Antonio needs a lot of work to have a roster that’s good enough to compete but there aren’t many better building blocks than Wembanyama.
Also, in the realm of NBA news, is he really the greatest prospect of all time? That seems like an exaggeration. There were no concerns about LeBron coming into the NBA but there should be some about Wembanyama. There has never been a 7-foot-4 player in the league who has been able to stay healthy consistently. Obviously, everybody hopes he can have a healthy, long career but his slender frame is cause for concern.
Victor Wembanyama’s ability to create space at 7ft 5 reminds me of KD!! Kid will be unstoppable in the NBA!! 👀 pic.twitter.com/s3ha5vmFaa— PJ Hoops (@RealPjHoops) May 24, 2023
Now, if he can stay strong, the sky's the limit. He has great range for a player of his size and he’s just so tall that players can’t really guard him. He could be a truly special player that can be the best player on a championship team. It will really come down to whether or not he can stay healthy. Luckily, he’s going to a very good organization that should know how to take care of him. Considering he wasn’t going to be able to go to a contender, the Spurs are the best landing spot among last year’s bottom dwellers.