The San Antonio Spurs selected French phenom Victor Wembaniyama with the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft on Thursday. Here’s what you need to know:
- Vembanyama, 19, was the consensus first-choice pick and is considered a generational talent.
- The 7-foot-4 center exploded with French professional team Metropolitan 92 this season, averaging 21.6 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.0 blocks.
- The Spurs won the right to the No. 1 pick in May’s NBA Draft Lottery. San Antonio last picked the No. 1 pick in 1997, when the team selected future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan.
Wembaniyama is the best draft prospect to enter the NBA since LeBron James. It is very simple. Vembanyama is a transferor of rights. He led the French league in rebounds and blocks and was second in points. It’s hard to overstate how impressive Vembanayama’s long-term potential has been on both ends of the floor.
He will immediately be the biggest, longest player in the NBA, allowing him to change the geometry of the court defensively. Vembaniyama has great instincts and recovery skills at that end. But he’s also a legitimate shot creator at center who can bounce creatively and make shots off pull-ups or drives with ease. He’s a terrific finisher inside because of his length and touch, and has already started experimenting with shots like turnaround pull-ups, fake-spin shimmies and floater 3s.
Wembaniyama is a historic prospect within a backdrop of past elite center prospects such as Bill Walton, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, Ralph Sampson, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan and Anthony Davis. — Everything
How Vembanayama fits in with Spurs
Vembanyama is suitable for every team. He is the fit. He’s the player you build up to. San Antonio found some solid players late in the lottery and in the back end of the first round, but the Spurs still lack a star.
Vembanyama relegates everyone to their most appropriate roles. Devin Vassell and Kelton Johnson could be young, elite wings who don’t get great defensive assignments. Vembanyama would be a perfect fit next to Jeremy Chosen in the frontcourt, and he would be an all-around gap-filler when Chosen was a teenage freshman. As he continues to rework his shot, he will slowly be brought in as a scorer.
The Spurs have transitioned gracefully from the Robinson era to the Duncan era and now into the Wembaniyama era. — Everything
Victor Wembaniama is here: Can he and the Spurs be a ratings boon for the NBA?
Vembanyama has long been regarded as one of the top prospects in his age group. His father, Felix, was a 6-foot-6 elite long jumper. His mother, Elodie, 6-foot-3 and played basketball, helped teach Victor the game. He has two siblings who both play basketball, grew up in the Parisian suburbs and joined the Nanterre 92 development team at a young age.
Wembaniyama emerged as an elite prospect for NBA teams at the 2019 U16 European Championship, where he averaged nine points, 10 rebounds and five blocks per game as a 15-year-old.
The NBA set up a showcase game for Wembaniyama and No. 3 pick Scoot Henderson in September 2022 because of the hype surrounding Wembaniyama ahead of last year’s draft. After two games between Metropolitans 92 and Henderson’s G League Ignite, Wembaniama left the scouts. In saliva and awe, he scored 37 points in the first game, then scored 36 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the second game. — Everything
The analysis applies to all 58 NBA draft picks by John Hollinger and Sam Veseny
(Photo: Christophe Archambault/Getty Images via AFP)