By now, you’re probably aware of Victor Wembanyama’s existence. If you’re not, get ready to hear his name a lot over the next 12 months.
Much can change in a year, but all the signs point toward the Frenchman being the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. Not only is he widely considered to be the can’t-miss player in his class, but he’s also widely considered to be one of the best prospects the NBA has seen in a very long time.
Don’t take my word for it. Before leaving ESPN for a front-office job with the Trail Blazers, Mike Schmitz wrote that Wembanyama is the best prospect he’s ever personally evaluated. That carries a great deal of weight when it comes from one of the most respected analysts in all of basketball.
The word “unicorn” gets thrown around often these days, but Wembanyama might actually be the unicorn of all unicorns. Here’s why.
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Victor Wembanyama’s measurables put him in a class of his own
ESPN’s Jonathan Givony reported ahead of the 2021-22 season that Wembanyama measured 7-4 barefoot with an 8-foot wingspan.
For context, Wembanyama would’ve been the second-tallest player in the league last season, trailing only Tacko Fall, who is the third-tallest player to ever step foot on an NBA court. And that wingspan? According to this NBC Sports article, it would put Wembanyama ahead of Mo Bamba and Boban Marjanovic for the longest in the NBA.
It’s probably going to take a while for Wembanyama to fill out his massive frame — he’s listed between 210 and 230 pounds depending on where you look — but he’s going to be one of the biggest players in the NBA when he’s drafted.
If you’re more of a visual learner, here’s Wembanyama standing next to the 6-4 Jaden Ivey and 7-foot Chet Holmgren:
Victor Wembanyama standing next to Jaden Ivey and 7 footer Chet Holmgren… pic.twitter.com/zvWmFL2Uk4
— Bradeaux (@BradeauxNBA) June 29, 2022
He’s legitimately massive.
History of NBA players at Victor Wembanyama’s height
Including Fall, there are 13 players at Wembanyama’s height who have ever played in the NBA, according to Basketball Reference. Of those 13, only eight played more than 100 total regular-season games.
Two-time Defensive Player of the Year Mark Eaton tops the group with 875 games played, followed closely by Rik Smits (867) and Shawn Bradley (832). The list also includes a couple of Hall of Famers in Yao Ming (486) and Ralph Sampson (456).
YouTuber JxmyHighroller put together an interesting video about the short and injury-ridden history of players at Wembanyama’s height. Fingers crossed he can have a longer career than a lot of players on that list because he’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.
That’s not hyperbole.
Victor Wembanyama is a unicorn — on both ends of the court
If you thought Wembanyama was a traditional center based on his measurements, you’d be wrong.
Yes, he can catch lobs and protect the rim, but Wembanyama likes to play out on the perimeter. According to Basketball Reference, more than a third of his shot attempts over the last two seasons with French clubs Nanterre 92 and LDLC ASVEL came from the 3-point line.
He connected on only 31 percent of those opportunities, but watch this and tell me that you don’t think Wembanyama will one day be someone teams have to respect from the perimeter:
That’s smooth as butter.
Wembanyama is pretty dang fluid overall. His ability to space the floor out to the 3-point line, run the floor in transition, crash the offensive glass and punish mismatches with simple moves out of the post gives him a high floor offensively. (Pair him with a decent guard and some shooters, and you should be in business.) What will determine his ceiling will be his development as an on-ball creator.
He didn’t create much of his own offense last season, but Wembanyama has shown enough to believe he’ll get there one day.
The player he scores over here? He’s 6-6. Wembanyama makes him look minuscule.
Wembanyama has even flashed some potential as a playmaker for others. Comparing him to Nikola Jokic in that regard feels like a step too far, but he has some impressive vision for his size.
We shouldn’t gloss over his defense, either.
Wembanyama is already a menace around the basket with his go-go gadget arms. Even when he gets bumped out of position by bigger players, his excellent footwork and timing help him recover in a blink of an eye.
He’s also nimble enough to hold his own against guards on switches. Shooting over him is a near impossible task, and he’s not easy to break down off the dribble.
Ask him, and Wembanyama will tell you he’s a mix of Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Rudy Gobert. Comparing himself to two of the greatest forwards of all time and one of the most decorated defenders sure is a lot, but the fact that he can say that without there being a collective groan from NBA Draft Twitter should tell you how incredible of a prospect he is.
With that in mind, let the Wembanyama sweepstakes begin.