NBA Draft lottery: Why Victor Wembanyama will be a generational star

victor wembanyama

We don’t know who will win the NBA draft lottery on Tuesday evening. We do know, however, how that winner will use the No. 1 pick.

They will select Victor Wembanyama, the intriguing French prospect who has dazzled executives, scouts and fans with displaying point-guard skills in a big man’s body. He represents everything the modern NBA wants in a center. Even one that stands at 7-foot-4.

He can run an offense as if he is a point guard. He can knock down 3s as if he is a shooting specialist. He can make shots in the post and along the elbows as if he is a finesse forward. He can throw down vicious dunks as if he’s a physically-imposing center. He has the height to defend as a rim protector. He has the athleticism to defend along the perimeter.

At only 19 years old, Victor Wembanyama has not only shown he will make an immediate impact in the NBA; he will become a generational star. He has already mastered all aspects of the game after playing professionally in France with Nanterre 92 (2019-21), ASVEL (2021-2022) and Metropolitans 92 (2022-23). He carried over those same skills in two exhibition games last fall against the NBA G League Ignite in Las Vegas. And though it remains unclear which team will draft him, it seems safe to say he’ll turn whichever team that selects him immediately into a playoff contender.

Victor Wembanyama’s developmental process

nba draft lottery

That doesn’t mean he won’t face any learning curves once he plays in an NBA game.

Although he will revitalize any team that drafts him, Victor Wembanyama should hope that the San Antonio Spurs or Detroit Pistons land the No. 1 pick instead of the Detroit Pistons. Wembanyama could have the same lasting impact on San Antonio as Tim Duncan did through five NBA championship runs while playing for the same coach (Gregg Popovich) — at least to start his career. The Pistons already could become the next accomplished young team with potential stars that compete the right way. The Rockets have become a mess with young players more consumed with their numbers than with actually winning.   

With a skinny frame listed at 230 pounds, Victor Wembanyama will face adjustments with adapting to a more physical game. Opponents will try to rough him up with their brute strength. They will try to intimidate him with their presence. And the league’s 82-game schedule will expose whether he has the durability to withstand such rigorous demands.

Wembanyama will also enter a glaring spotlight. He will assume the pressure to deliver results immediately. He will receive countless praise if he does. He will field scrutiny if he does not. He will become inundated with media and endorsements requests among local, national and international markets. He could be seen as a self-promoter if he becomes too accommodating. He could be seen as standoffish if he does not.

But talent evaluators don’t view those adjustments as anything major. They sense Victor Wembanyama will overcome any team pecking order or any organizational turbulence. They believe Wembanyama has enough of a polished all-around game to compensate for his lack of muscle. They project Wembanyama will both bulk up and better withstand the physical demands by his third season, if not sooner, because of his strong training and diet habits. They respect how Wembanyama has put more focus on making his team better than with making highlight reels. They see Wembanyama as someone who loves the game more than the spotlight.

Because of those qualities, evaluators anticipate that Wembanyama will thrive for reasons beyond his talent. They see him as susceptible to coaching. They sense he will respect his older teammates by deferring to them and leaning on them as mentors. They believe he will relate to his younger teammates by being personable as well as setting an example with his disciplined work ethic through consistent practice and film study. Overall, they envision that Wembanyama will enhance the organization’s culture the same way that stars such as Duncan and Stephen Curry have with their teams.

Leading into the NBA draft in June, it becomes easy for talent evaluators, media and fans to gush about prospects in hyperbolic terms. Often, they make outlandish predictions and compare them to other stars before they ever play in an NBA game. The enticing thing about Victor Wembanyama? Those that rave about Wembanyama’s skills and potential insist they are not overly hyping the next enticing prospect. Instead, they are simply talking matter-of-factly about the NBA’s next generational star.

Mark Medina is an NBA Insider at Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter and on Instagram.

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