NBA Draft likely to start with Spurs taking generational talent

An ESPN analyst said if he had to choose between this year's No. 1 prospect and LeBron James at age 18, he's not sure which one he would pick.
Basketball player Victor Wembanyama sets a screen for a teammate in action.
Posted at 8:37 AM, Jun 22, 2023

For the first time in 17 years, the first pick in the NBA Draft will likely belong to a player not among the college ranks. 

Victor Wembanyama, 19, is expected to be picked No. 1 by the San Antonio Spurs Thursday night. The 7-foot-4-inch French basketball phenom is expected to be the tallest No. 1 draft pick since Yao Ming, who is 7 feet 6 inches, was picked up in 2002. 

At his height, Wembanyama is set to be among the 10 tallest players in NBA history, but his skill is just as towering as his height. 

"Wembanyama’s height combined with his well-rounded skillset makes him one of the highest-ceiling prospects most scouts have ever seen," according to the NBA's Draft analysis."Despite being well over seven feet tall, he can handle and shoot the ball like a playmaking wing, but he has skills in the post as well, allowing him to simply shoot over smaller defenders. He’s a willing passer, able to punish double-teams. Wembanyama’s length will make him extremely disruptive as a defender and rebounder. His relative quickness will allow him to defend some on the perimeter, where he’s capable of blocking jumpers."

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ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas told reporters this week that the big man's talent is unlike anything he has seen. Bilas added if he had to pick between Wembanyama at age 19 or LeBron James at age 18, when he was drafted in 2003, it would be a "head-scratcher."

"Wembanyama is unique. I’ve never seen anything quite like him on a basketball floor. At 7-4 with a wing span of close to 8 feet with fluidity and athleticism and mobility, I just can’t fathom a combination quite like that on a basketball floor," Bilas said. "Wembanyama is a reflection of the change in the game. He can really shoot it. He can handle it. He can operate as a pick-and-roll ball handler at 7'4." "

The center spent the 2022-23 season with the Metropolitans 92 of the French Betclic Elite league. In 34 games, he averaged 21.6 points and 10.4 rebounds a game.

Wembanyama told reporters on Wednesday that he's been thinking about the NBA Draft since age 12. He said he did not expect to sleep before the Draft.

He said it's "something that is going to happen that I have been thinking about for years and years," he said. "I am just really, really lucky to be here."

And the fit for the Spurs could be perfect. Wembanyama would follow the footsteps of such luminary centers like Tim Duncan and David Robinson. The franchise was also home to French superstar Tony Parker. 

"San Antonio is a synonym for winning," he said.

Both rounds of the NBA Draft will be held Thursday evening in New York City.