To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Spurs selected Victor Wembanyama with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2023 NBA draft. The French big man was projected to go first for months no matter who won the lottery but he arguably landed in a perfect spot in San Antonio.
Wembaynama was on people’s radars as a youth player but really burst into the scene a year ago when he was anointed as one of the best prospects of the past 20 years. It was a lot of pressure to live up to that kind of hype but he did it. First, he faced a consensus top-three prospect of his class, Scoot Henderson, and the G League Ignite in the preseason and put on a show for fans, showing off unprecedented fluidity for a player his size. Then he led the modest Metropolitans 92 to the finals of the French LNB Pro A while arguably being the best player in the competition, leading the entire league in rebounds and blocked shots and finishing second in points per game. His success with his new squad validated his decision to leave ASVEL, a franchise that had a Euroleague spot, in order to get more minutes and a bigger role in a club led by president Boris Diaw.
It’s hard for anyone following this draft class to not have at least some knowledge of Wembanyama’s tools and game but the short version is that he’s a unique prospect with unlimited potential. Standing at 7’5” with long arms, he should excel at rim protection early in his career while his surprising mobility for his size should allow him to venture outside the paint on defense if needed. He could be a difference-maker on that end as a rookie. His offense needs more work, but the talent is there for him to develop into a go-to scorer. Wembanyama has said that he’s studied Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki and there are some similarities. He’s still working on the range of his jumper, which is hit or miss from beyond the arc, but he has a smooth release and he can simply shoot over smaller defenders or go around bigger, slower ones. While he develops his skills his athleticism and size alone should allow him to put points on the board.
The Spurs were fortunate to land the top pick to select Wembanyama but he should be happy about his landing spot as well. In San Antonio, he’ll join a young group that is already in place and boasts two solid scorers in Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson, which should make his adaptation to the league easier, as he won’t have to be relied upon as a first option right off the bat. The team has Zach Collins as the starter at center and a solid backup in Charles Bassey, so Wembanyama won’t have to spend much time as the sole big man on the floor and could spend most of his minutes at power forward, his preferred position, while he slowly builds some muscle. After playing under Vincent Collet, a renowned French coach, he’ll almost surely be under the tutelage of Gregg Popovich and will be the most valuable piece on a franchise that has a long track record of prioritizing player health.
It really is a perfect match between team and prospect. The Spurs’ rebuild needed a centerpiece and Wembanyama gives them that player. He will probably need some time to build up some strength and refine his offensive game, and he should get the required guidance and patience to get it done in San Antonio. He’s joining a young group that doesn’t seem to have many problems in the locker room and will be led by a coach that has dealt with superstars and international players. More importantly, Wembyanama has the character and personality to be the face of the franchise and will get the opportunity to do it immediately. The Spurs have other good pieces in place but they’ll surely prioritize their newest addition by offering Wembanyama the possibility to adjust their timeline to his development, as they have amassed the assets to bring in more help as soon as he’s ready to lead the team to the playoffs.
There are no guarantees in the NBA. Wembanyama might never develop into a superstar or could get hurt. The Spurs could fail to put a good enough supporting cast around him if he actually reaches his potential. Not every player stays with a franchise their whole career, so there’s a chance he leaves San Antonio during his prime. Those are all valid concerns, but they are for a different time.
On draft day, both the Spurs’ and Wembanyama’s futures are looking intertwined and bright. After just one year of tanking, San Antonio got one of the best prospects in decades while Wembanyama landed in a perfect spot to reach his immense potential. The partnership between the two could herald a new era of dominance by both the Silver and Black and their new star.