Who Is Victor Wembanyama And Why Do The Utah Jazz Want To Draft Him?

Aug 26, 2022, 2:09 PM | Updated: Sep 2, 2022, 4:14 pm
Image of the French basketball prospect, Victor Wembanyama (Photo courtesy of NBC Sports)...
Image of the French basketball prospect, Victor Wembanyama (Photo courtesy of NBC Sports)
(Photo courtesy of NBC Sports)

SALT LAKE CITY – Some people are calling Victor Wembanyama the best NBA prospect since LeBron James. NBA General Managers have so much faith in the French 7-footer that the race for the 2023 first-overall pick has been coined the ‘Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes‘.

This phrase should sound familiar to NBA fans. In 2003, NBA teams were scrambling to get a chance at drafting the best NBA prospect since Michael Jordan. Basketball fans nicknamed the Ohio-native “The King” before he even played a single minute of NBA basketball. His name? LeBron James. The Cleveland Cavaliers went 17-65 in 2002, one of the 35 worst records in NBA history, to get the coveted #1 overall pick. James lived up to the hype, becoming a 4-time NBA MVP and 4-time NBA champion.

All about Victor Wembanyama

I am not saying that Wembanyama is the next LeBron James. In fact, it doesn’t take long to see striking differences between the two players. Wembanyama is listed at 7’3″, but reports say that he could be as tall as 7’5″.

Wembanyama was born in Nanterre, France and made his professional debut at 15 years and 9 months old. He breaks down defenses with his ability to shoot from range, he dominates in the paint, and terrorizes offenses with his shot-blocking ability. Wembanyama recorded 7 blocked shots against Serbia and 8 blocked shots against Croatia at the U16 European Championship in 2019.

Wembanyama wingspan is listed at 7’9″ and he reportedly has a 9’7″ standing reach.

Pascal Donnadieu, former French professional basketball player and current coach, had this to say about Wembanyama, “He is unique because I have never seen in my life such a combination of size and fundamentals. I’ve never seen a guy so tall be able to handle and shoot the ball like he does. His ability to play outside is fantastic and you cannot make him play against his instinct, forcing him inside. It is a matter of finding the right balance. He can do things that only a point guard or a shooting guard can normally do.”

Can Wembanyama succeed in the NBA?

NBA scouts love to throw out comparisons for prospects to summarize what can be expected when they enter the league. Often, these comparisons are far off. Steph Curry was compared to Daniel Gibson and Mike Bibby before being drafted. Harold Miner was compared to Michael Jordan when he was drafted.

The reality is, when a prospect is like no player we’ve seen before, using a comparison to describe their skillset is futile. However, that hasn’t stopped people from comparing Wembanyama to the likes of Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Rudy Gobert.

Wembanyama has shown similarities to the players above. Like the length and shooting touch of Durant or the defensive gravity of Antetokounmpo and Gobert. But, what is Wembanyama’s biggest and potentially most accurate comparison? Kristaps Porzingis, the 7’3″ stretch big out of Latvia.

Wembanyama isn’t a fan of the comparisons, especially the Porzingis one. He had this to say regarding the comparisons between himself and the Wizards big man.

“Maybe this is not the best example. There are some things that (Porzingis) doesn’t do that I hope I will be able to accomplish.” Wembanyama said. “It is tough to find a player I can relate to. I hope I can become a point of comparison for others in the future.”

As is the case for many other 7-footers in NBA history, Wembanyama needs to put on some weight to reach his full potential. Just like 2022 2nd-overall pick Chet Holmgren, Wembanyama’s lack of weight makes him more susceptible to injury troubles. He could also end up struggling to guard some of the stronger big men in the NBA today like Embiid, Jokic, and Gobert.

Wembanyama as a Jazzman

It’s impossible to know for certain if Wembanyama is the missing piece for the Jazz. But, Utah does already have experience with French big men. It’s hard to say that Wembanyama will have the defensive impact of 3-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. Although, if anyone can bring comparable defense and much more diverse offensive capabilities to the table, it’s Wembanyama.

In case you didn’t know, Wembanyama and Gobert have faced off in the past. There’s a video of the French center’s playing a friendly 2v2 pickup game.

Wembanyama was 16-years-old at the time of the game. Gobert was coming off of his second DPOY award.

Before Jazz fans can find out if Wembanyama can bring a title to Utah, the Jazz would have to get a top-3, if not top-1, pick in the 2023 draft. Some other teams that are in the Wembanyama sweepstakes are Houston, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Orlando. Sacramento, Indiana, and Detroit could also find themselves in the mix.

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Who Is Victor Wembanyama And Why Do The Utah Jazz Want To Draft Him?