This draft lottery has to the potential to completely reroute the course of at least one NBA franchise. Whoever wins the lottery is going to feel like they’re ready to take a step into relevance. For a team like the Hornets, who already have some solid pieces, the first overall pick could make them a threat to advance at least a couple rounds deep into the playoffs right away. All of that is because of the crown jewel of this draft class–Victor Wembanyama.
Wembanyama is a prospect unlike any other we’ve ever seen before. He’s a massive human being with a skill set of a players legitimately a foot shorter than him. He has the talent and the physical tools to be a dominant presence on both sides of the ball from the minute he sets foot on an NBA floor.
Weight: 220 pounds
Physical profile, defensive impact, offensive versatility
The first thing that stands out about Wembanyama is his absolutely absurd stature. He’s listed at 7’5″ and reportedly has an 8’0″ wingspan. He’ll be the biggest player in the NBA, and he’s not a goofy, lumbering big like we normally see with players his size. He’s tremendously fluid, gets up and down the floor quickly, and is a quick leaper. He moves his feet well and is very coordinated. He’s a bit narrow, but he’ll gain some strength as he matures, and is otherworldly reach makes up for any strength or quickness disadvantage he may have in any matchup. His physical tools allow him to do things like this:
That physical profile also makes him a menace defensively. He’s a generational rim protector thanks to his length and and timing. He gets a bunch of blocks just sticking his hands up since he’s so much taller and longer than most of the people he’s contesting. He has a proclivity to swat shots off the backboard when players challenge him near the rim, which keeps the ball in play and sets off transition opportunities going the other way. He’s not just a rim protector though. He has good feet to stick with ball handlers on the perimeter, and his length lets him bother if not outright swat jump shooters. He already has a good knack for controlling the pick and roll as a defender and has good instincts when it comes to playing angles and baiting ball handlers into making the decision he wants them to make. He should step in an immediately become one of the better defenders in the league right out of the gate and should be a perennial defensive player of the year candidate before long.
He’s not just a force on the defensive end though. He has an offensive skill set that’s unprecedented for a player his size. He has a deep bag of offensive moves and the confidence to break out some ridiculous if not reckless scoring attempts. He’s able to crossover on defenders on the perimeter into pullup jumpers and long-striding drives.
He’s even added this 3-point floater to his arsenal.
Beyond the razzle dazzle of the isolation scoring, Wembanyama can also do the dirty work as a catch-and-finish big. His length and cooridnation make him an elite lob threat both out of the pick and roll and in the dunker spot. He has such little space to cover to dunk that he can catch and finish before defenders even have a chance to react. Sounds like someone that would be really nice to pair with LaMelo Ball, huh?
Durability concerns, decision making, skill refinement
Wembanyama has been plagued by little injuries here and there throughout his career, and there will always be concerns about the longevity of a player his size. He doesn’t have a history of significant injuries, but there’s always the fear that something could be coming like we’ve seen with most other players that are so much larger than typical NBA players.
On the court, he can do just about everything, but he has some refining to do, particularly with his offensive game. His shot selection can be questionable and he plays a little too fast and loose at times. His handle is a little sloppy, which isn’t surprising given his size, which means he’ll have to pay extra attention to refining it. He only shot 30% from three, but that’s partly due to shot selection and occasionally not getting himself on balance when setting himself up to shoot. And it’s crazy that we’re even talking about a 7’5″ player only shooting 30% from three on high volume. He’s an 82% free throw shooter, so the jump shot should come around. And even if it’s only passable, that’s still more than good enough. All of that refinement should come in time, and he’s good enough at all of it to be a force while he improves.
Victor Wembanyama is one of the best prospects we’ve ever seen come into the league. He has the potential to completely change the trajectory of any team that he lands on. That’s especially true of the Hornets, who could make a strong argument that they make the best landing spot of any team near the top of the lottery. Wembanyama can play the four with his mobility. Pair that with Mark Williams, and the Hornets have probably the longest starting front court in NBA history. On the other end of the floor, LaMelo Ball and Wembanyama are a perfect fit and would be must-see TV every night.
Hornets fans, do whatever you need to do to manifest Victor Wembanyama to Charlotte. We need this.