Victor Wembanyama just warned the NBA: He is the future

They say a few days in Las Vegas can change a person’s life, and you should hear from the NBA scouts, executives and players who attended last week’s two-day showcase about the future.

They didn’t lose at the casino. They have lost their collective spirit.

It was the United States debut of 18-year-old Victor Wembanyama, who is said to be the most intriguing prospect in modern history. Playing in front of bustling crowds at Dollar Loan Center, the new home of the NBA’s G League Ignite, Wembanyama was in town with Metropolitans 92, his French League team. Suffice it to say, the center put on a show that turned every rumor into dreamlike truth.

On the contrary, it exceeded expectations. And what made the games ridiculously special was that Scoot Henderson, considered the second coming of Ja Morant, is the star player in the G League Ignite and ranked No. 2 on every fictional prediction for the NBA draft. next year.

Henderson bumped his knees with his current and future rival in the first quarter of Thursday’s game and didn’t return, so the focus was mostly on Wembanyama, who had 37 points and five blocked shots on Tuesday night and followed with 36 and four.

First order of business in stride: let’s get an official measurement of this teenager’s height, without his shoes, and make sure the occasion is nationally televised. Various outlets this week listed his height at 7-foot-2, 7-foot-3, 7-foot-4, and (per ESPN) 7-foot-5.

What LeBron James says,
no matter. “Everybody’s been a ‘unicorn’ lately, but he’s more like an alien,” James said Wednesday. “No one has ever seen someone as tall as him, but as fluid and as graceful as him. With his ability to put the ball on the ground, to pull back jumpers off the post, to drop 3s back, to catching and shooting 3s, blocking shots, he’s for sure a generational talent.

There’s a joke in NBA circles that the Warriors, Bucks, Nets and other title-seeking teams should just forget all about it and ditch the season, hoping to land that No. 1 pick. But tanking
is
a very realistic path for teams such as Houston (which would be in the best position as far as draft picks currently held), Indiana, San Antonio, Oklahoma City and all the other teams whose opening night dreams are spinning in vinegar. (Under draft lottery rules, the three worst-performing teams in the league each have a 14% chance of landing the first overall pick.)

For teams such as New Orleans, Cleveland, Atlanta and the Lakers, sneaking into the play-in tournament could lead to a surprising run through the playoffs. For the underdog, however, the gaming berth suddenly has no appeal. It’s a no man’s land between “no luck” and “no Victor”.

He was born and raised in France, where he will return for one more season with the Paris-based Metropolitans. His father, Félix, is of Congolese origin and a former triple jump specialist who has a 6-5 record. His French mother, Elodie de Fauterau, is 6-2 years old and has a basketball background as a player and coach (for children around 10 and under). Victor said he never trained with his mother, and although he initially focused on the track, the basketball court was too much of a temptation.

Last summer at the FIBA ​​U19 World Cup in Latvia, Wembanyama found himself up against Chet Holmgren, the gifted 7-foot center who will miss the next NBA season (with Oklahoma City) at following an operation on his right. foot. Holmgren’s USA team won the title, but Wembanyama dominated in every category.

“I don’t really give people a lot of credit, but I give it to this guy here,” Holmgren said afterwards. “I thought I was tall, I thought I had long arms, but he’s taking that to a whole new level. He moves really well. He’s got a kick. He’s got skills too. He’ll be a rich man one day.

Wembanyama is also an extremely thin man, like Holmgren, and both will be put to the test by the relentless NBA physique over the years. For now, so early in the game, watchers can only marvel.

The “phenomenon” center is a long-standing tradition. You see them coming years in advance – Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Ralph Sampson, Arvydas Sabonis, Shaquille O’Neal, Yao Ming – and all of these players arrived in the NBA as advertised. There’s no cross yet, though, with Wembanyama’s combination of length, coordination, touch and attacking skills, including crossover dribbling, drop-step rotational moves and a left hand gifted.

As late as August,
a reconnaissance report on SI.com
suggested “his 3-point shot still needs a lot of work.” Well, to see it last week, it really isn’t. This blow is
pleasantbasically an unquestionable jumper with a smooth, airy-comfortable release from all over the floor (7 for 11 from 3-point range Tuesday night).

Undoubtedly, the child must gain weight. He needs to shake off an injury-prone reputation, avoid a foul propensity, and show more ferocity as a rebounder. For now, the question is what to call it. Giannis Antetokounmpo has quickly become a name star, but “Victor” seems a bit bland. “Wemby”, which he uses as his Twitter handle, gained traction. Maybe someone will shout “Yama!” and it takes over.

Just call it the future, and you’re on pretty safe ground.

Stars

No intention here to short Henderson; it is worth a column all by itself. Also 18, from a high school in Marietta, Georgia, he’s a lot like Morant with his speed, explosiveness, limitless potential, and showman lust for telling people.
everything
on this subject. He’s not a consolation prize if he becomes No. 2. Unusually brilliant with his court vision and decision-making, already honed in every known skill, he could be the NBA’s best point guard in his early 20s. … Sabrina Ionescu was roughed up at the FIBA ​​Women’s Basketball World Cup in Australia. Head coach Cheryl Reeve basically turned her into a scrub, lucky to see meaningful court time, and although she handled it like a champ, especially during the championship celebration, Ionescu must have felt insult. Reeve had his priorities clear; international experience and WNBA reputation clearly dictated that Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum, Jewell Loyd and Kahleah Copper deserved the most backcourt time. But there was not a second of drama during the team’s eight games. Ionescu is a star in his own right, prominent in WNBA marketing strategy and a compelling performer. You don’t treat her like trash after the fact. I guarantee you this: Tara VanDerveer or Dawn Staley, who each coached Team USA, would have handled the situation better. … There is justice in the world when Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper is nominated for the Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2023 Ford C. Frick Award. He is the best play-by-play man to have played in the major leagues. Of the 10 finalists, only one other name resonates in this corner: Gary Cohen (not an ex-player), who shines on Mets TV broadcasts. But it’s Kuiper’s time – and in a perfect world, he and Mike Krukow would be enshrined together.

Bruce Jenkins writes 3-Dot Lounge for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]: @Bruce_Jenkins1

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