International basketball coach Zvezdan Mitrovic, who coached against San Antonio Spurs phenom Victor Wembanyama in France before the youngster joined the NBA, is skeptical of how the 19-year-old would have performed in the NBA’s old days.
Mitrovic believes that Wembanyama would have had trouble against a player like Charles Oakley to a degree that the rising star would have ended up back in Paris.
“I watched San Antonio,” Mitrovic said. “I see muscles. It’s not the same fight in the NBA as it used to be, now it’s all light and quick. Imagine Charles Oakley guarding Wembanyama. One contact and he goes back to Paris. I preferred that kind of basketball, but I’m still old-fashioned.”
Wembanyama, who’s listed at 7-foot-4 and 209 pounds, certainly has a lean frame. He’s still very young, however, and has time to grow into his body.
The No. 1 overall pick of the 2023 NBA Draft has had some bright moments already in the NBA and is averaging 16.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game across four appearances. His Spurs are 2-2 on the season.
There are certainly examples of lean players having success in the NBA, with Phoenix Suns superstar Kevin Durant being one of them. Durant has had a Hall of Fame career and is still adding to his resume.
Notably, Wembanyama recently had a major hand in a thrilling game that saw his Spurs stun Durant’s Suns. The rookie finished with 18 points, eight boards and four blocks in the victory.
Oakley, meanwhile, spent 19 seasons in the NBA and earned a reputation as an aggressive player and defender. He earned one All-Star bid during his career and made two All-Defensive teams.
Comparisons between today’s NBA and the NBA of the past will likely always exist, with some folks feeling like the league has become softer over the years. Whether that’s true or not, Wembanyama is the type of player whose skill set and ceiling should do wonders for the Spurs for years to come.
San Antonio, which hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2018-19 campaign, would certainly love nothing more than to get there this season. Doing so won’t be an easy task in a tricky Western Conference, but optimism is running high with Wembanyama in the fold.