NBA executive says Victor Wembanyama will be a top 10 player even if he doesn’t live up to the hype

Mike Battaglino
4 Min Read
Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

Victor Wembanyama is about to enter the NBA as one of its most heralded prospects in decades, and even if he fails to live up to those enormous expectations, at least one league executive believes he will still eventually be known as one of the best players in the game.

“He’s just a breathtaking prospect,” a veteran executive told The Athletic’s David Aldridge. “Even if he never becomes as good as all the hype, he’s still going to end up being a top-10 player in the league. He isn’t going to bust or never make an All-Star team or something like that. I said, when I saw him in Vegas, and I can’t guarantee this happens, but he has a chance to one day be the best player in the league. Now, how many guys entering in any draft can you say that about? Every draft doesn’t hold a (top) guy with that kind of potential. And it seems like, from afar, it’s important to him to realize that upside.”

Wembanyama is virtually certain to be the No. 1 pick when the San Antonio Spurs make the selection to open the 2023 NBA Draft on Thursday. The 19-year-old French prospect has been called a generational talent and is the most anticipated top choice to join the league since LeBron James in 2003.

The Spurs, Detroit Pistons and Houston Rockets all had the same odds to win the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery, but San Antonio wound up with the No. 1 pick, and based on its history and the presence of legendary coach Gregg Popovich, it seems like the perfect landing spot.

Wembanyama will follow in the footsteps of former Spurs big men David Robinson and Tim Duncan, each the No. 1 pick in their respective NBA drafts, and international standouts like Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

At just about 230 pounds entering the draft, there is a slight concern the 7-footer could face injuries down the line dealing with the grind of an NBA regular season schedule.

“The only thing – the only thing – that can derail this kid is injuries,” a veteran international scout said. “And I hate talking about it, because when you’re talking about guys that have dimensions that you’ve never seen before, you have to ask yourself, ‘How does this play out?’”

The Spurs reportedly may be looking to double down on lottery picks and acquire another one via trade. If so, they may be looking to add Bilal Coulibaly, who was Wembanyama’s teammate with Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92. Wembanyama has touted Coulibaly as worthy of a top-five pick.

The Spurs won five NBA championships from 1999 to 2014 and had a stretch of 22 straight seasons making the playoffs. But they have fallen on hard times recently with four straight losing seasons, including going 22-60 last season, the third-worst record in their history.

After not making the playoffs since the 2018-19 season, the Spurs definitely could use the great influx of talent that Wembanyama will provide. The pick will be a franchise-changing moment regardless if he becomes the best player in the NBA or simply just one of the best.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has focused on New York sports. He has covered the NBA and NFL for almost three decades and is still waiting for the next championship for the Knicks and Jets.