The Spurs’ Era of Victor Wembanyama is Upon Us

The NBA world watched the 2023 Draft Lottery with bated breath as the destinies of fourteen franchises were held in the balance by the opportunity of a lifetime, the number-one pick. By drafting first overall, a team is presented with their choice of the next generation of stars. This fateful occasion has forged dynasties and set back teams for years.

But the 2023 NBA Draft is no ordinary draft because it promises to deliver one of the best prospects the basketball world has witnessed since the likes of Lebron James, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, etc. As the latest obsession of the basketball media sphere, you’ve most likely caught wind of his looming legend.

His name is Victor Wembanyama, a 7-4 French phenom with an awe-inspiring combination of size and skill. In so many words, to describe Wembanyama as “special” is an understatement. This is what is at stake during the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery.

One by one, an arbitrary procession of ping-pong balls revealed the combination of 14, 5, 8, and 2. In a moment of shock and awe, GM Brian Wright of the San Antonio Spurs realized he was holding the winning ticket to the Wembanyama sweepstakes. From ground zero in San Antonio to across the pond in France, the fated joy of this moment is palpable. 

David AldridgeThe Athletic

Synchronicity

The 2023 NBA Draft marks the third time in franchise history that the Spurs have won the lottery and secured the first pick. Flashback to the first time in 1987 when they appropriately drafted David “The Admiral” Robinson, who put “Military City, USA” on the NBA map with a decade of domination.

Then, jump to 1997 when they drafted Tim Duncan, the quintessential Spur who spurred a decades-long tradition of championship excellence that will loom in the rafters of AT&T Center for generations to come. Stuck in a rut since the retirement of Tim Duncan and the divorce from Kawhi Leonard, the coming of Victor Wembanyama feels like destiny for the city of San Antonio and Spurs fans. 

tonyparker image

Watching with family and friends in his hometown Paris, Victor Wembanyama also seemed delighted at the realization that he would be playing for the San Antonio Spurs, an organization heralded for paving the path from France to NBA for champions like Tony Parker and Boris Diaw.

In Wembanyama’s own words, “There’s a special relation between France and the Spurs.” Tony Parker illustrated this French connection by tweeting a photo of young Wembanyama wearing Parker’s no. 9 jersey for the Spurs. For French basketball fans who adopted the Spurs as their NBA team during their historic run in the 00s, to see Wembanyama wear the same uniform as the country’s preeminent basketball export – until now – must be a dream come true. 

The Fit

But the synchronicity between Victor Wembanyama and the San Antonio Spurs extends beyond the historical context. The Spurs have a talented core of young players but need a superstar to be the cornerstone of their rebuild. And Wembanyama needs a team where he can spread his wings to reach his stratospheric potential. The Spurs’ roster is an unmolded ball of clay that can conform to his incredible talents and potential deficiencies. 

To quickly review the cliff notes on Wembanyama as a prospect: At 7’4 with a near-8-foot wingspan, his most striking feature has to be the pterodactyl-like length. Naturally, this kind of superhuman lankiness makes him an extraordinary shot blocker and rim protector. But the generational uniqueness of Victor Wembanyama comes from his combination of incredible size with remarkable fluidity and balance.

Compound all that with smooth shot creation and touch from inside and outside the arc, and you have a nightmarish mismatch for NBA defenses. However, this kind of physical frame does have some drawbacks. His high center of gravity and slim figure makes him vulnerable against bigger, stronger players. Because of this, he also has a spotty bill of health that has left some scouts nervous about his long-term ability to endure an attricious 82-game season.

Other than questions of physicality, the only other real concern about Wembanyama is his vision and decision-making. He tends to overlook the easy pass and, instead, force tough shots. But he has a professional work ethic and is mature beyond his years, so learning to let the game come to him rather than forcing the issue is just a matter of experience, frankly. 

Ringer Illustration

As for the surrounding roster, the Spurs already have a solid core that complements this 7’4 alien. Waiting in the wings: Keldon Johnson has quietly become the quintessential 3-D wing. He can rebound above his size, knock down catch-and-shoot threes, and attack closeouts with his strong slashing and sneaky pull-up game. Another 3-D wing who has taken massive leaps as a shot creator, Devin Vassell has become a mid-range assassin, with deadly range and the ability to make plays off the bounce.

Next, the enigmatic Jeremy Sochan has lived up to his reputation as an elite defender. But what’s been most surprising is how quickly he’s adapted his elite athleticism, elevated basketball IQ, and supreme confidence to the NBA game and become an offensive weapon. These multi-versatile wings are the perfect ancillary pieces to build a team around a center as multi-talented as Victor Wembanyama. The team likely still needs a high-level initiator to handle the ball, but Tre Jones is a solid two-way point guard who Pop can trust with the offensive keys in the meantime. 

The Dawn of Wembanyama

The Spurs need Wembanyama to take them to the next level, and this team puts him in the best position of any to fly. After an unfamiliar, non-competitive season in which they embraced the tank and finished with the third-worst record in franchise history at 22-60, each of those 60 losses now feels worth the wait. Once again, the future is bright in San Antonio.

Corey Brooks

Born and raised in Tennessee, I moved to Texas to become a Longhorn. Now, I’m a proud Texas Ex with roots here in this beautiful, extraordinary, proud, and diverse state. My favorite thing about Texas is the people — y’all are just built different. As for me, I’m an aspiring writer and educator, and I love music, food, hoops, anime and coffee/tea. Above all, I’m most proud to be a dachshund dad.