Victor Wembanyama doesn’t like being called “The Unicorn.” It’s the nickname mostly associated with Latvian standout Kristaps Porzingis. About the only thing Wembanyama and Porzingis have in common is their height. Both are extremely tall men raised on European soil. But the comparisons end there. Wembanyama is a far, far better prospect at this stage of his career than Porzingis was. The 19-year-old from Le Chesnay, France, is the most talked about pro prospect in a long time, and some even compare the hype to 2003 when LeBron James was the consensus No. 1 overall prospect in the draft.
Wembanyama is currently playing for Metropolitans 92 in the French pro league. Prior to that, he played for LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne in the EuroLeague. Former San Antonio Spurs star Tony Parker is the majority stake hold of the European club and the team is coached by Parker’s brother T.J. Wembanyama is listed at 7-foot-4 with an 8-foot wingspan. He plays forward and center, but he’s got guard skills with an NBA-ready 3-point shot. His defense is ahead of his offensive skills at this point, so he’ll make an immediate impact on that end of the court. However, he’s made huge strides offensively and it won’t take long before he becomes a beast on both ends.
Wemby is so uniquely gifted that there’s no real NBA comparison. The closest we can come up with is he’s Kevin Durant on offense and Rudy Gobert on defense. That’s a scary combination.
Steph Curry calls Wembanyama a “cheat code.” He’s an ethereal talent that only exists in create-a-player mode on NBA2K.
“Right now, it’s Wembanyama and everyone else for the 2023 draft,” one NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. “There’s always concern about someone so good so young, but it hasn’t gotten in the way of Wembanyama from getting better over the years. He’s the closest thing to a transcendent talent the draft has seen since probably Zion [Williamson], and even then the feelings throughout the league were much more mixed compared to where things stand right now with Wembanyama.”
Zion Williamson might not be an accurate comparison in terms of generational talent. Wembanyama is a much freakier athlete than Zion. He’s in the LeBron James category as far as hype and talent. And LeBron agrees.
“Everybody’s been a unicorn over the last few years, but he’s more like an alien,” James said of Wembanyama after seeing him play for the first time. “No one has ever seen anyone as tall as he is but as fluid and as graceful as he is out on the floor. His ability to put the ball on the floor, shoot step-back jumpers out of the post, catch-and-shoot threes, block shots.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Durant are also impressed — and worried.
“The league is really in trouble when he comes in,” Durant said.
Antetokounmpo warned his friend Serge Ibaka that the league better be ready because we’ve never seen anyone like Wembanyama.
“He’s taller than Rudy Gobert. He can block shots like Rudy, but he shoots like Kevin Durant. Bro, it’s crazy. And he has a good attitude,” Giannis added. “If he stays healthy, he’s going to be really good.”
The San Antonio Spurs won the NBA draft lottery and have the first selection. Head coach Gregg Popovich can’t turn in the draft card fast enough with Wembanyama’s name on it.
Here are OMFB’s top prospects in the 2023 NBA draft.
1-Victor Wembanyama, forward/center, Metropolitans 92
NBA comparison: Kevin Durant (but much taller)
Scouting report: Tons of NBA scouts witnessed Wembanyama go head-to-head against Chet Holmgren (the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft) at the 2021 FIBA U19 World Cup in Latvia. Holmgren was named tournament MVP for leading Team USA to a gold medal, but it was Wembanyama who put up eye-popping statistics. In the 83-81 loss to Team USA in the gold medal game, Wenbanyama scored 22 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and blocked eight shots. He established a FIBA tournament record for blocked shots (40), averaging 5.7 per game. The next best player, Holmgren, recorded 19 blocks in the same tournament. “Never have I ever seen Chet Holmgren overshadowed physically like he was last year whenever the two met,” an NBA scout told Yahoo Sports. “He practically can and does do all that Chet can, but is three inches taller, probably shoots it better from three, may have a better feel as a passer and has a much better frame to develop than Chet.” Wembanyama put the entire basketball world on notice during two exhibition games in Henderson, Nevada, in October 2022. He averaged 36.5 points and 4.5 blocks in a pair of games against a G League Ignite team led by Scoot Henderson.
2-Brandon Miller, forward, Alabama
NBA comparison: Paul George
Scouting report: Brandon Miller strolled into Tuscaloosa, Ala., with a ton of hype as a freshman. Miller not only lived up to the hype, he surpassed all expectations. Miller opened eyes when he dropped 36 points against Gonzaga, including six 3-pointers. The 6-9, 200-pound forward rolled that performance into the SEC as he became one of the best scorers in a deep and competitive conference full of pro prospects. He averaged 19 points per game while shooting 46% from the 3-point line. His ability to get hot from the 3-point line makes him a very intriguing pro prospect. His game and build is comparable to NBA star Paul George. If he’s anything close to PG13, Miller will be a valuable building block for any lottery team.
3-Scoot Henderson, guard, G League Ignite
NBA comparison: Derrick Rose
Scouting report: Sterling “Scoot” Henderson was the top point guard and No. 7 overall prospect in the ESPN high school rankings prior to reclassifying. He averaged 32 points, seven rebounds, and sis assists per game as a high school junior and was named to the MaxPreps Junior All-America team. He turned down college basketball offers from Auburn and Georgia and decided to join the G League Ignite. The 6-2 guard averaged 14.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and shot 50% from the field in 10 games for the Ignite in 2021. Henderson, who turned 19 in February, inked a seven-figure, multi-year endorsement contract with Puma in 2022. Scoot combines speed, agility, and explosive vertical. He’s cut from the same cloth as the 2011 version of Derrick Rose when he was the NBA MVP.
4-Amen Thompson, guard, Overtime Elite
NBA comparison: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Scouting report: Amen is one half of the talented Thompson Twins. Amen is pegged more of a playmaker than his twin brother, Ausar, but has the ability to play both point and shooting guard. Amen still needs some work on his shooting, but his athleticism for a 6-7 guard is already NBA level. Amen attended Pine Crest School in Florida with his brother. Instead of opting to play college basketball, the Thompsons signed with the Overtime Elite where they’ve been honing their craft for the past year. “Both Ausar and I know we’re not going to be able to get to the rim easily in the league, so we’ve been very intentional this last year working on our floater, working on our pull-up jumper off the dribble, getting more comfortable in those areas,” Amen told Yahoo Sports. “I try to implement it in game situations too just to develop that habit.”
5-Cam Whitmore, forward, Villanova
NBA comparison: Jaylen Brown
Scouting report: Cam Whitmore is your typical Villanova player. He’s physical and tough, and fundamentally sound in all areas. Whitmore already possesses an NBA-type frame (6-7, 235) and has the potential to be a prolific three-level scorer with his shooting range and ability to get to the rim off the dribble. A thumb injury slowed down his progress at Villanova, but once he recovered from his injury he hit the ground running in the Big East. Even though Whitmore didn’t an opportunity to play for Jay Wright at Villanova, he is cut from the same cloth as past ‘Nova standouts who played for Wright. Former Wildcats Kyle Lowry, Josh Hart, and Jalen Brunson all found great success at the pro level, and Whitmore should follow in their footsteps.
6-Ausar Thompson, guard, Overtime Elite
NBA comparison: Jimmy Butler
Scouting report: Speaking of Amen’s twin brother, Ausar Thompson has a skillset coveted by most NBA teams: An explosive athlete who can defend his position. Ausar plays more of a 2 than a 1, and could develop into an outstanding two-way player. He has the length and athleticism (listed at 6-7) to be a terrific perimeter defender. Offensively, Ausar still needs to develop a consistent outside shot. He tends to shoot his jump shot on the way up, but with proper training and coaching he can easily fix it. He averaged 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists per game in the Overtime Elite league. While his twin Amen is more comfortable as a primary ball handler, Ausar feels more at home as an off-the-ball scorer. “Amen is more on-ball, ball-dominant, like a point and I’m more comfortable coming off the wing,” Ausar told Yahoo Sports. “I can run the point, but I feel like I can create more for myself and teammates off the wing.”
7-Gradey Dick, guard-forward, Kansas
NBA comparison: Klay Thompson
Scouting report: The 19-year-old wing enters the NBA armed with professional 3-point shooting touch. This skill set alone is enough to get him drafted in the top 10. He finished second on the team with 14.1 points per game while hitting 40.3% of his 3-pointers on 5.7 attempts per game. He made at least one 3-ball in 33 of 36 games. But during his one season with the Kansas Jayhawks, Dick showed he’s not a one-dimensional player and is more than capable of holding his own on the defensive end. At 6-8 with good mobility, Dick can defend multiple positions and won’t be exposed on pick-and-roll switches. He was rated as the Jayhawks’ second-best defender and most efficient player. If he’s anything close to Klay Thompson, you got yourself a superb 3-and-D player.
8-Keyonte George, guard, Baylor
NBA comparison: Bradley Beal
Scouting report: Keyonte was the Big 12 freshman of the year, averaging 15.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists for the Bears, who finished 23-11 and lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament. He was part of a three-guard attack for Baylor that also featured Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer. George is talented three-level scorer with a special ability to get draw fouls and get to the free-throw line (averaged 5.5 FTA). He has good size for a shooting guard (6-4) and can create his own shot, especially late in the clock which is a must-have skill for an NBA guard. Even though George posted decent numbers in his lone season at Baylor, he had some glaring flaws. He had a tendency to be loose with the ball (2.9 turnovers) and his 3-point shot still needs improvement (33%). A more realistic NBA comparison is Malcolm Brogdon, but George could potentially be a James Harden-type scorer if he reaches his full potential.
9-Taylor Hendricks, forward, Central Florida
NBA comparison: Jaden McDaniels
Scouting report: The 6-foot-9 forward fits the type of player every NBA team craves. He is the quintessential 3-and-D wing. He can guard all five positions. He does a good job of containing and recovering. He’s extremely comfortable playing defense in space and he can space the floor with his ability to knock down 3-point shots. NBA talent evaluators love the fact that he made 40% of his catch-and-shoot 3-pointers on 4.6 attempts per game. The 19-year-old two-way wing is a plug-and-play prospect who still has room to grow. What might scare teams away is his limited offensive options. He’s strictly an off-the-ball player who is not a threat to beat defenders off the dribble. But teams might overlook his weaknesses and focus on what he can be in the right system.
10-Dereck Lively, center, Duke
NBA comparison: Jarrett Allen
Scouting report: Lively had huge expectations when he arrived at Duke as the No. 1 high school prospect in the country. But those expectations fell short for various reasons. Lively came off the bench during the early part of the season for first-year Duke coach Jon Scheyer and struggled to find consistent playing time. But something clicked somewhere in the middle the season for 7-foot-1 center, and once he figured out what Scheyer wanted him to be — which was a rim protector and rebounder on defense and lob threat on offense — he took off and became a force for the Blue Devils. Duke’s late-season run in the ACC and NCAA tournament was due in part to Lively’s improved play. His defense is what will earn him NBA minutes. He plays similarly to Jarrett Allen. Both are excellent shot blockers and lob threats at the rim. Lively is projected to go somewhere in the middle or late in the first round. But if a team needs a shot-blocking big who can switch pick-and-rolls, Lively is a helluva prospect worth taking a hard look.