By now, you’ve probably seen the viral footage of NBA pros Rudy Gobert and Vincent Poirier playing 2-on-2 with Nanterre’s Maxime Reynaud and Victor Wembanyama. If not, enjoy this clip of a very tall teen pulling up over one of the best defensive big men on earth.
Two minutes of 16-year-old phenom Victor Wembanyama and two-time NBA DPOY Rudy Gobert going at it during 2-on-2 in France. Wembanyama's skill level, agility and incredible length are on full display. Arguably the best prospect in the world regardless of age. pic.twitter.com/4ES1jNyMB6
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) October 18, 2020
It’s a fun little video, with Gobert hitting threes and generally seeming to have fun with the next generation of French big men. What you also noticed in that tweet are the words “arguably the best prospect in the world” in reference to Wembanyama. This isn’t just a fun video of a couple of NBA players having fun during the offseason with their fellow countrymen, it’s the present running headlong into the future and being scarcely capable of comprehending what it is they’re seeing.
Wembanyama is 16 years old (he turns 17 in January) and stands at least 7’2 already. Here he is next to Gobert, listed at 7’1, where he is obviously quite a bit taller.
— Nanterre 92 (@Nanterre92) October 17, 2020
You look at that footage, along with basically any other clip of his game, and Wembanyama’s skill level for a 16 year old big man is beyond anything we’ve seen before. He’s the closest thing to a 99 overall MyPlayer on NBA 2K that we have on earth right now, and he’s utterly dominated everywhere he’s been thus far.
Even being on this Nanterre team at all is an incredible accomplishment for someone who legally cannot drive a car in France yet. Nanterre plays in the Pro A, the same league that Gobert himself once played in and the league that has produced NBA players like Tony Parker, Evan Fournier, Boris Diaw, Nic Batum, Frank Ntilikina, and Ronny Turiaf. He’s the second-youngest player to ever compete in Eurocup, the second-largest European continental club basketball competition.
At the Under-18 Adidas Next Generation Tournament in Kaunas this past February, Wembanyama dropped Per 36s of 20.7 points, 15.3 rebounds, and truly staggering defensive numbers — 7.6 blocks and 3.5 steals. He did this a month and a half after turning 16, against players that were up to two and half years older than him. His game log included a 22-point, 15-rebound, 9-block game against Zaragoza. I shouldn’t have to say this, but one of the first and best barometers for a prospect’s ability is dominating their peers, and the argument exists that Wembanyama has been dominating his peers for almost two years now.
So what kind of player is he, really? He’s not the most physical youngster on earth, but his basketball IQ and ability to make reads on defense is perhaps second only to Yannick Nzosa among all under-18 players alive right now. His wingspan, estimated at around eight feet, allows him to recover even when he makes mistakes and grab every possible rebound. Most frightening is Wembanyama’s coordination and ability to put the ball on the floor and shoot off dribble. There are stretch bigs in the NBA right now, some of them 7 feet or taller, who cannot shoot and handle the ball like Wembanyama can. A player like Lauri Markkanen’s entire value is based around being able to shoot off movement at his size, and even he cannot hope to hit shots like Wembanyama can.
Perhaps most enticingly, he seems to have terrific vision as a passer, he just hasn’t played anywhere that utilizes him as one.
Really, the only knock on Victor right now is his frame. A 7’2 (or more!), 195 pound basketball player is just not tenable. He’s only 16, though, which means he’ll probably put on at least another 30 or 40 pounds before he’s physically matured, like you or I did. Besides, by this point, I think we’ve learned to not let thin arms dissuade us from an otherwise flawless prospect — remember when Texas’ can’t-miss forward Kevin Durant couldn’t bench press 185 pounds at the combine, or frail Kentucky standout Anthony Davis was going to injure himself out of the NBA?
That is what Victor Wembanyama is — so far beyond his peers that only the brightest stars in the basketball universe can compare to him. He is a complete and utter phenom who is plying his trade against grown, adult men and still standing out. With all due respect to Emoni Bates, A.J. Griffin, Dajuan Wagner Jr., and everyone else, he is the most promising basketball prospect alive. All we can do now is wait, although rest assured, we’ll be marveling about his game whenever he steps on the floor for the next few years.