2023 NBA Draft

Victor Wembanyama's NBA Draft arrival infuses Spurs with generational talent and hope

Victor Wembanyama has arrived, and neither he nor the Spurs can wait to see the hype meet the hardwood.

Victor Wembanyama on being drafted No. 1: 'I've been waiting for this for so long'

SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Spurs sped their rebuild into overdrive Thursday, using the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft to select French phenom Victor Wembanyama, widely lauded as one of the most touted prospects in history.

“Certainly, there is enough that’s happened in this organization that makes one wonder why we’ve been the recipients of so much serendipity for sure,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “We’re thrilled that we’re able to bring Victor on board. He’s obviously a heck of a talent, a very mature young man. Just like with every Draft pick, whether it’s the first pick or the 27th pick, or the 38th pick, we have a responsibility [with] each and every one to try to create an environment where they can reach the best success possible for them.”

The Spurs reportedly added another 19-year-old Frenchman in G League Ignite’s Sidy Cissoko with the 44th pick after trading the No. 33 selection to Minnesota for two future second-round picks. A 6-foot-8 guard, Cissoko averaged 12.8 points, 3.6 assists and 1.1 steals per game last season.

Wembanyama’s selection had been anticipated since May, when the Spurs won the NBA Draft Lottery for the third time in franchise history. In the prior two instances, San Antonio drafted eventual Hall of Fame big men in David Robinson (1987) and Tim Duncan (1997), franchise stalwarts who played major roles in the club seizing five NBA titles while advancing to the postseason for a record-tying 22 consecutive seasons.

Wembanyama, 19, joins San Antonio as arguably the most highly-touted prospect to come into the league since LeBron James entered the league in 2003 out of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. Despite his monstrous dimensions (7-foot-3, 225 pounds), Wembanyama showcases the passing and agility of a guard and the shot-blocking acumen of a center to go with the shooting touch of a wing.

Set to wear jersey No. 1 for the Spurs next season, Wembanyama recently finished a season in the LNB Pro A French League, leading Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 to the league’s championship round after finishing the regular season with a 23-11 record. Wembanyama played 34 games with Mets 92, posting 21.6 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 2.4 apg and 3.0 bpg in 32 minutes per game.

Wembanyama capped the season by taking home league MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and Best Young Player honors while leading the league in scoring and blocked shots.

Taylor Rooks chats with Victor Wembanyama at the 2023 NBA Draft, on what he calls 'the best night of my life.'

Given that Wembanyama just finished a season in the LNB Pro A French League, the Spurs hope to give the new addition some time off but haven’t yet determined the center’s potential availability for next month’s NBA Summer League.

“We are talking about what he should be doing moving forward,” Popovich said. “He never stopped playing. He went right into the playoffs in the French League, and that just ended. He will participate in the Summer League. To what degree, we are not exactly sure yet. As I said before, I have only spoken with him on the phone a couple of times. I have to get a better feel for where his head is at, talk to his people who have trained him his whole life. They have been with our people and we have got to make those decisions once we are all together. But he will be there at some point.”

Wembanyama started his professional basketball career at 15, and played his first games in the United States in 2022 during a pair of exhibition outings against the G League Ignite in Las Vegas. He finished with 37 points, four rebounds and five blocks in that U.S. debut, following it up in the next game with a 36-point, 11-rebound performance that included four blocks.

Wembanyama admittedly harbors high expectations for himself that the club hopes to manage carefully to ensure the best outcome for both the player and the organization.

Seventeen miles away from the Spurs practice facility at the AT&T Center, fans attended a Draft watch party for which the club distributed 22,000 tickets, cheering wildly as Wembanyama was announced as the first pick of the NBA Draft.

“Because of all the hype he’ll have a target on his back,” Popovich said. “So, more than O’s and X’s to begin with we’ll be most interested in setting the framework in an environment where he’s comfortable, where he can be Victor. He’s not LeBron or Tim or Kobe or anybody else. He’s Victor and that’s who we want him to be.”

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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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