Prior to playing in his first NBA game, the hype around Victor Wembanyama was considered to be borderline extreme.
Perhaps no better example existed than in an interview from Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson, who spoke with Nicolas Batum about Wembanyama for Bally Sports over the summer. Batum, who had watched Wembanyama extensively, compared him to parts of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, Rudy Gobert, and Kristaps Porzingis.
A few months ago, that quote was largely seen as ridiculous. But a quarter of the way into Wembanyama’s rookie season, Batum’s comparison is starting to make a lot of sense. Wembanyama really could one day resemble parts of those players’ games.
Here are some of the superstar flashes that we’ve seen from Wembanyama already.
Victor Wembanyama resembling Giannis Antetokounmpo
What makes Giannis so special is how unstoppable he is on his drives. His combination of athleticism, speed, and power make him an offensive weapon unto himself.
Wembanyama isn’t quite at that level yet. But there are times where he absolutely cooks defenders one-on-one because of his special physical tools.
Take when Wembanyama was matched up against Jabari Smith Jr. on the Rockets, for example. Smith was drafted third overall in the 2022 draft because of his defensive versatility, yet he had no chance against Wembanyama’s spin move.
Giannis is one of the best finishers in the league, shooting 78 percent from within four feet of the basket per Cleaning the Glass. That ranks in the 91st percentile of all players. Wembanyama isn’t quite as automatic, but his 73 percent is still very good, ranking in the 61st percentile. Both players are unguardable with a head of steam.
Victor Wembanyama resembling Rudy Gobert
The obvious comparison between Wembanyama and Gobert lies in their massive wingspans. Wembanyama’s has been estimated at eight feet, while Gobert’s was measured at 7 feet, 8.5 inches at the draft combine.
Both players have used that massive reach to become elite rim protectors. Per Basketball-Reference, Wembanyama ranks third in the league in blocks per game, while Gobert is fifth.
Wembanyama did get the better of his compatriot in their first NBA meeting against each other, blocking Gobert three times in impressive fashion.
With three Defensive Player of the Year awards, Gobert will go down as one of his generation’s best defenders. Wembanyama won’t win one this year, but he should be a favorite to take home that hardware sooner rather than later.
Victor Wembanyama resembling Anthony Davis
Wembanyama has many of the rim protection qualities of Gobert, but what makes him even more intriguing is that he can do things that Gobert cannot.
“Rudy is great on defense, but I think that [Wembanyama] is more versatile on defense than Rudy,” Batum told Robinson.
That versatility is where the Anthony Davis comparison comes up. Like Gobert, Davis is an elite rim protector. But while Gobert has looked bad in the playoffs when teams stretch the floor, Davis has been able to guard out on the perimeter more capably.
Wembanyama has that same ability. Watch him guard Jimmy Butler in isolation.
Wembanyama does get beaten on the perimeter from time to time. But he is so long that he can recover in time to alter shots, making him a capable defender in space.
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Victor Wembanyama resembling Kristaps Porzingis
Wembanyama’s similarities to Porzingis are numerous. Both are seven footers with great rim protection and volume 3-point shooting.
Right now, Wembanyama is a Porzingis-type of player in theory more than practice. He’s more than willing to let it fly from outside, but he’s connected on just 27.5 percent of his looks from deep as of Nov. 27. That shouldn’t have come as a surprise to those who watched him struggle with accuracy while in France.
Porzingis may serve as an instructional lesson in how important patience can be. He averaged 14 points per game as a 20-year-old rookie, showing flashes of offensive capabilities. But he shot the ball poorly from the field, hitting only 42 percent of his field goals and 33 percent of his 3s. Now into his eighth season, he’s a career 36 percent 3-point shooter and has learned to play a more efficient style of basketball.
Wembayama may take a similar path. His form is good, but the degree of difficulty on some of his looks has been extremely high. It may take him a few years before he starts hitting them consistently.
Who Victor Wembanyama thinks that he most resembles
As far as who Wembanyama himself thinks he resembles most, he gave that answer on a radio appearance with Mike Couzens and Paul Biancardi.
“I would hate that my game resembles only one player. I think that wouldn’t be ambitious enough. But the closest, if I got to pick two, I’d say Giannis and KD. Those are my two favorite players.”
Although Wembanyama resembles parts of numerous superstars, the truth is that there has never really been a player that is an apples-to-apples comparison. Batum admitted as much in his closing thoughts.
“[Wembanyama] has all the potential to be great to what he wants to be. But, at the end, he’s going to be his own version of himself. And that’s special.”
Source : ESPN.com