Victor Wembanyama graphic
David Hein's Eye on the Future
to read

Wembanyama's limits? The sky's not high enough!

REGENSBURG (David Hein's Eye on the Future) - Imagine playing NBA2K and creating the ideal player: you might pick Rudy Gobert's defense, Kristaps Porzingis' offensive versatility and Nikola Jokic's passing skills. General managers would love a healthy dose of a grounded humbleness of someone who respects the game's past. Let's add a genuine and refreshing smile to catch the imagination of the fans as well as a love of the game to inspire future generations.

That would be one heck of a player. But the best part is … he already exists - or at least the package is there if he continues to develop as many believe and hope.

His name: Victor Wembanyama.

Wembanyama came into the season with major expectations, moving from Nanterre 92 to LDLC ASVEL Villeurbanne, especially after wowing the world with his unicorn-esque performance at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2021. The highlight from Riga last summer was dominating against eventual champions United States in the Final with 22 points, 8 rebounds and 8 blocks  and holding USA star Chet Holmgren to just 10 points and 2 rebounds - despite being two years younger.

Thanks to that tantalizing skillset, Wembanyama is widely regarded as the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. Patrick Redford of the site Defector even said: "Victor Wembanyama is the most exciting prospect since LeBron James."

Wembanyama, who averaged 14.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 4.7 blocks in helping France to a historic U19 World Cup silver medal, was slowed this season with some injuries. First, he missed two weeks in early October and then he suffered a broken finger in early November that kept him out almost a month. He also missed almost two months from mid-December to mid-February with a right shoulder injury.

Wembanyama has been making up for lost time in the past six weeks or so. The highlight of his season was scoring 25 points with 3 three-pointers, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks against Le Portel. He also had 14 points, 8 rebounds and 5 blocks against Dijon and 17 points, 5 rebounds and 4 blocks versus Orleans. And in his last game against Pau-Lacq-Orthez, Wembanyama picked up 14 points and 10 rebounds. He has scored at least 11 points with at least 5 rebounds in five of his last six French league games.

But the 18-year-old has not only been doing his thing in France. Wembanyama in late March torched Zalgiris Kaunas for 14 points, 5 rebounds and 5 blocks in the EuroLeague and he collected 18 points with 4 three-pointers and 6 rebounds against AX Armani Exchange Milan.

"He's making big progress in all areas of his game, defense, offense, expanding his shooting range and confidence as he proved in the Euroleague versus Milan," said a European-based NBA scout. "He plays with poise, and simply put he can be Gobert defensively, Porzingis offensively with passing skills a la Jokic. If he stays healthy, humble and hungry he can be the next big thing coming from Europe to the NBA."

Is a mix of Gobert, Porzingis and Jokic not lofty enough for you?

SIG Strasbourg sports director Nicola Alberani said Wembanyama not only has the potential to be better than all of those European superstars, but better than any player in the world.

"He can really be the top European player that ever played the game. He has everything to continue to grow. He’s just too good, of course for the French league. He’ll be very soon too good even for EuroLeague. Americans say: ‘The sky’s the limit.’ But in this case he can be the best player ever. He has everything to be the best player ever for me. It’s a joy to watch him play," Alberani said. "I think Wembanyama has a unique combination of size, talent and athletic skills combined with an IQ that is really surprising for such a young kid. He really understands the game. And he does it with a height, width, wingspan that is unbelievable.”

It's also worth hearing from opponents who faced him on the court, including Keith Hornsby who plays for the French ProA league leaders Boulogne Metropolitans 92 and conjured up images from the famous "Space Jam" movie when recalling his encounter with Wembanyama.

"It's kind of hard not to follow him with all the coverage he's been getting this year. I first played against him in the pre-season and he switched on to defend me one possession. He was playing so far back … so I decided to shoot, and all of a sudden a Michael Jordan 'Space Jam' arm jolted out to block my shot at the last minute. That wowed me for sure," Hornsby recalled with a smile.

"With his size and natural feel for the game, he's obviously a tremendous asset for them. Now that he's gaining some confidence and experience, he's getting even more dangerous. I hope he doesn't settle for too many jump shots given his incredible size advantage, but he obviously has a solid shot too. The sky is the limit for that guy," Hornsby said.

There it is again … "the sky is the limit".

What about a comparison between Wembanyama and one of the aforementioned NBA stars? Belgian international forward Loic Schwartz obliged us on that.

"I had never played against him before, but I knew his name. Obviously the first thing that stood out was his height, but what shocked me the most was that despite his height he has impressive mobility," said Schwartz, who moved mid-season to French top flight side Orleans.

"Offensively, he can already do a lot of things, which makes him very difficult to defend, like stretching the floor with his shot; he can put the ball on the floor; and catch any pass for an alley-oop. And defensively, with his height and his jump, he has a very good anticipation for the block shot. Just his presence can make you think before driving to the basket. Obviously he has to gain weight, but I hope not at the expense of his mobility, and I hope he will be spared from any injuries because he is a special talent. Having played against Porzingis at the same age when he was in Sevilla I can say that Victor is already ahead of him," said Schwartz, who witnessed Wembanyama dropping 17 points, 5 rebounds and 4 blocks on his team.

Kymany Houinsou has a special perspective on Wembanyama, who he has known for more than 10 years now after facing off in the French U9 leagues. Houinsou, who is actually two days younger than Wembanyama, finally joined forces with the big man this season as the guard has played with ASVEL since the 2018-19 season. But nothing that Wembanyama is doing is surprising him.

"He is starting to show everybody something I knew before: that he can really shoot and can really play as a guard even though he's taller than all the centers in the EuroLeague. I'm really proud off the end of season that he is having. He's improving and getting bigger and stronger," Houinsou said.

And Wembayama is not done yet, Houinsou said, almost as a warning to others out there.

"He can be really good in post-up situations too. It's something he did when he was bigger and taller than us, but now it's hard for him to play post-up because he's not as big physically as the other bigs. But he can do a lot of things when he has the ball in the post. He can play face-up, finish a fadeaway and a baby hook, and he will improve even more."

On top of all that, Wembanyama has a strong family foundation with a sports background. His father, Felix, is a former high jumper while his mother Elodie de Fautereau is a youth basketball coach. His older sister Eve helped France win the title at the FIBA U16 Women's European Championship 2017. And his younger brother Oscar plays in the youth ranks at his former club Nanterre.


 Whereas many of the elite elite talents around the world might get wowed by all the praise and attention surrounding his rise, Wembanyama has remained humble and mature during all the hype.

"I picture myself getting drafted in the NBA. But I do not just want to play. I want to be a dominant player and lead a team to the NBA title. There are many more steps to take before today's Victor and the one I want to become," he has said in the past.

He added: "I know people have a lot of expectations about me, but I'm really focused on myself. I don't let everything on the outside come and disturb me in my progression. It doesn't change the way I play."

With his endless arsenal of weapons at both ends of the court, Wembanyama truly is the closest thing to a real-life cheat code that exists in basketball. And those looking for the ideal player in NBA2K really just have to wait for Victor Wembanyama to be added to the game.

David Hein

FIBA's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.

FIBA takes no responsibility and gives no guarantees, warranties or representations, implied or otherwise, for the content or accuracy of the content and opinion expressed in the above article.

David Hein

David Hein

Walk into the media tribune of any major basketball event and there's a good chance you will come across David Hein. Having covered dozens of FIBA events, including numerous women's and youth events, there are few players Dave doesn't know about, and few players who don't know him. His sporting curiosity means he is always looking to unearth something new and a little bit special. David Hein's Eye on the Future is a weekly column digging out the freshest basketball talent worldwide and assessing what the basketball landscape will look like a couple of years down the line.