Comparing Victor Wembanyama to other great NBA Draft prospects

Victor Wembanyama, ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne - Mandatory credit: Philippe Desmazes-AFP via Getty Images
Victor Wembanyama, ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne - Mandatory credit: Philippe Desmazes-AFP via Getty Images /

Victor Wembanyama is one of the most unique NBA Draft prospect talents in league history. 

According to Jonathan Givony, Victor Wembanyama is measured at 7-foot-4 barefoot and maintains an 8-foot wingspan. He’s also just 18 years old! Say no more. He’s already one of the most hyped prospects in history. But where does he stand compared to other NBA legends when they were similar ages?

Taking a look at Michael Jordan’s freshman year at North Carolina, LeBron James’ senior high school year at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s, and Luka Doncic last season at Real Madrid, we will analyze why Victor is such a unique talent.

In 1981 Jordan decided to accept an offer from North Carolina and at 18 years old he started playing in the NCAA. In his first season, he averaged 13.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.2 steals in 31.7 minutes, shooting 53.4% from the field and being the main part of the championship in 1982 with his jump shot in the final game against Georgetown.

Victor Wembanyama compared to Jordan, LeBron, and Doncic

Michael, unlike Victor, was playing against amateur players. And in that first season, he was still discovering his offensive and defensive virtues. No one expected him to later become the greatest player of all time. Still, by the end of that season, his game began to change and his competitive mentality grew like never before, and he never stopped.

Before making the jump to the NBA, LeBron closed out his senior year at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s High School, and did it in a big way. Like Jordan, he also competed against amateur players and averaged 30.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 2.9 steals, and 1.9 blocks.

In addition, he showed tremendous progress in his shooting, going from 34.0% in threes in his junior year to 38.2% in his senior year. With him there was no doubt, everyone knew he would be the next Michael Jordan and one of the best players in history.

Michael and LeBron have very clear differences in terms of maturity processes. The six-time champion with the Bulls was gradually discovering his skills and improving his physique, while the current Lakers player was born with all the physical attributes, and developed little by little a growth in individual technique and IQ.

Luka Doncic, meanwhile, is perhaps the one who had a bit of both. In his last season at Real Madrid (2017-18), he took on a leading role due to Sergio Llull’s torn ACL injury, and at 18 years old, he showed everything he could do as the team’s main offensive piece.

Between the three tournaments he played, he averaged 14.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.5 assists. He was named 2018 EuroLeague Final Four MVP and 2017-18 EuroLeague youngest MVP in the history of the league. Still, his weaknesses remained his lack of athletic power and his shooting (31.0% on three-pointers in 2017-18).

Why Victor Wembanyama is such a unique prospect

Finally, it’s time to talk about Victor. He has not yet started with his new team, Boulogne-Levallois, so his averages will be taken from the 2021-22 season.

Like Luka, he played the double competition of the French league and the EuroLeague, but his participation was much smaller. He averaged 7.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 17.4 minutes with ASVEL Basket and his projection remained indirectly proportional to what he showed on the court. Also, he shot 27,5% in threes and he has to keep getting better.

Similar to Jordan, Victor still needs to put on pounds and work on his physique to withstand the physical NBA game, and he has all of Doncic’s technical attributes. He still possesses neither Luka’s IQ, LeBron’s explosiveness, nor Jordan’s competitive mentality.

For all these latter reasons, it is perhaps dangerous to talk about Victor Wembanyama as the best prospect of all time.

Will he live up to his potential? Will he live up to what is expected of him?

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Perhaps it is more appropriate to assess his potential and with constructive criticism encourage him to work on it and continue to grow on his own time, without extra pressure.