Victor Wenbanyama, a dynamic 7-foot-4 forward who is one of the NBA’s most watched prospects this year, will be in France on Tuesday night when the San Antonio Spurs win the 2023 draft lottery. He cheered along with his family. In San Antonio, perhaps unsurprisingly, fans celebrated in bars screaming and honking their car horns as if they had won.
An ESPN reporter interviewing Wenbanyama on television shortly after the Spurs won the lottery acted as if next month’s draft had already taken place. “What will the San Antonio Spurs get from Victor Wenbanyama?” the reporter asked.
Athletes in this situation usually try to deny the idea that they will be the #1 pick, answering that they are happy no matter which team picks them, or how happy they are to be drafted. try to distract
But Wenbanyama was not. Frankly, why would he do that? He’s not your typical draft pick, and he didn’t pretend to be. he didn’t turn away. He had straight answers about what he could be for the Spurs.
“I’m a team player,” he said, adding, “I’m trying to win the ring as soon as possible, so be prepared.”
Here’s what you need to know about Spurs and the 19-year-old star of French pro team Metropolitans 92, Wenbanyama.
France and Spurs have a long and successful relationship.
Tony Parker and Boris Diaw are two of the best basketball players from France to ever play in the NBA, both winning championships with the Spurs under coach Gregg Popovich.
The Spurs selected Parker with the 28th overall pick in the 2001 draft. He spent 17 seasons with the team, winning four titles and becoming the first French player to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, which is scheduled for August. Parker posted a photo of Wenbanyama as a kid wearing the Spurs No. 9 jersey (Parker’s jersey number) on Twitter, writing, “Yeah he’s going to the Spurs!!!” I am very proud of you. ”
Diaw played five seasons with the Spurs and helped them win the 2014 championship.
“There is a special relationship between France and Spurs because of Boris, of course, Tony,” Wenbanyama said on Tuesday. “I know the Spurs want to get the No. 1 pick, if not half the country, maybe the whole country. So I was watching everyone and everybody was happy. , and so did I.”
The Spurs have a great track record with big men.
Already one of the greatest prospects of all time, Wenbanyama will follow in the footsteps of two of the greatest big men in NBA history, Tim Duncan and David Robinson. Together, the two led the Spurs to two championships, with Duncan leading the Spurs to three more after Robinson retired.
The good news for Wenbanyama is that Popovich, who coached Duncan and Robinson, is still helping him develop. Still, Wenbanyama is a far cry from Robinson and Duncan, the traditional big men who had their backs to the basket and played in the post.
Wenbanyama scores goals comfortably at all three levels of the court, dribbling deftly past defenders to score goals and shooting jumpers that a player of his size might not be able to score. It will be a new experience for Popovich.
San Antonio is one of the most successful franchises in NBA history.
Spurs have 5th most championships NBA history (five times), winning all of them from 1999-2014 under Popovich. Along with Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs cultivated the nucleus of a dynasty.
Duncan was the group’s best player, winning the Most Valuable Player Award in 2002 and 2003. Also, his Spurs edged out many great teams and players to win the championship. They defeated Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal’s Lakers teams in the 1999 and 2003 Western Conference semifinals. In the 2007 NBA Finals, they defeated LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers.
“The talent, the coaching, San Antonio everything was like a perfect storm,” Bryant said on the show.All the Smoke Podcast “If they weren’t in the picture, we probably would have won 10 straight.”
The Spurs have struggled and been embroiled in controversy.
When the Spurs were winning, they were considered an exemplary franchise in the NBA, with a great coach and a star willing to back his system. But that mystery has dissolved.
The Spurs have not made the playoffs since 2019 and have become something of a punching bag in the league. At a press conference in September just before the start of the 2022-23 season, Popovich was candid about the state of the team. “No one here should go to Las Vegas thinking of betting on us,” he said. “And someone will say, ‘What a Debbie Downer.’ Chances are. What if they work really hard? It probably won’t happen.”
Popovich was right. The Spurs won 22 games, the third-lowest number of wins in franchise history.
In the midst of that bleak season, Spurs 2021 first-round pick Joshua Primo was accused of repeatedly exposing himself to the team’s sports psychologist during therapy sessions. The psychologist accused her team of failing to protect her and others even after she reported Primo’s conduct.
The Spurs fired Primo, and a psychologist settled a lawsuit against the team and Primo.
San Antonio did not do well with one key star.
The Spurs in Kawhi Leonard seemed to have found the next star to emerge from the Duncan, Parker and Ginobili era. He helped the team to a championship in 2014 and was named Finals MVP, but in 2017-18 Leonard injured his thigh and missed most of the season.
Throughout the year, public comments by teammates and Popovich appeared to suggest that they questioned the severity of Leonard’s injury.At one point, Parker said he has “It’s a similar injury.” Like Leonard, “but it was 100 times worse”, and took only eight months to recover.
After the season, Leonard requested a trade and was sent to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for a package that included DeMar DeRozan. The following season, Leonard led the Raptors to their first title in franchise history.
The Spurs roster lacks talent.
Unlike Duncan, Wenbanyama may not have an established big man on the team to help him develop like Robinson.
Spurs have a lot of young players. Only three players on the roster this season have four or more years of experience. Wenbanyama will be the team’s best player on Day One and will be responsible for returning one of the league’s most notable franchises to its rightful place.
Of course, the Spurs need to rebuild their team around Wenbanyama all summer long. Considering how fans are celebrating, everyone in San Antonio is gearing up for something new.