Victor Wembanyama too big to fail or too thin to succeed?

Alex Campbell
FiredUp Network Sports Writer


Thursday, May 18, 2023

Too big to fail or too thin to succeed?

He's been hailed as 'The greatest prospect in the history of team sports", and last night at the Barclay's center in New York the ping pong balls decided the San Antonio Spurs won the Victor Wemanyama sweepstakes, Yipee!  I get it, he's an athletic freak of nature. He's close to 7'6" and growing, he can handle the ball like a guard, shoot the lights out, and is seen as a lock and a transcendent superstar in the NBA by virtually every NBA scout and 'expert'.  San Antonio also seems like a perfect landing spot for him with the steadying force of Pop, the organization's history of success with eruopean stars, the relationships with Tony Parker and Boris Diaw, Tim Duncan is still close to the franchise as well.   It really probably is the best fit for him, there just ins't a better organization with more resources and stability for him to mature in.  But aren't we overhyping him... like, a lot?
First of all, he doesn't have an NBA ready frame as he stands at a slender 7'6" and 230lbs.  To put that into perspective, the tallest player in the NBA currently is Boban Marjonavich who stands 7'4" tall and weighs 290lbs, 60 pounds heavier than Wemby!  Let's look at the size of some of the 'can't miss' prospects in modern NBA history; Shaq - 7'1" 300lbs, Tim Duncan - 6'11" 250lbs, Hakeem Olajuwon - 7'0" 250lbs, Lebron - 6'9" 250lbs, Dwight Howard - 6'10" 265lbs, Luka Doncic - 6'7" 240lbs.   I calcuated the average LBs per inch of all these 'can't miss' prospects and it came to 3.16lbs/inch.  Wemby comes in at a staggeringly low 2.56lbs/inch, now, Kevin Durant is notroiously thin but is actually still thicker than that at 2.683lbs/inch and he isn't 7 foot plus either.  A recent top 3 type prospect with a similar stature to Wemby's is Chet Holmgren, he is 7'1" and 195lbs, good for an even slimmer 2.29lbs/inch, but he also just sat out his entire rookie season with a foot injury, so we've yet to really see him play for the Thunder and these type of knee, ankle, and foot injuries are extemely common with big NBA players.  Could that be a precursor to what we see with Wemby?  It's possible, I don't think most fans have any idea what its like to play 82 games in a season, it's a grueling grind that is a complete weardown and teardown on their bodies, that's why a quarter of the league is on load management of some kind.  Most of the NBA is between 6'6"-6'9" tall, and when you see old NBA guys - the 50 years old and up crowd, they're typically bending over and beat up.  We (fans) tend to think football players fall apart the most, but the NBA plays 5 times the number of games which also means 5 times the travel time and when you look at old NBA players the miles show on them even more than a lot of NFL guys.  Personally, I don't think there's any way Wembanyama holds up for 15 seasons, I just don't see it.
The insane level of hype is also doing him no favors, I mean 'the greatest prospect in the history of team sports'?  C'mon, man.  I've seen about as much of him as everyone else, and he does look very smooth on the offensive end.  I think he's got some holes defensively but his size and athleticism make up for those a little and he can learn to play better defense from Coach Popovich.  Call me crazy, but Lebron instantly looked productive against NBA talent as a rookie and It's not his fault that at 17 and 18 he was still in High School dominating kids in Ohio while Wemby was able to play pro ball in France at 16.  Some say that's why he's so NBA ready, kind of like Luka he's polished his game in Europe against pros already in his teens.  That's fair, but even look at Luka right now, in a more typical NBA frame and skillset.  He's dominant at times, but he also needs to be ball dominant and struggles as an off ball option.  He struggles mightily on the defensive end too, like a lot of European stars do, and it's starting to look like a lot of Dallas' struggles might be owed to his hubris, not really a trait you see in a polished pro.
Wemby probably isn't a bust, but it's hard for me to believe he's not overrated to some or a large extent at this point.  It's not his fault either, it's how we discuss sports in 2023. Everyone's take has to be bigger and more extreme than the next, and there's simply no such thing as too much exaggeration when you're on TV talking sports.  He really could be great, and I absolutely hope he is.  But he's been completely overhyped, in part due to his incredilbe skill set, but also because at the highest levels of sports talk TV the goal seems to be to say something wilder and more outlandish than the last guy.  To that end, this article could be the greatest take in the history of sports journalism!