The NBA world has been abuzz about 7-foot-4 prospect Victor Wembanyama’s eye-opening performance in two exhibition games earlier this week, and players on the Knicks certainly took notice of the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft.
The 18-year-old French wunderkind — with a point guard’s handle, a deft outside shooting touch and an eight-foot wing span — attracted nearly 200 NBA scouts in Las Vegas this week for two exhibition games between his club team, Metropolitans 92, and the G League Ignite.
Wembanyama put up 37 and 36 points in the two games, with nine combined blocked shots and a 7-for-11 shooting night from 3-point range in the opener.
Knicks guard Derrick Rose, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft by the Bulls, called the highlights he’s seen of Wembanyama “amazing,” adding the teenager has “the it factor.” RJ Barrett took the praise a step further, essentially comparing Wembanyama to a video-game cheat code.
“That’s unreal. It’s like [NBA] 2K, you make this giant guy and you want him to be shooting and all that stuff, and he’s doing it in real life,” Barrett said. “So it’s crazy, and then just to see how he came back and followed up [37 points] with 36, he’s definitely very talented. It’s unreal.
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Victor Wembanyama is months away from being drafted in the NBA, but the hype is already growing.
Victor Wembanyama #1 of Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 guards Shareef O’Neal #8 of G League Ignite.
Rudy Gobert, (L) a French NBA player for the Minnesota Timberwolves, poses next to Victor Wembanyama #1 of Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92.
Victor Wembanyama #1 of Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 looks on during warm-up before an exhibition game against G League Ignite.
Victor Wembanyama #1 of Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 signs autographs.
“I’ve been aware of him for a while, but it’s tough to really gauge until you see him against competition over here. He definitely had a good first impression.”
Asked how he compares to 7-3 former Knicks unicorn Kristaps Porzingis at that age, Rose said that Wembanyama “moves different, even from KP.” He believes the better comp, albeit not as tall, is Kevin Durant.
“Like, alright, how KD was the model for 6-10 guys, but for a dude to be 7-4, 7-5, he’s like the new model for guys over 7-2,” Rose said. “Like the way he’s moving — he’s moving like he’s a KD type of guy. You’ve never seen a guy move that light being that big. And skilled. And his feel for the game. I never saw it before.
RJ Barrett and Derrick Rose are among the NBA stars already enrapt by prospect Victor Wembanyama.
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“I think he has the attitude. His energy is kind of different, for him to come here and not shy away from the moments. And you can look at who he is playing against, but it don’t matter. He’s not shying away. That’s what I look at it. It shows he has heart. You look up and he has 40 or 50 points on you. And plays defense. And wants to be great. It’s a feel. I think that’s what a lot of people call the ‘it’ factor. You don’t know what it is. But it’s something. Something about him outside of his game. It’s something deep where you can tell he wants to be great.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said before the Bucks and Hawks played a preseason game in Abu Dhabi earlier this week that while teams are “salivating at the notion that potentially, through our lottery, that they could get [Wembanyama], they should all still compete very hard [this] season.”