Evaluating Victor Wembanyama in His French League Season Opener

September 26th, 2022

By Alan Lu

Recently, Metropolitans 92’s 7-4 center, Victor Wembanyama played his season debut for his new French League Team against BCM Gravelines on September 23rd, with thanks to YouTube via The DraftMatic.  He is a very athletic, skilled center that is a strong contender to be the top pick of the 2023 draft.  He scored 23 points and had 10 rebounds in his team’s loss to BCM Gravelines.  Here are my thoughts on how he fared, and where he currently stacks up as a prospect for the NBA.

Metropolitans 92’s 7-4 center, Victor Wembanyama scored 23 points and had 10 rebounds in his team’s loss to BCM Gravelines in their French League season opener that was played on September 23rd.
Franco Arland/Icon Sport, via Le Parisien)

Victor Wembanyama is a very athletic, skilled center that showed off versatile scoring skills, and he made energetic plays to help his team on both ends of the court. He struggled with his shot at times, especially from the outside, and had quite a few defensive mistakes, especially early on, but he was able to put forth a solid showing in this game.

Wembanyama did a tremendous job of scoring as a roll man as well as off of put backs.  He would catch lobs off of rolls, which enabled him to score on a backwards, 180 degree layup, as well as on a thunderous alley-oop dunk.  He has great size, athleticism, and wingspan that enables him to catch a wealth of passes and to score on punishing dunks above the rim.  He also would often score off of offensive rebounds, as he scored on powerful tip slams and on a thunderous put back dunk, and his great length would enable him to consistently score off put backs and tip-ins.

He also showcased solid low post scoring skills.  Wembanyama has good size, footwork, and shooting touch that enables him to be a reliable low post scorer on the block.  He was able to score on a smooth, turnaround jumper with his left hand, and he also scored on a graceful, switch of hands layup.  He also managed to score on a strong dunk. 

On the other hand, he had several misses that would arguably be makes or free throws if he were at the college or NBA level.  On one post play, he used a drop step move to get his shot off, but the ball got cleanly knocked off the cylinder, which is legal in FIBA rules, but illegal if it were in the American game, so he ended up missing when he would’ve otherwise scored.  He also would try rip through moves that would lead to badly missed shots, but the incidental contact might have arguably have gotten him to the free throw line if he were playing in the U.S. instead.  Other times, he would try to rush his shots, which would lead to some ugly misses.

Also, Wembanyama struggled with his outside shot for most of the game.  He had trouble making threes, and he often would miss either off the catch or dribble.  Sometimes, he would take contested, off-balanced shots that would result in some bad misses.  Wembanyama was able to make an open three-pointer off of a pick and pop play late in this match, which also serves to reinforce that he is capable of knocking down outside shots, even if he didn’t make them at a very good rate in this contest.

He also displayed fairly average playmaking skills.  Wembanyama was able to dribble to the high post and threw a quick, short roll pass to set up a score for a teammate at the rim due to possessing the court sense and timing to make the play.  He also passed to a teammate on the break to set up another scoring chance.  While he didn’t always set firm screens due to his thin, lanky build, he would sometimes set solid on-ball screens to help his teammates get open shots and driving lanes.  On the downside, he was quite turnover prone early on, and he would sometimes tend to do too much on offense.  Early on, Wembanyama would tend to expose the ball too much when handling it, as he had a ball stolen away from him, and he also lost the ball out of bounds after utilizing a quick crossover another time.  He also threw a quick, hasty interior pass that ended up getting deflected and intercepted, as he tried to get the ball to his teammate on a cut on that possession.

Wembanyana also did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  He was great at leaping up to get offensive boards, and he would often score off of them to provide his team with second chance points, with some of them being impressive, eye-popping jams to give his team a boost.  He didn’t get as many defensive rebounds though, but overall he rebounded well, as he especially excelled on the offensive glass. 

However, he had trouble securing some rebounds at times, and balls would get knocked out of his hands, which would cause him to lose other possible rebounds to his opponents.  He had trouble boxing out on one play early in the game, as he didn’t put the full body on his opponent, and he allowed his opponent to tip a ball to another opponent, which led his team to give up an offensive rebound.  On another play later on, he was loafing back and didn’t box out, and he wasn’t in position for a defensive board, which caused him to lose out on another possible defensive rebound to a small guard late in this game.  While Wembanyama rebounded well, he would sometimes show poor technique and he didn’t block out very often, which would cause him to miss out on other chances to grab rebounds in this game.

He also played adequate defense in this game.  It wasn’t a perfect game from him by any means, but Wembanyama has very good size, length, and physical tools that allow him to be effective at challenging shots around the basket.  Wembanyama was active at challenging and blocking shots, especially in the paint to get stops for his team.  He blocked a shot hard off of a put back to himself, and he was able to use his length to effectively challenge shots both in the paint and beyond the arc to force misses.  He also would poke balls away from opposing ball handlers, which helped his team get a steal once, and allowed him to get a deflection another time.

The surprising thing though was that opponents were scoring on him quite a bit early on, which was astonishing considering his tremendous size and length to go along with having very good athletic gifts.  He tended to give up a bit too much space, as opponents would make jumpers on him, and other times he would over-help in the paint and wander too far, and allow opponents to make open threes on him.  On another play, despite rotating on a drive, he didn’t stay firm with his chest to the offensive player nor cut off the penetration, so though his hand was there, his body wasn’t in a position that allowed him to contest the shot, because his back was turned.  He allowed his momentum to effectively take him out of the play, which allowed the opponent to score on a drive at the rim.  Other times, he would not be in position and would be guarding a zone rather than a man, and he would be too late to rotate to the open man, which would cause him to allow scores.  On top of it, there were a couple of times where he would bite wildly on pump fakes, which would put him out of position and cause his team to scramble and give up baskets.

Overall, Victor Wembanyama had a fairly solid game in his team’s double-digit loss to BCM Gravelines, and he made some really impressive, athletic plays on both ends of the floor, and his thunderous tip slam on the final possession really emphasizes that.  On the downside, he needs to improve his jump shot and shot selection, and there were quite a few times where he would heave up rushed, off-balanced shots from deep that didn’t have a very good chance at all of going in.  In addition, he will need to focus on being a more disciplined defender on a consistent basis.  While there were some instances where his lack of upper body strength was evident, especially when going for some rebounds or defending in the post, I feel confident that he will grow into his body and get stronger over time.

Wembanyama is a gifted prospect that can score at all three levels, and has the potential to develop into a defensive stopper if he really works hard to hone his game.  It’s a little early to declare him to be the definitive number one overall pick for the 2023 draft, and there are other contenders in the mix such as Scoot Henderson and Cam Whitmore, or anyone else that emerges as the season progresses.  That said, it’s clear that Wembanyama is a clear cut, likely top 3 pick that could develop into being a superstar in the NBA.

Other Notes:

There were a couple of other draft-eligible prospects that played and caught my eye, and here were some of my thoughts on how they fared in this game.

BCM Gravelines’ 6-9 forward, Fabien Damase is an athletic, energetic combo forward that was able to make some good team plays on the floor.  He is an unselfish player that was able to swing the ball sharply to an open shooter to notch an assist, and he also is an active defender that moves well.  Damase was able to deflect a pass out of bounds to nearly get a steal.  On another play though, he didn’t hustle back, and his team ended up giving up a put back dunk on the break.

However, he missed both of the shots he took, and his offense is still a work in progress.  Damase utilized a crafty pump fake to drive to the basket, but he missed on a runner.  After using a crossover over time, he missed on a quick, step-back three from beyond the arc.  Overall, Damase still has a long way to go, especially from an offensive standpoint, but if he can develop a reliable outside shot, he could end up being a 3 and D type of role player if he ends up making it to the NBA someday.

Metropolitans 92’s 6-6, 2004-born swingman, Bilal Coulibaly played, albeit briefly in the fourth quarter.  He is an active defender that defends aggressively, and he was able to rotate on a drive to help force a miss.  He’ll apply solid ball pressure to make it difficult for his opponents to effectively handle the basketball.  On offense, he didn’t do much of anything, though, and he dropped a catchable pass that went out of bounds.  Overall, Coulibaly didn’t really get a chance to showcase his skills on offense, but he is a fairly athletic, energetic swingman that could project into a defensive specialist role if he were to make it to the NBA sometime in the future.

Anyways, those are my thoughts on how Victor Wembanyama and some of the other prospects fared in their team’s season opener in the French League.  Thanks for reading.

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