The following conversation is based on real-life arguments and was conducted by two professionals. Please, don’t attempt to replicate any discussion as takes of these temperatures should be handled with gloves and safety glasses and under the care and supervision of adults. Today’s social experiment revolves around Victor Wembayama, his health, and how much the San Antonio Spurs’ organization should worry about it. Enjoy.
Sean Beckwith: At the risk of zagging just for the clicks, I want to start off by complimenting Victor Wembanyama. He’s clearly a generational prospect that will likely impact the NBA’s championship race for the next decade-plus. All the hyperbole is justified, and I would’ve Ronnie Lott-ed a pinky for my squad to sneak into the first pick.
Instead, the San Antonio Spurs won, and I texted the most asshole friend on my group text, who happens to be a Spurs fan, that I fucking hate him no fewer than 300 times. So, I don’t really feel bad about airing my concern about Wemby, and that is the guy is 8-foot-2. Regardless of how thicc he is, multiple other alphas are going to try to break him in half at the bucket. (Please, get healthy soon, Zion Williamson.) There’s not a long history of people that size playing two decades of healthy basketball, and he’d also be my first choice in a draft of players most likely to have an injury described as “debilitating.”
I’ll now cede the floor to my partner for this exercise, DJ Dunson, who’s probably eager to jump on the part of my argument that hinges on a healthy Zion.
DJ Dunson: Wembanyama is worth taking the risk on. So was Zion. The difference is that Zion walks like a penguin, gained 100 pounds between the ages of 16 and 19, and generates too much strain on his knees as an explosive leaper. It’s not just about size, it’s what you do with it that matters. (Get your mind out of the gutter.) Wemby has a smooth gait that’s more reminiscent of Kevin Durant or Kareem than a laboring big man like Zion. Wemby is agile and fluid. Lower body injuries will always be a concern, but I’m not concerned with his build like I was with Chet “The Closet Hanger” Holmgren. He’s not skin and bones like Holmgren, who had the legs of a ’90s ANTM model contestant. There’s a layer of muscle there. I think you’re letting your Blazers fandom interfere here. This guy ain’t Bill Walton, Sam Bowie, or Greg Oden (or Brandon Roy).
SB: I agree that Wemby is a no-brainer though I’d buck back at the greatest prospect ever. (That’s LeBron James.) Regardless of being created in 2K, there are 10 Odens and Chets for every KD and Kareem. The expectation is Wemby will have a Bill Russell-like hold over the NBA for as long as he’s active, but for whatever reason it’s been hard for big-men-centric teams to consistently dominate in the playoffs in today’s perimeter-oriented NBA. The last center to win Finals MVP was Tim Duncan in 2005. (And before you say, what about Giannis Antetokuonmpo? He’s a power forward, and his latest playoff exit only further drives home my point.)
I know Vic is fluid enough to tip-dunk his own missed three, yet are we sure big men are the path to the title? They are, but for the sake of argument, and to spite the Spurs fans who’ve been watching Wembanyama highlights with heavy Pornhub energy, Vic is James Wiseman waiting to happen. The Spurs and Hornets would be better off taking Scoot Henderson and Brandon Miller.
DJ: I understand the skepticism over whether Wemby is a solid hooper with an evolutionary advantage (or disadvantage if he isn’t built for the 82-game grind) or a supernatural prospect with 30th-century size (if you buy the theory that humans are growing taller every century) and a preternatural skillset. We don’t even know Wemby’s official measurements. 7-foot-2, 7-foot-5? I don’t know. He stands at 7-foot-a thousand and he has the wingspan to match, but to me, he passes the “Would He Still Be An NBA Player If He Were 6 Inches Shorter” Test. I’ll go six inches shorter for this thought experiment. If Wemby was 6-foot-6, he’d be a top-10 pick. Guys that long aren’t supposed to be that skilled. Anthony Davis had a quick growth spurt. Wemby seems like he gradually grew into his body so maybe that will aid his health.
French players and Europeans in general get knocked for being soft. Wemby can fall in love with that off-the-dribble triple and isn’t an especially accurate shooter beyond the arc despite the KD hyperbole tossed around. He’ll need to work on his outside game. We’ll see if he coasts like AD or has a killer instinct, but I’ll take a taller, passive AD over Scoot or Brandon Miller. At the very least, he’ll be the best defensive big man in a more spaced-out, 3-point shooting league.
SB: Clearly, I’m conditioned to not have nice things, and my glass is always half full even when it’s overflowing. A blind Anthony Davis finds a ring every now and then, and there could be worse outcomes for the draft lottery than the Spurs winning it. I’m glad he’s going to a smart organization that’s never mishandled an injury to its best player.
Gregg Popovich is 74 years old, and will turn senile before Wemby’s career is even halfway over. Yes, I’m talking about anything other than Wembanyama because there’s not a lot to critique, and I’ve already emptied the takes from my brain. So, DJ, you’re not wrong, but you’ll never get me to say you’re right.
DJ: I’m going to put on my Sean hat for a bit and play devil’s advocate….
I just read that Wemby needs to sleep 10 hours a day. The only adults I know who should sleep that long are high the other half of the day. Then again, I probably just described Kevin Durant. That’s time he could spend working on his game. Wemby spends so much time preparing his body for 25, 30, 35 minutes of action every night and eating five meals a day, he won’t have time to make 10,000 shots a day. What happens to his body or performance when he starts dating or has kids and he’s got to cut his sleep cycle down to nine hours a day to fit the fam in for an hour a day?
He’s got size 21 feet with arches, which means his landing zone on jump shots is basically two feet. The orthotics in his shoes better be military grade and the team of biomechanics experts studying Wembanyama when he gets drafted will rival The Manhattan Project’s collection of scientific minds. That’s how important he is. The Spurs being run with military precision for the past three decades and the construction of a new $500 million training facility actually affirms my original point that San Antonio was the best possible future for this unique phenom. Then again, the Spurs revolutionized load management, and that backfired with Kawhi Leonard. Forget science, I’d be better off asking a tarot card reader what the future holds for Wemby. I tried my best at being as negative as Sean and I’m back at square one. This was a valiant effort though.