Victor Wembanyama Visibly Happy Spurs Landed No. 1 Pick; Does He Know What He’s Signing Up For With Gregg Popovich?

The San Antonio Spurs won the 2023 NBA draft lottery on Tuesday night and the rights to the No. 1 pick in June’s draft. The Spurs will select French teenage phenom Victor Wembanyama, who was gathered with family and friends to watch the lottery. The 7-foot-4 teenager was visibly happy when the Charlotte Hornets and Houston Rockets were called before the No. 1 pick was awarded. But does he know what he’s getting into with the Spurs and head coach Gregg Popovich?

It’s completely understandable that Wembanyama would want no part of Charlotte, Houston or even Portland. These are among the most poorly run franchises in the league, and they don’t have a good history of player development.

The Spurs, on the other hand, have a championship history, a strong player development history, and an ownership, front office and head coach that have unparalleled continuity. That type of stability is key when you are drafting a generational talent and hope to build a championship dynasty around him.

But the Spurs have not made the playoffs in the past four seasons, and there are questions as to whether Popovich has lost a step or two and if his heart is still in coaching. He’s gotten a little more ornery as well, if that’s possible.

The Spurs French Connection

Wembanyama being a French national is also important. The Spurs have won championships with Tony Parker and Boris Diaw, French nationals who have spoken with Wembanyama about what to expect with the Spurs.

The Spurs also have success with international players in general, which Popovich has spoken about in the past.

By all accounts, Wembanyama is coachable but he has a will to do things his own way. How he meshes with Popovich will depend on how the two build a relationship and establish trust.

“I was probably born with that will to do things differently and do things my way,” Wembanyama says. “I’m really glad I kept that willpower, to not [let] sometimes coaches put me in a box. That’s really an everyday fight.”

No doubt Popovich and the Spurs will spend some time in France this summer ahead of the FIBA World Cup.

How Will The Spurs Deploy Wembanyama?

“My heart’s beating [fast],” Wembanyama said after he learned of his destination. “I’ve got everyone I know, everyone I love around me. It’s a really special moment I’m going to remember the rest of my life. I’m trying to win a ring ASAP. So get ready.”

Popovich and the Spurs will like that from the teenager.

A lesser organization would likely give Wembanyama the keys to the franchise on day one and let him make all the decisions. The Spurs won’t do that. He will have to earn it like all the great players before him.

Building around Wembanyama’s defense is where they should start. He should be an elite rim protector and rebounder from day one. In terms of his offense he can be a finisher on pick and roll, but the Spurs should resist the urge to let him be an offensive initiator on the wing.

Yes, he has handles and can do things. But he’s 7 feet 4 and has a high dribble. Guards will pick his pocket. He is an elite shooter. Run him around and off screens like the Miami Heat do with Duncan Robinson. Between threes, finishing in the pick and roll, and offensive rebounds, he should average a double-double his rookie season.

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