Victor Wembanyama

Draft Notes: Wembanyama, Lively, Mocks, Lewis, Warriors, Wizards

Las Vegas is a glitzier setting for Victor Wembanyama‘s first game with the Spurs, but the NBA won’t be upset if it happens in Sacramento instead, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. San Antonio is one of six teams involved in the California Classic Summer League, which will take place during the first week of July — shortly before the Las Vegas showcase that includes all 30 teams.

“All summer leagues are NBA Summer Leagues,” commissioner Adam Silver said. “I’m very supportive of the Sacramento summer league. I remember when (Kings owner Vivek Ranadive) first came to the league and said this was something he wanted to do. I said, ‘As long as you have enough other teams who support it and players who want to play in it, it’s a good thing.’”

Reynolds points out that the Hornets will also be playing in Sacramento, so the top two picks in this year’s draft will be on display.

There’s more draft news to pass along:

  • Dereck Lively II could be the second-best shot blocker in the draft outside of Wembanyama, per Christian Clark of NOLA. The Duke center has reportedly been rising up draft boards and could be under consideration for the Pelicans at No. 14. Clark notes that Lively’s skills are still raw and he’s coming off a disappointing season with the Blue Devils, but he points out that New Orleans has a history of gambling on players with size and athleticism.
  • Lively is mentioned among the risers in the latest mock draft from Kristen Peek of Yahoo Sports. Joining him are Wembanyama’s teammate, Bilal Coulibaly, and UCLA’s Amari Bailey.
  • Ausar Thompson might be a better fit than his brother for the Rockets with the No. 4 pick, according to Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo of ESPN. In their latest mock draft, the authors consider team fit as well as talent in projecting the first round. Among the surprises with fit factored in are Gradey Dick going No. 6 to the Magic and Amen Thompson slipping to the Wizards at No. 8.
  • Pepperdine’s Maxwell Lewis will hold a workout with the Pelicans this week after already having sessions with the Mavericks and Thunder, who are also in the lottery, tweets Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report. In addition, Lewis has worked out for the Hawks at No. 15, the Lakers at No. 17 and the Rockets at No. 20.
  • The Warriors hosted Kansas State’s Keyontae Johnson and Kansas’ Jalen Wilson for a workout on Monday, tweets Adam Zagoria.
  • The Wizards are holding a workout on Tuesday with Arkansas’ Ricky Council, Memphis’ Kendric Davis, Marist’s Patrick Gardner, Overtime Elite’s Jazian Gortman, Alabama-Birmingham’s Trey Jemison and Providence’s Noah Locke, the team announced in an email.

Draft Notes: L. Butler, Jaquez, B. Miller, Kings

San Diego State guard Lamont Butler hit one of the most memorable shots of the 2022/23 college basketball season, converting the Final Four game-winner over Florida Atlantic to put the Aztecs into the championship game. He had been testing the draft waters, but the junior announced on Twitter that he’s withdrawing and returning to school.

Butler, who averaged 8.8 points, 3.2 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals on .421/.342/.731 shooting in 39 games (25.9 minutes) last season, is not ranked on ESPN’s top-100 prospects list.

Here are a few more draft notes:

  • UCLA wing Jaime Jaquez spoke to Jonathan Givony of and ESPN about his preparation for the draft (Twitter video link). Jaquez, who is ranked No. 30 on ESPN’s board, believes he has plenty of upside left after playing four college seasons, noting his consistent improvement with the Bruins. He averaged 17.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.5 steals on .481/.317/.770 shooting as a senior.
  • Alabama wing Brandon Miller, a projected top-three pick, recently had an interview with Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter video link), discussing a number of topics. On Victor Wembanyama and being the No. 1 pick: “I feel like I’m No. 1, but you can’t beat 7-5, 8-foot wingspan,” Miller said.
  • The Kings are hosting a pre-draft workout Monday headlined by Indiana big man Trayce Jackson-Davis and Kansas forward Jalen Wilson, a league source tells Sean Cunningham of Fox 40 KTXL (Twitter link). Jackson-Davis is No. 33 on ESPN’s board, while Wilson is No. 40. The Kings control the Nos. 24, 38 and 54 picks. Jackson-Davis put up huge numbers as a senior for the Hoosiers, averaging 20.9 points, 10.8 boards, 4.0 assists and 2.9 blocks in 32 games (34.5 minutes).

Draft Notes: Sanogo, Burton, Hall, Okani, Lottery Picks

UConn big man Adama Sanogo worked out for the Nets earlier this month and has a workout with the Knicks scheduled in June, a source tells Adam Zagoria of (Twitter link).

Sanogo helped lead the Huskies to the NCAA Championship in 2022/23, winning Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. As Zagoria wrote last week for, Sanogo helped himself at the NBA draft combine.

I thought Adama Sanogo was one of the big winners of the NBA combine scrimmages,” ESPN’s Jonathan Givony said. “He showed there’s a little bit more to his game than you might initially think.

You look at him, you say, ‘OK, he’s not really the most modern big man, he’s a back-to-the basket big, he’s a pick-and-roll finisher, he’s an offensive rebounder. But he made some great passes these past two days, and played with the type of freedom that I didn’t personally expect to see, so I thought he really helped him actually.”

Sanogo was ranked No. 87 on Givony’s big board for ESPN at the end of April, but he has moved up to No. 74, making him a borderline second-round pick.

Here are a few more draft-related notes:

  • Tyler Burton, who is a draft early entrant, will enter the transfer portal if he goes back to college, sources tell Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports (Twitter link). However, Zagoria hears (via Twitter) that Burton is “leaning heavily” toward going pro and is listed as “do not contact” in the transfer portal. Burton averaged 19.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG and 1.5 SPG as a senior for Richmond, but has one year of eligibility left.
  • Forward PJ Hall has withdrawn from the draft and will return to Clemson for his senior season, he announced (via Twitter). UIC’s Toby Okani has also withdrawn from the draft, he tells Rothstein (Twitter link). Okani, a guard/forward, will be a senior for the Flames.
  • What is every projected lottery pick’s biggest weakness? Jonathan Wasserman explores that topic for Bleacher Report, writing that Victor Wembanyama‘s decision-making is his primary demerit. The French phenom is the projected No. 1 overall pick.

International Notes: Wembanyama, Darlan, Schröder, Yao

Victor Wembanyama‘s overwhelming popularity is creating a lot of new basketball fans in France, writes Sam Borden of ESPN. Borden notes that it has long been a “niche sport,” far behind soccer in the French sporting landscape, but Wembanyama has been drawing massive crowds, especially as his time in the French league nears its end.

Nearly 16,000 people attended his most recent game in Accor Arena — the largest venue in Paris, which has been hosting Metropolitans 92 games in light of Wembanyama’s celebrity status — and tickets were selling for hundreds of dollars on the resale market. The Wembanyama phenomenon figures to create a huge crop of new NBA fans in France when he begins playing for the Spurs in the fall.

“We’ve had this traditional setup in France — you are going to play the sport your dad played, or the sport he watches,” said Maxime Raynaud, who plays at Stanford. “And so for the past 100 years, everyone just picked up a soccer ball. Now, we have access to basketball. We have role models for basketball. And Victor is going to be the face of that.”

Wembanyama has a crucial playoff game today as his team’s best-of-three series with Cholet is tied at 1-1. Beyond winning an LNB Pro A title and making an impact in the NBA, he has his eyes on the 2024 Olympics, which will take place in Paris.

“My goal,” he said, “is to beat Team USA in the final.”

There’s more international news to pass along:

  • After officially signing with G League Ignite, Thierry Darlan hopes to prove that Africa can produce NBA-level guards as well as big men, per Marc J. Spears of Andscape. Darlan hails from the Central African Republic and graduated from the NBA Academy Africa. “When they talk about basketball in Africa, they always talk about the center, the big,” Darlan said. “It’s a big challenge to change that to talking about (a) point guard. In Africa, we’re not just known to run the floor and get rebounds. We can do many things, too. We can pass the ball. Create for others. That is my mission to show that African players can do more.”
  • Lakers guard Dennis Schröder, who is entering free agency, said he plans to play for Germany this summer in the FIBA World Cup, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
  • Hall of Famer Yao Ming has stepped down as head of the Chinese Basketball Association, according to an Associated Press report. No official explanation was given, but the league has been plagued by allegations of corruption, including match fixing.

Draft Notes: Whitmore, Black, Bailey, Podziemski, Wembanyama, Morsell

Villanova forward Cam Whitmore is held in higher esteem by The Athletic’s John Hollinger than many other draft experts. Hollinger ranks Whitmore as the No. 3 prospect in the draft, one spot ahead of Alabama forward Brandon Miller.

Hollinger believes Whitmore’s level of athleticism and scoring ability as a wing makes him a top-three prospect. Arkansas point guard Anthony Black also makes Hollinger’s top five, while his top 10 includes a couple more surprises, including Michigan guard Kobe Bufkin.

We have more draft-related notes:

  • UCLA’s Amari Bailey helped himself at the draft combine in Chicago and now deserves first-round consideration, according to Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report. Another combo guard, Santa Clara’s Brandin Podziemski, may also have earned a first-round ticket. On the flip side, North Carolina State guard Terquavion Smith and Kansas forward Jalen Wilson were among the prospects who didn’t make favorable impressions in Chicago, per Wasserman.
  • Why is Victor Wembanyama considered the best prospect since LeBron James? The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie goes into great detail on that subject, concluding that Wembanyama has the upside to be the best player in the world at some point and the ability to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame when his career is over.
  • North Carolina State guard Casey Morsell is withdrawing from the draft and returning to the Wolfpack, CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein tweets. Morsell has one more year of eligibility remaining.

Stein’s Latest: Duncan, Spurs, Mavericks, Ayton, Draft

Hall of Fame big man Tim Duncan joined the Spurs‘ coaching staff in 2019/20 at Gregg Popovich‘s request. As Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack article, one season was enough to convince Duncan that a full-time coaching gig wasn’t for him.

However, when the Spurs are in San Antonio, there’s an expectation that Duncan will “regularly visit” their practice facility to mentor projected No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama, reports Stein.

Duncan, of course, was the Spurs’ last No. 1 pick (back in 1997), and you could say they had some success with the U.S. Virgin Islands native. He was named to 15 All-Star, All-NBA, and All-Defensive teams, and won two regular season MVPs and three NBA Finals MVPs en route to five championships in his 19 seasons.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • The Mavericks were able to keep their first-round pick after it landed No. 10 overall (it would have been sent to the Knicks had it landed No. 11 or later). It has been reported multiple times that they’re expected to gauge the value of the pick in an effort to improve the roster. Stein’s sources say the Mavs have been posturing like they plan to explore their options for the prospects who might be available at that slot before deciding whether or not to trade it. Still, rival teams expect Dallas to try to package the pick (perhaps with some combination of Tim Hardaway Jr., Davis Bertans, JaVale McGee) in a win-now move.
  • The Suns are expected to “aggressively” explore the trade market for center Deandre Ayton this summer, and the former top pick has been linked to the Mavericks. However, Dallas’ interest in Ayton has been “overstated,” according to Stein, who suggests the team might not view his contract favorably. Stein reports that there are some Ayton fans within the Mavs, but he doesn’t “get any sense” the 24-year-old is atop the their trade wish list.
  • ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported a few days ago that one topic of discussion during the annual GM meetings was the possibility of turning the NBA draft into a two-day event. While some viewed that as a potential money-grab for the league, Stein hears only one team broached the subject and the idea was meant to benefit front offices around the league — presumably to give everyone more time to make trades and other roster decisions in an event that can feel rushed, especially the second round. The idea hasn’t gained much traction yet, says Stein.

Southwest Notes: Rockets, Mavs, Whitmore, Wembanyama, Pelicans

Rival NBA executives anticipate that both the Rockets (No. 4) and Mavericks (No. 10) will dangle their first-round picks in trade talks, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reports within a post-lottery mock draft. Both clubs have playoff aspirations in 2023/24 after missing out this season.

Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News explores what a Mavericks trade involving the No. 10 pick might look like, speculating that Suns center Deandre Ayton and Raptors forwards OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam may be targets. While those players make some sense from Dallas’ perspective, I’d expect Toronto to seek a more substantial return for either of their forwards, while Phoenix likely won’t be prioritizing draft assets in an Ayton trade.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Which player might the Rockets select at No. 4 if they end up keeping their lottery pick? Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required) explores whether Villanova wing Cam Whitmore might be the choice, noting that adding the 18-year-old would make a young Houston roster even younger. Whitmore said at this week’s combine that he can envision himself playing alongside Rockets guards Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. “They’re athletic-type guards who can score offensively and are the type of people who can get guys involved, guards who can rotate one through five,” Whitmore said. “I think it’s a great fit with athletic-type young guys who can get the job done.”
  • In a column for The San Antonio Express-News, Mike Finger digs into the comparisons between former Spurs big man Tim Duncan and the team’s next franchise player, Victor Wembanyama. As Finger observes, even though Wembanyama has the potential to match what Duncan did on the court, it will be impossible in the social media era for him to stay out of the spotlight to the extent that Duncan and the Spurs did in the early 2000s.
  • Christian Clark of identifies five prospects who could be fits for the Pelicans with the No. 14 pick in the draft, including Kansas wing Gradey Dick, Duke big man Dereck Lively II, and Central Florida forward Taylor Hendricks.

Spurs Notes: Lottery Win, Wembanyama, Next Steps

Although Victor Wembanyama stated publicly in the weeks leading up to Tuesday night that he didn’t have a preferred landing spot, he, his family, and his agents were clearly pleased with the outcome of the draft lottery, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, who notes that the Spurs have been popular in France since Tony Parker and Boris Diaw played in San Antonio.

[RELATED: Spurs Win 2023 NBA Draft Lottery]

“Today was a good day,” Wembanyama tweeted at the end of a Tuesday that saw him score 22 points en route to victory in his French’s team regular season finale before he learned his eventual NBA destination.

It was a memorable day for the Spurs too, whose owner Peter J. Holt represented the team on stage at Tuesday’s lottery. Holt couldn’t hold back his excitement when he saw deputy commissioner Mark Tatum pull the Hornets’ logo out of the envelope at No. 2, shouting and jumping out of his seat.

“I think I jumped the gun, apologies to Charlotte and Mark,” Holt said, per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “I said sorry afterward if any of my spittle went everywhere. I felt a little bad that I jumped the gun before they called our name. But it is just thrilling.” 

As Jamal Collier of ESPN relays, Holt said that a Spurs future which was “already bright” is now “going to be through the moon.”

According to Windhorst, the NBA asked teams in a recent memo not to disclose their pick if they won the draft lottery, but San Antonio general manager Brian Wright – who repped the team in the drawing room – couldn’t help but discuss Wembanyama’s upside on Tuesday night.

“People talk about generational talent, and they only think on-court skill, but it’s bigger than that,” Wright said, according to Collier. “His ability to be a great teammate, his ability to think the game, unique challenges, you see him doing things that you wouldn’t even have guessed someone could do. His approach, his professionalism. When you use the word generational talent, it extends beyond your ability to put the ball in the basket. And he’s unique in so many ways.”

Here’s more on the Spurs and Wembanyama:

  • Wembanyama was telling people close to him that he wanted to play for the Spurs, according to Marc J. Spears of Andscape, who spoke to current and former French NBA players to get a sense of what Wembanyama’s potential success in the NBA would mean for basketball in the country.
  • After averaging 21.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks per game in France’s top basketball league (LNB) this season, Wembanyama officially earned MVP honors on Wednesday (Twitter link), becoming the youngest player in LNB history to be named Most Valuable Player.
  • In a pair of articles for The Athletic, Sam Vecenie considers how the Spurs should build around Wembanyama, while John Hollinger wonders how landing the French phenom might accelerate the rebuilding process in San Antonio. Vecenie observes that the team still has some work to do in the backcourt, but has solid secondary building blocks in Jeremy Sochan, Devin Vassell, and Keldon Johnson. Hollinger writes that outright tanking for another year with Wembanyama in the picture probably isn’t viable, but suggests the Spurs could wait another year before more aggressively seeking roster upgrades.
  • LJ Ellis of Spurs Talk shares nine thoughts on the Spurs in the wake of the lottery win, speculating about next season’s starting five and how the team might use its offseason cap room.
  • Given the Spurs’ history of success with international players, the franchise should be a perfect fit for Wembanyama, David Aldridge writes for The Athletic.

Draft Notes: Wembanyama, Henderson, Combine, Roach

Victor Wembanyama will be the grand prize at Tuesday’s draft lottery, so Brian Windhorst and Jonathan Givony of ESPN took a look at the decade-long development of the French phenom. Long before he grew into a 7’5″ international star, Wembanyama was considered a special prospect even at age eight. The authors cite a YouTube video in which he intercepts a pass in a 2012 game and covers about 30 feet in two dribbles before laying the ball into the basket.

Wembanyama grew up in an athletic family near Paris with his mother playing basketball professionally before becoming a youth coach and his father competing as a long jumper. Wembanyama also learned the game from Karim Boubekri, a coach who developed his strategies by watching Pete Maravich and the AND1 Mixtape stars. That brought a level of creativity to Wembanyama’s game that he was determined to preserve, even if it meant battling with his coaches.

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

There’s more draft news to pass along:

  • G League guard Scoot Henderson, who’s a strong candidate to be taken second overall, is receiving assistance from Stephen Curry‘s training team as he prepares for his NBA future, writes Janie McCauley of The Associated Press. Henderson and his sister Moochie, who will play at Georgia State, have partnered with Curry’s company, SC30 Inc. “Just getting this early training and early knowledge from Steph mentoring me and the people around him, it’s a blessing,” Scoot Henderson said. “Me just turning 19, just getting that knowledge early, it’s really cool.”
  • Wembanyama and Henderson occupy the top two spots in the latest mock draft issued by Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Brandon Miller, Amen Thompson and Ausar Thompson round out the top five.
  • With the NBA Draft Combine starting today, eight players have been called up from the G League Elite Camp, Givony tweets. They are Jazian Gortman of Overtime Elite, Sir’Jabari Rice of Texas, Hunter Tyson and PJ Hall of Clemson, Johni Broome of Auburn, Tosan Evbuomwan of Princeton, Kendric Davis of Memphis and Dillon Jones of Weber State.
  • Jeremy Roach has elected to pull his name out of the draft and return to Duke for another season, tweets Jeff Goodman of Stadium. Roach wasn’t listed on ESPN’s big board and was considered unlikely to be drafted.

And-Ones: Wembanyama, EuroLeague, Coaching Rumors, Bronny

Before he becomes the No. 1 pick in next month’s draft, Victor Wembanyama is enjoying a farewell tour of France, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. The 7’3″ phenom drew 15,000 fans to his game Sunday in Paris, and they responded with loud cheers to every positive thing he did.

Reynolds notes that Wembanyama’s Boulogne-Levallois team typically plays in a high-school-sized gym with crowds of about 4,000. But with Wembanyama as an attraction, the late-season games have been moved to Accor Arena, which is on par with an NBA facility.

“I have the impression that the people here were real basketball fans who bought their tickets in advance,” Wembanyama said after entertaining the crowd with 25 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. “It’s nice.”

The 19-year-old center is considered a generational talent who will make next week’s lottery one of the most anticipated since the event began in 1985. The Pistons, Rockets and Spurs have the best odds to land the top pick at 14% each.

Wembanyama indicated that he’s paying close attention to the procedure, tweeting Sunday in French, “Ten days before knowing my future team. It’s really a crazy thing.”

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • The EuroLeague has reached an agreement to have its games streamed on ESPN 3, according to BasketNews. The rights deal will cover the remainder of this year’s playoffs and all of the 2023/24 season. “I am delighted that all U.S. basketball fans will have the possibility to watch all EuroLeague games on ESPN platform,” said Alex Ferrer Kristjansson, Euroleague Basketball marketing and communication senior director. “Globalization is a cornerstone for sports market growth in general and basketball in particular. We are confident that all U.S. basketball fans will appreciate the diversity of our stories and the experience that the EuroLeague delivers during the whole season.”
  • Michael Scotto of HoopsHype passes along some information on NBA coaching staffs in his latest column. Scotto reports that Bryan BaileyAlex JensenIgor Kokoskov and Antonio Lang are candidates for Quin Snyder‘s staff with the Hawks; G League head coach Scott Morrison will join Will Hardy’s staff with the Jazz; and David Adkins likely won’t return as the Trail Blazers‘ director of player development next season. Sources also tell Scotto that Will Voigt is a candidate to become the head coach of either the Blazers’ or Spurs‘ G League affiliate.
  • Fans shouldn’t pre-judge Bronny James because of however they feel about his father, states Joe Vardon of The Athletic, who agrees with LeBron James that USC is getting “a great kid.”