“Tank for Wemby! Tank for Wemby!” is a phrase you might have been hearing from various NBA fans as the 2022-23 season has begun. Most NBA fans are familiar with the “tanking” concept, referring to teams who purposefully jockey for a poor regular season record in the hopes of increasing their chances of a favorable lottery pick. But who exactly is this “Wemby” person that has fans so adamant that their teams to throw away their season for a shot to draft this guy?
Who does Victor Wembanyama play for? Victor Wembanyama currently plays for the Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92, a team in the French first-tier professional basketball league, the LNB Pro A. The 18-year old Frenchman began his professional basketball career with Nanterres 92, another LNB Pro A club, at only 15 years old. After 2 seasons with Nanterres 92, he played one full season with LNB Pro A club ASVEL, before joining Metropolitans 92. Wembanyama is widely considered to be the expected #1 overall pick for the 2023 NBA Draft.
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Why is Victor Wembanyama considered the #1 overall pick for the 2023 NBA Draft?
Victor Wembanyama has a lot of fanfare around him, and rightfully so. His physical attributes are extremely impressive: his height is listed at 7’3 (measured barefoot) and has an incredible 8’0 wingspan. While his height is extreme on one end, his weight is extreme on the other: he weighs only 230 pounds, and has a quite skinny frame. He is very fluid in his movements, especially for someone of his stature.
Wembanyama’s size lends to a very special style of play. Defensively, he is an excellent shot blocker and rim protector. He’s also a surprisingly good perimeter defender. Offensively, Wembanyama is very deft around the paint, with a deep bag of moves close to the rim. He has also improved his 3-point shot, and can space the floor because defenders can’t ignore him on the perimeter. He’s great on the pick-and-roll both offensively and defensively.
Wembanyama’s main weakness is his weight and frame. There are concerns that bigger centers and forwards can bully him on the inside, but even then he can still disrupt at the rim. However, the concerns about his weight are geared more towards injury and how that body will handle the wear and tear of the NBA. Wembanyama has been injury prone in the past few years. Chet Holmgren, a prospect similar to Wembanyama in terms of frame, has yet to play in the NBA due to a Lisfranc injury he sustained in an exhibition game that has put him out for one season at least.
Wembanyama’s incredible physical attributes and the game that he has built around it has completely enraptured GMs and fans alike, especially when he has shown consistent improvement. He has been deemed by many to be one of the greatest prospects the NBA has ever seen. Most of the buzz came around Wembanyama’s excellent performances against the NBA G League Ignite team, consisting of the hottest upcoming NBA prospects. Wembanyama is considered as the consensus #1 overall pick for the 2023 NBA Draft, which he is expected to declare for.
Why do NBA teams tank?
The NBA Draft is the premier way for the teams at the bottom of the league to improve their roster and increase their chances of achieving a level of success in the NBA. Free agency and trades are limited ways: poor performing teams aren’t necessarily a “hotspot” for free agents, and they usually don’t have assets to trade for star players. While it is possible, the NBA Draft is specifically structured to be beneficial for the worst teams.
Every team is given 2 picks for the draft, give or take any picks used in trades. Of the total 60 picks split into two rounds, the first 14 picks are considered lottery picks. These picks belong to the 14 teams who did not make the playoffs. Teams are assigned odds based on their record: the 3 teams with the worst records are given 14% odds each to receive the #1 overall pick, while the team with the best record among lottery teams has 0.50% odds. The lottery is drawn 4 times, for the first 4 overall picks; picks 5 through 14 are then given to the remaining teams based on the worst record.
So, the worse you play, the better odds you have of getting excellent draft position and a shot at a prospect that can turn your organization around. In theory, it makes sense, and restores competitive parity in the league. But tanking is an abuse of this principle: by playing reserves more minutes and benching starters, teams are inorganically losing. It becomes a race to the bottom; are there any fans who want to see their teams go out and lose a game that they could have won, or at the least competed in?
The NBA has disincentivized tanking by making changes to the lottery and draft order in recent years. Previously, having the worst record just about guaranteed the first overall pick, or at least gave that team the best odds. Now that 3 teams have the same number of odds for the first overall pick, organizations are less confident. But when a prospect like Wembanyama comes around, such teams are willing to tank if it means even increasing the odds of getting a player like him. It’s a solidly effective method on paper, but looking at the bigger picture shows that it has wider repercussions for the league.
Victor Wembanyama is considered a generational prospect, one more in a long line of hyped youngsters. Will he pan out and live up to the potential that many see in him, or maybe even exceed it? Or will he be a “bust” and fall short of the astronomical expectations placed on him before he’s even step foot on an NBA court? Team executives are willing to take a chance on him, because they believe that he can be the future of their franchises; now it is a race to the bottom as teams tank to see who wins the lottery for Wembanyama.
Where can I watch Victor Wembanyama?
In an unprecedented move that is testament to just how good Wembanyama is, the NBA announced that it will stream every game that Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 play in the LNB Betclic ELITE regular season and playoffs. They will be available through the NBA’s League Pass App.
Here are the four Metropolitans 92 games that are currently scheduled to be streamed:
- Oct. 29, 2 p.m. ET: Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 @ Bourg-en-Bresse
- Nov. 4, 3:30 p.m. ET: Limoges @ Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92
- Nov. 20, 2 p.m. ET: Nanterre @ Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92
- Nov. 26, 3 p.m. ET: Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 @ Nancy
- Dec. 29: LNB All-Star Game
- Feb. 17-19: Leaders Cup Games
- More fixture dates to follow.
The NBA announced it will also stream the LNB All-Star Game on Dec. 29 and the Leaders Cup Games from Feb. 17-19.