Now that the fanfare and hype from NBA’s Summer League have subsided, it’s time to project Victor Wembanyama’s fantasy outlook for the 2023-2024 NBA season in redraft (non-keeper) and categorical leagues. This article will explore general trends in rookie performance, skill-set comparisons, Victor Wembanyama’s key to producing value, an expectation of what to expect from his workload in year one, and season projections and ranks. We are all excited about one of the best prospects in basketball history, so let’s jump in.
About Victor Wembanyama
You most likely know this already, but let’s start with the basics:
Victor Wembanyama is a 7 foot 5-inch French professional basketball player, considered one of the best NBA prospects in the league’s history. The hype around Wembanyama is surpassed only by Lebron James, entering the NBA as a high schooler in 2003. Wembanyama has played competitive professional basketball for years and most recently played for the Metropolitans 92 in France’s top-tier league.
In his lone season in 2022-2023, Victor Wembanyama became the league’s youngest MVP while winning the best defender award. He led the entire league in points, rebounds, and blocks. His complete stats for the season: 21.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 3 blocks, 2.6 TO, 47% FG, 27% 3PT, 82.8 percent FT.
Wembanyama was drafted number one overall in this year’s NBA draft by the San Antonio Spurs. While the Spurs’ decision was a no-brainer, the decision for fantasy general managers (in redraft leagues) will be more difficult. The following article will dive into what to expect from Wembanyama in his rookie year by studying the best seasons from previous rookies with comparisons, complete projections, ranks, and draft recommendations for redraft categorical leagues (non-keeper formats).
Also, make sure to check out our early Top 140 fantasy basketball rankings for the 2023-24 season.
Best Rookies Since 2003
There have been some fantastic rookie seasons throughout history. However, fantasy basketball slightly differs when the value spans eight or nine categories. No matter the prospect, NBA players rarely produce elite fantasy numbers in their rookie season, but it is possible. Since 2003, there have been six players to crack third-round value in category leagues:
- Steph Curry (2009-10, PG/SG): first-round value, 10th-ranked player
- Elite Categories (top 10%): threes, steals, assists
- Karl-Anthony Towns (2015-2016, C): first-round value, 12th-ranked player
- Elite Categories: rebounds, blocks, FG%
- Chris Paul (2005-2006, PG): second-round value, 16th-ranked player
- Elite Categories: assists, steals, FT%
- Anthony Davis (2012-2013, PF/C): second-round value, 24th-ranked player
- Elite Categories: blocks, rebounds, FG%
- Kyrie Irving (2011-2012, PG): 3, 36 third-round value, 36th-ranked player
- Elite Categories: points, threes, FT%
- Deandre Ayton (2018-2019, C) 3, 36 third-round value, 36th-ranked player
Positionally, three are point guards and three centers. For any player, especially rookies, the path to elite value is entering the NBA with three elite categories. Often, those categories will be outside points per game.
Wembanyama’s path to elite fantasy basketball value is blocks and rebounds and then providing above-average value in points and free throw percentage.
The Impact of Real-life NBA
While Victor’s skill set and physical measurements make fantasy managers salivate, there will likely be growing pains. We know it takes time for players to adjust to the NBA, and the San Antonio Spurs will seek to gradually increase Wembanyama’s workload throughout the season and protect him from hitting the rookie wall. The Spurs are long-term focused with Wembanyama to build a championship contender, which will not be in 2023-2024, ultimately dampening Wemby’s fantasy value considerably in redraft leagues.
What to Watch For
To acclimate to the NBA (and facilitated by the San Antonio Spurs), expect:
- Low minutes: limited and controlled minutes in the low 30s
- Missed games: including no back-to-back games. The Spurs played 14 games with no rest. Repeating in 2023-2024 reduces Wembanyama’s potential games played from 82 to 68.
- Prolonged shutdowns: if the Spurs have a terrible record, watch for Wembenyama to ease into the All-star break and then shut down towards the end of the season.
Kirstaps Porzingis, BOS PF/C
- At 7 foot 3 inches, Porzingis makes an excellent comparison. In 2015-2016, Porzingis averaged 14.3 points, 1.1 threes, 7.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, .7 steals, 1.9 blocks, and shot 42% from the field and 83% from the line. Wembanyama is more athletic and skilled than Porzingis and can create his shot, as well as for others. Expect a similar stat line to Porzingis but increased value in points, rebounds, and assists and decreased value in free throw percentage and turnovers.
Jaren Jackson Jr. MEM PF/C
- The fourth overall pick in 2018, Jaren Jackson Jr. produced eighth-round value in his rookie season. His averages were 13.8 points, .9 threes, 4.7 rebounds, 1.1 assists, .9 steals, and 1.4 blocks, on 50% shooting from the field and 76% from the line. Immediately Wembanyama will have an advantage as an overall scorer and rebounder. Wembanyama might struggle to shoot close to 50% from the field. Overall, Wembanyama should outplay Jackson’s rookie statistics with ease.
Karl-Anthony Towns, MIN C
- The best comparison might be Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns entered the league in 2015-2016 as the number 1 draft selection. In 32 minutes over 82 games, Towns averaged 18.3 points, .04 threes, 10.5 rebounds, 2 assists, .7 steals, 1.7 blocks on 54% shooting from the field, and .81% from the line. Town’s state line could be Wembanyama’s best-case scenario, where his talent immediately translates to points, rebounds, and assists, bolstering his elite blocks. Regarding the games played (82), don’t hold your breath.
Predicting player statistics is an inexact science, but it is fun to try anyway. In his final year for the Metropolitans 92, Wembanyama averaged 21.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 3 blocks, 2.6 turnovers, 47% from the field, and 82.8 percent from the line.
2023-2024 NBA Rookie Projections:
- Points: 16.8
- Threes: 1.3
- Rebounds: 8.4
- Assists: 2.2
- Steals: 0.7
- Blocks: 2.7
- Field Goal %: 46.5%
- Free Throw%: 83%
- Turnovers: 2.6
Games Played: 62
Using the projections above, Wembanyama would have ranked #22 in the 2022-2023 NBA season, which is second-round value, with most of the value coming from projecting ultra-elite blocks. For example, if Wembanyama blocks 2.1 shots per game next year with the above stat line, his rank would fall to #38, good for early fourth-round value. However, limited minutes (low 30s) and missed games will dampen his actual value to your team. Also, Wembanyama is only somewhat elite in two categories (blocks and rebounds) so he is still missing aspects of production across categories to warrant a pick in the early rounds. As far as the 2023-2024 season is concerned, temper your expectations and draft him beginning in the fifth round in redraft leagues and let another general manager chase the hype.
Victor Wembanyama will undoubtedly be an exciting player to watch and root for. He has the opportunity to be a legendary fantasy player in his career. All of the fantasy basketball wishes him luck in destroying all the above projections.
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Check out our dynasty basketball rankings to see where Wembanyama falls there.