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NBA Draft 2023: Wembanyama and Doncic would be the pairing of a lifetime

There’s a small chance the Mavericks jump to the number one pick in this summer’s draft. Dream with us, won’t you?


We have a few days left until we learn whether or not the Dallas Mavericks will have a lottery pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. And while we anxiously await that news it still gives us time to imagine the extreme possibilities, the dreams of the draft?

Yes, the Mavericks currently have a 3-percent chance of landing the number one pick, and with it the reality of drafting French big man Victor Wembanyama. And while 3-percent is small, it’s not nothing. *Insert Dumb and Dumber “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” gif, so on and so forth.

So the draft enthusiasts are back to dream, if only for a moment.

JORDAN: Ian let’s imagine, for a brief fleeting moment, that the Mavericks catapult to the number one pick at next Tuesday’s lottery selection. It’s unprecedented for an organization that has NEVER JUMPED UP IN THE LOTTERY EVER. While I think Mark Cuban might be tempted to trade even that pick, tell the viewers at home what the Mavericks would be getting in human condor Victor Wembanyama, assuming they use the pick on what could be the next generational talent.

IAN: Hyperbole is difficult when discussing Wembanyama as a prospect. The French 19 year old has been on the NBA scouting radar for several years now, and the anticipation of his eventual arrival in the NBA has been slowly building to fever pitch. Official measurements are hard to come by, but “Wemby” is currently listed at 7’2, though photos of him practically towering of Rudy Gobert from late last year suggest he’s taller than that, and he’s widely expected to have one of the longest wingspans — if not the longest — in NBA history when he joins the league.

What separates Wembanyama from other giants of the past, however, is that he’s also already one of the most skilled 7’0+ players ever. He handles the ball on the perimeter with ease, and has a picture perfect jumper with range well past the three point line. Though he only roughly 31% of his threes this past season for his LNB Pro A team, at over 5 attempts per and over 83% from the free throw line, he projects as a major pick and pop weapon, who has the ballhandling and athleticism to be an absolute monster attacking closeouts. Famously, a clip of his went viral recently of him rebounding his own miss FROM THREE for a nasty putback dunk.

Certainly, there will be a learning curve for him adjusting to the size and strength of the NBA, but simply put his length and athleticism will change every game he’s on the floor for. As skilled as he is offensively, he’s equally as exciting on defense, where his timing and sheer size makes him the most dominant defensive prospect to enter the league this century. His timing, anticipation and ability to react are extraordinary, and it’s not going to matter if guys try to take to his body and overpower him, because he’s too long and too quick. Many have tried already!

You’re going to hear some noise about how players this big are injury risks and therefore maybe he shouldn’t be the #1 pick for a team like Dallas. Obviously, no one can predict the future, but throwing away an opportunity like this would be franchise malpractice. Guys like Jokic and Embiid have won multiple MVP’s and have their teams poised to make the conference finals.When Dallas traded for Kristaps Porzingis, the idea was combining Luka’s superb playmaking ability with a defensive anchor who could be a screen and roll/pop partner for Luka.

That didn’t quite work out, but it wasn’t simply because of KP’s injuries. The truth is he didn’t have the high level BBIQ you’d want from a max contract star, and it limited what his ceiling could be despite his tools. By most accounts, that isn’t the case with Big Vic. Not only is he a much more fluid athlete than Porzingis, but he reads the game better, is already a better passer, and can execute dribble moves and get to spots on the floor that KP flashed on occasion but didn’t regularly deliver. Too often he disappeared on offense and against smart teams could be exploited on defense. I don’t see that happening with Wembanyama. He and Luka would be an absolutely terrifying duo, and could create a true dynasty in Dallas.

JORDAN: The first time I watched a full game of Wembanyama was July 2021, when he played for France at the FIBA Under-19 World Cup and faced the United States. A 17 year old Wembanyama played opposite a 19 year old Chet Holmgren in a marquee matchup. What struck me then, and has impressed upon even more since then, is Wembanyama’s touch on both ends of the floor. A lot of times with top prospects, even the elite ones, there is something they are so skilled at that it becomes the core of their success. And it can sometimes be that reliance on a primary weapon that causes an adjustment period when they hit the NBA. Especially with big men.

Wembanyama, however, displays such a varied selection of tools that often makes him unguardable. His length is obviously the headline, especially defensively, that’s paired with veteran timing around the rim. And his ballhandling and jumpshot make him remarkably unique. But in watching him lately what jumps out to me is his feel for the defender in the mid post, and his ability to manipulate that defender and not just stretch over them is what tells me he is a generational talent. And some of that was already there watching that game two years ago (he had 22 points, eight rebounds, and eight blocks in the game against the US). Is there one trait or aspect of his game that you think would work especially well next to Doncic?

LNB Pro A match, Boulogne-Levallois v Nancy Photo by Christian Liewig - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

IAN: Just one?! I suppose it depends on what you mean by “next to” Luka. If it’s specifically in terms of how he plays off of him, then certainly the lob radius as a roll man is tantalizing. Doncic was able to terrorize opposing defenses working off of 7’3 Edy Tavares for Real Madrid. Not only is Wembanyama longer than Edy, but significantly more athletic.

Overall, though, I think what is most appealing about how Victor might fit in Dallas (which is essentially how he fits with Luka) is the simple idea that you would be pairing a prospect that has DPOY potential with arguably the most dominant offensive engine in the league in Luka Doncic. There were those brief glimmers a few years ago when Porzingis was looking really good defensively and finally found a groove on offense and when that happened Dallas never looked closer to being an actual title contender, in my opinion. Those days feel like a lifetime ago already, given the defensive struggles the team has faced since. Realistically, no other potential off-season move comes close to addressing that better than drafting Wembanyama would, and we haven’t even mentioned yet that this might be a Big Three if Kyrie Irving re-signs.

JORDAN: I think that’s a really good point. It’s easy to imagine the offensive variety you’d get in pairing Doncic with such a skilled big man, but in reality it’s the other end of the floor that could make that such a dynamic pairing. He just devours shots around the rim and has proven nimble enough to not get stuck on the block.

But if I were to think about one trait next to Luka offensively that I’d be most intrigued about it’s the ball handling. Doncic’s ball dominance, out of necessity or preference, is a major talking point around the league. And outside of his time sharing the floor with Jalen Brunson and the recent stretch with Kyrie Irving, Doncic hasn’t had reliable ball handling around him. But Wemby possesses wing-like handles. I’ll be curious to see how it translates to the NBA given his size. But Luka having another playmaker of his level that can also handle the ball would be so fun to watch.