There is no reason for me to get involved with Victor Wembanyama’s game, which has been thoroughly broken down in these pages. Long story short, he’s the best candidate since LeBron James, so he demands our full attention.
Instead, I would like to discuss an issue that, despite the urgent need, has not received much attention.
The team that ends up drafting Wembanyama should be better prepared for his arrival.
When a generational talent emerges, it’s more than crucial that the team the player lands on is willing to commit. This not only means a financial commitment, but also a restructuring of the entire team around the newly discovered star.
Far too often in the NBA we’ve seen stars wasting years on rosters that management couldn’t improve, and where even fan bases see their star player get out of Dodge.
(Minnesota Timberwolves fans are all nodding along right now when they think back to 2007, when Kevin Garnett was finally rescued.)
Currently, one could argue that Luka Dončić plays with a group of players who always set a firm limit to their collective potential. Reggie Bullock and Tim Hardaway Jr. aren’t going to take him anywhere, but they have no choice but to roll the dice anyway since their closet is empty.
And that’s exactly what the team that gets Wembanyama must avoid at all costs.
Assuming it lives up to expectations, this team needs to have a plan in place within the first year that focuses on getting more draft picks and more young players. Wembanyama will make little use of former teammates unless they are specifically there to help in the dressing room. Think Garrett Temple and the like.
But pairing him with established All-Stars who are on the wrong side of 30? It’s a bad idea for a variety of reasons.
First, older stars make a lot of money, which means a salary cap constipation. A fledgling team building around a young player will need all available cash to use either through trade or free agency to attract talent more age-matched to their building block.
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Up to this point, pairing a player on the verge of promotion with someone on the verge of relegation makes little sense. Very quickly, the older player’s regression will catch up with the final product, and that’s all bad news, as the team would have to start looking for a second star while their main player grows impatient.
Second, a relegated player will likely have a contract that increases in value since the 35% max system is a mess that doesn’t make sense. Why pay the highest possible under CBA rules for a player who is *at least* 10 years in the game and is on the way down? These contracts become albatrosses and cannot be rescheduled unless a team is willing to pay for the removal of that contract.
(Think of Russell Westbrook in Los Angeles. He can’t be given as a gift these days.)
Wembanyama’s new target must be willing to adapt his plans to his age and development. That means cleaning the books of declining talent, and it means doing your best to build something sustainable.
Wembanyama will still be young for a while as he will only be 19 when he is drafted. It’s time to get back to the draft and find additional parts, but that direction needs to be cemented the moment the Wembanyama lottery is won.
Also worth mentioning is the commitment to a suitable development team and even coaching team. If local people are less inclined to think about the future than about the present, they must either commit to a change in approach or be on the move. There will be no space for anything in the middle.
Some may think that everything sounds harsh and a lot changes to suit a player’s needs. And that’s fair. But given the importance of that particular player and how he alone could bring a team closer to a championship, it’s a small price to pay.
Keep in mind that this isn’t just about Wembanyama, it’s also about the movement around him. This is a complete culture shift, so adding it just to compliment the scenery is a grotesque underestimate of the situation.
Wembanyama may be the main piece of the puzzle, but he represents a chance to clean the house and build something from the ground up. That should be the focus.
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics via NBA.com, PPBStats, cleaning the glass or Basketball Reference. All salary information per Spotrac. All odds over FanDuel Sportsbook.
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