Victor Wembanyama’s agent shoots down some execs’ idea top prospect should shut it down until NBA draft

As NBA executives consider the transformative impact Tuesday’s performance of 7-foot-4 French prospect Victor Wembanyama could have on the NBA’s tank and trade market this season, his agent insists there is no plan gives to listen to some team leaders proposing to shelve the project No. 1 pick until the 2023 NBA draft in June.

“NBA people are telling me to shut him down and we’re not going to shut him down,” Bouna Ndiaye told ESPN on Wednesday. “If we came up with these kinds of talks [Wembanyama], he’ll look at us and say, ‘What are you talking about?’ He will never agree to that. He wants to compete and get better. Victor puts basketball first and everything else second. He was so angry that he lost.”

Wembanyama’s brilliance met a spectacular performance from G League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson, who is expected to be No. 2 overall in the draft. Rarely in the history of potential 1-2 draft pick matchups has both players displayed such a high level of skill, maturity, and potential in a head-to-head performance.

As impressive as Henderson’s potential as a franchise lead guard may seem, it is Wembanyama’s unparalleled combination of size, skill and substance at age 18 that captivated approximately 200 NBA executives and scouts present in suburban Las Vegas and the Faith reiterated that this promises to be a transformational player and historic NBA draft. “Victor distorts basketball reality,” a GM told ESPN on Wednesday. “The tank/trade market will really change after this show. It feels like a race to the bottom like we’ve never seen begins last night.”

Speaking in Las Vegas later Wednesday, Wembanyama expressed his confusion at the idea of ​​NBA teams tanking to have a better chance of drafting him.

“Obviously the word and the meaning behind the word is kind of weird,” he said. “Personally, I would never want to lose. It’s just a personal thing. But I’m really trying to stay away from it. Either way, it’s going to affect where I end up. All I can do for myself is just focus on the to concentrate on the work itself.”

Wembanyama’s performance in the Metropolitans 92 loss to the G League Ignite — 37 points, seven 3-pointers and five blocks — underscored what teams who’ve watched him for years had already believed: he’s a historic talent. As a GM on a team with a chance to contend for the No. 1 overall pick in 2023, he told ESPN on Wednesday morning, “He’s a 7-foot-4 Durant blocking shots — and he’s nowhere near that how he will be . He’s going to be the most hyped player since LeBron.”

The impact of Wembanyama’s performance on national television in the United States is expected to become a factor in how aggressively teams could go to join this race to the end of the standings. After Tuesday night, front offices have a better chance of selling a tanking strategy to both owners and fans. In fact, several top basketball executives told ESPN Wednesday about conversations with their own ownership groups that expressed a better understanding of the transformative value of Wembanyama’s draft — and the steps, some painful, that would be needed to make their teams the best odds to bid him draft. Plus, the possibility of Henderson — the explosive G League Ignite Guard who had 28 points and nine assists on Tuesday — emerging as the second overall pick is an even stronger argument for teams looking to bottom in the standings.

In recent years, the play-in tournament — which has created post-season spots for ninth and tenth place finishers in every conference — has prompted many franchises to bring in players at the close rather than discard them. This year, teams that are starting out slowly could decide to go the other way, offloading rotational players and exposing others for long stretches.

Not only will there be a race to the bottom, but an opportunity for playoff and championship contenders to attract more influential players to deals. Executives believe this could include more players available much earlier than the February trading deadline. The NBA flattened draft lottery odds in 2019 to curb tanking and gave the teams with the three worst records each a 14% chance of winning the No. 1 draft lottery. The probability of landing either Wembanyama or Henderson increases to 27% for the teams with the three worst records.

Additionally, Wembanyama’s competitive spirit and diverse background make him an even more intriguing candidate. To those who’ve been doing their research, it’s unsurprising that he’s so unceremoniously dismissive of the idea of ​​changing his regime — let alone ending the season — to protect his body and his draft status.

Some had questioned the risk/reward tradeoff to accept an invitation to attend these flagship games in Vegas, and traveled all the way to the United States to play a street game with NBA rules and referees. What if jet lag was contributing to his playing poorly? What if he sustained an injury? Despite all the things that could go wrong, the trip turned out to be a boon to Wembanyama’s US debut and global prominence. The loss worried him so much on Tuesday night, his agent said, that Wembanyama privately suggested he could try to come out on Thursday (3pm ET, ESPN2) and get 50 points to ensure he clinches a win.

“We came to show everyone Victor and teach him what the next 15 years of his life will be like when it comes to managing expectations and the attention that’s coming his way,” Ndiaye told ESPN. “We came to learn. We want him to be as good as possible. He could have problems in the next game. He has to learn to be consistent. Repeat, be better, learn.” The ramifications of all of this threaten to change the landscape of the NBA season.

ESPN’s Myron Medcalf contributed to this report. Victor Wembanyama’s agent shoots down some execs’ idea top prospect should shut it down until NBA draft

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