Minneapolis • There was a time that drafting a 7-footer from France helped transform the Utah Jazz from a lottery team to a contender.
Can they do the same thing in, say, the 2023 NBA draft?
A 2-0 start to the season would not seem to bode well for their theoretical chances of landing a top, top pick. And yet, if the Jazz could somehow transition from foundational piece Rudy Gobert to potentially generational talent Victor Wembanyama in just a year …
Well, count Gobert as someone who thinks his teammate on the French National Team is a truly special, franchise-altering talent.
“He’s something that we’ve never seen before,” Gobert said Friday morning at the Courts at Mayo Clinic practice facility, hours before his new team faced his old one. “I’m excited to keep watching him grow and see what he’s going to turn into. But he’s unique, something that the world has never seen. And it’s exciting.”
Wembanyama was already an incredibly-hyped prospect even before his French club team, Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92, came to Las Vegas to face fellow mega-prospect Scoot Henderson and the G League Ignite earlier this month.
That hype became stratospheric when the 7-foot-4 wing dropped in 37 points (on 11-for-20 shooting, including 7-of-11 on 3-pointers), plus four rebounds and five blocked shots.
Gobert, asked to break down the 18-year-old’s game, prefaced his remarks with the unnecessary caveat that he’s not a scout … and then produced a description that would be laughably hyperbolic if it didn’t happen to be true.
“He’s taller than me, longer than me. He can space the floor, he can pass. But [he] also wants to play defense, he wants to be a really good defender,” Gobert told reporters Friday. “And he just loves to win. That’s what I really like about him, he’s not just there to be cute; he’s playing to win. He’s a great kid.”
Was it mentioned that Wembanyama is 7-4? And has a bigger wingspan, longer standing reach than Gobert.
The pair of Frenchmen famously set the internet ablaze by simply posing next to one another for a photo op — revealing to the world how enormous Wembanyama truly is.
Enormous enough to prompt a 7-1, three-time Defensive Player of the Year to remark, “I feel small.”
With 80 more regular-season games to go — the next one coming Sunday in New Orleans — there’s time yet to get back on the tanking path and earn one of those three coveted 14% chances at top odds for the ’23 lottery.
When Gobert is apparently of the opinion that trading him is worth it if it results in getting the prodigious teen, it’s at least something to consider.