Draymond Green, as much as anyone, knows how difficult it is to become an NBA All-Star.
The 33-year-old compiled three consecutive All-Star honors early in his career (2016-18), with his most recent being in 2022.
So when Green hears all of the speculation and hype surrounding the Spurs’ No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, 19-year-old Victor Wembanyama, the Warriors forward certainly recognizes the Frenchman’s talent and potential — but believes “people are setting him up for failure.”
“Man, it’s hard in this NBA,” Green said during an episode of “Podcast P with Paul George.” “It’s hard to become an All-Star in this league. Now if he do, God be with him. More power to you. But to say he’s gonna be an All-Star next year as if he don’t have to figure this game out, I don’t really buy that. I think he will be special, but an All-Star next year? I think that’s a bit much.”
Wembanyama, who was officially listed by the Spurs as 7-foot-3 ½, was long pegged as the No. 1 overall pick leading up to last month’s draft after averaging 21.6 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game with the Metropolitans 92 this year.
When the Spurs won the NBA Draft lottery, head coach Gregg Popovich received his latest budding star to construct the franchise around.
But there could be other variables that affect Wembanyama’s NBA transition, Green suggested.
NBA defenders might prevent him from handling the ball with the same efficiency and further, maybe Wembanyama won’t make 3-pointers at the same rate, either.
Sometimes, Green added, players can reach a height where “it becomes a disservice in this league,” with opponents just as strong or just as fast also playing lower to the ground.
“I’m sorry, but you’re not just dribbling through me like the Harlem Globetrotters,” Green said when Paul asked how he would guard Wembanyama. “… But you gotta press up into him. You can’t let him get comfortable. If you let him get comfortable you lose, because you’re not blocking his shot. He may not even see your contest, like he’s 7-5 and he shoot the ball up here.”
Instead, Green — who opted out of his contract with the Warriors before re-signing on a four-year, $100 million deal at the start of NBA free agency last week — would start crowding Wembanyama as soon as he starts running the court, trying to prevent him from getting comfortable after San Antonio grabs a rebound.
But even with Wembanyama likely to frustrate defenses, Green analyzed that the rookie’s defensive contributions — preventing his opponents from reaching the basket instead of trying to create his own offense — have the potential to become “as elite as we have in the NBA.”
“He’s gonna be such an elite rim protector that I think that already separates him,” Green said. “Like that right there alone. Now if you’re talking about, ‘He’s about to break every offense down’ — I ain’t buying that yet.
“He can get to that, and he has the skill to do that, but that’s gonna take some time. But the rim protection? He got that from Day 1, and that’s special.”